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There are thousands of guides out there on things to do in Ho Chi Minh City, so there’s no reason for me to write yet another one telling you to visit the War Remnants Museum or Ben Thanh Market. (You should read my DIY guide to the real Cu Chi Tunnels though.)
Instead, here are my favorite underrated things to do in Ho Chi Minh City.
1. Have a sensational experience in the dark
I remember hearing about dining in the dark experiences through a TV show when I was a teenager. No idea what show it was or where the restaurant was, but the idea of dining in the dark stuck with me.
And I finally got to experience it in Ho Chi Minh City at Noir.
Located in the posh District 1 at the end of quiet street, Noir is set up to delight. The experience is so well thought out and hands-on, from the welcome drink you receive upon arrival and the blindfold game you play to wake up your senses to the attentive service and delicious food.
You can choose between Eastern and Western cuisine and make a night of guessing what you’re eating. (We found that we were ~75% right on the main ingredients but off on a lot of the details.)
And the darkness is not just a ploy for guests, either. The restaurant employs many differently-abled individuals. Most of the pre-dining staff are deaf or hard of hearing and the dining room service staff are almost all blind or visually impaired.
I highly recommend Noir, especially for special occasions. The food was fabulous, and the 11-course meal for two, plus a bottle of red wine, was roughly $90 USD. Certainly much cheaper than similar dining-in-the-dark experiences in the U.S. and Europe!
Looking for a more kid-friendly evening activity? Check out a water puppet show!
2. Check out a Hindu temple
In a city filled with Buddhist temples, Catholic cathedrals, and folk religion temples, the Mariamman Hindu Temple stands out.
Built in the late 19th century by merchants coming to Vietnam from the Tamil Nadu state of India, this temple for the goddess of rain is the only Hindu one in Ho Chi Minh City. Today, the majority of worshippers are of Vietnamese descent.
It only takes a few minutes to visit the Mariamman Hindu Temple — and admission is free — so don’t miss out on this small slice of India in Vietnam!
3. Hang out with locals in September 23 Park
The Internet is rife with stories of how September 23 Park is shady and full of scammers. While I’m sure there are issues there, I found it to be an interesting place to people-watch and interact with locals.
In the mornings, folks of all ages are doing their workouts in the park — some speed walking here, some light stretching there — all while catching up with their neighbors and workout buddies. It reminded me a lot of the community parks in China.
In the evenings, there are tons of couples going for strolls, people walking their dogs, and yes, students looking for English practice.
Despite the fact that the wayward have used this approach to scam tourists, I actually had a really positive experience practicing English with a local college student. It was one of my top interactions with locals in Vietnam.
So be cautious but be open. You never know who you may meet.
There’s a fantastic night market next to the park as well. People-watching, interacting with locals, and eating tons of foods you can’t pronounce. What’s not to love?
4. Spend an evening in a coffee shop
Another great option for people-watching is to lounge around in one of the city’s many coffee shops in the evenings.
Yep, coffee at night.
There’s something about Vietnam where the coffee is strong but everyone drinks it like it’s water. And hanging out in coffee shops in the evenings is a popular thing to do in Ho Chi Minh City. So do as the locals do, and have some evening coffee as well.
Make sure to try the dessert-like egg coffee!
5. Grab a craft brew
Beyond the coffee, there’s great craft beer as well.
A lot of sit-down restaurants will offer Pasteur Street Brewing beers alongside more mass-produced options. But for a special craft beer experience, head to Heart of Darkness.
This place brews a line of beers from the darkest stouts to the hoppiest IPAs, all endowed with literarily appropriate names. The dark ambiance of the place is, well, also apropos to the pub’s namesake.
Perfect for a rainy day or when you want to rest your feet in between museums.
Got any other underrated things to do in Ho Chi Minh City that you want to share? Let me know in the comments, and pin this to share it!