1) Sample the food
Mango salad from a local restaurant in Pham Ngu Lao
Whether it is mango salad, spring rolls, squid cooked in lemongrass or shrimps in tamarind sauce, Vietnam's delectable and fragrant cuisine has something for every taste. The popular Pham Ngu Lao backpackers area is packed with little eateries selling freshly cooked local food at budget prices and the streets teem with stalls selling the Vietnamese favourite - 'pho' broth.
2) Drink iced coffee
Iced Coffee - A Vietnamese Speciality
Made with condensed milk, this sickly sweet stuff is perhaps one of the world's best hangover cures. It is best enjoyed local style - sitting at a tiny folding metal table on an even tinier plastic chair on one of the many cafes dotted throughout Ho Chi Minh. These make great vantage points from which to sit and watch the the city - at upwards of 8 million people the biggest in Vietnam - bustle by.
3) Visit the War Remnants Museum
Evocative war photography in the War Remnants Museum
Previously known as the Museum of Chinese and American War Crimes, it (as the name might infer) gives a rather one-sided but shocking insight into the horrors of the Vietnam war. The ground floor is given over the international anti war movement and gets more gruesome as the displays move upstairs, notably with a gallery dedicated to the victims of Agent Orange on the third floor. The macabre exhibition culminates with torture devices on show outside. Uncomfortable but essential viewing for those wanting to get an insight into the troubled and complex history of Vietnam's war torn past.
5) Drink Beer in Pham Ngu Lao
The bustling Cafe 100 in Pham Ngu Lao
Spending the evening at one of these local bars is an absolute must do on any Saigon itinerary. All patrons huddle together on kindergarten-sized plastic seats and space is so limited that you are bound to become acquainted with your neighbour within minutes of sitting down. At Cafe 100 - a favourite drinking haunt with backpackers and locals alike - proceedings are overseen by a formidable Vietnamese lady in her 80s who ensures that new customers have a beer in their hand within seconds and are at no point empty handed. With beer cheaper than water (at 12,000 Dong or approx 30p per glass), what better way to refresh?
6) Go to the Reunification Palace
Retro broadcasting equipment in the basement, Reunification Palace
We've been expecting you, Mr. Bond..." this marvellously retro palace looks suspiciously like something from a 007 movie set but is in fact the former home of South Vietnamese president who lived and worked there during the war. The building itself is a Ho Chi Minh landmark and highlights include the Bond-esque games room and the very retro broadcasting and transmission equipment in the basement.
7) Sightsee around Cholon
Colourful prayers adorn the walls of a pagoda, Cholon
Take some time to taxi out to Cholon, the bustling Chinatown in District 5 and the biggest in Vietnam. There are a number of colourful and intricately decorated Chinese pagodas located within walking distance of one another. Some of the highlights include Thien Hau, Tam Son Hoi Quan, Quan Am Pagoda and Phuoc An Hoi Quan Pagoda.
8) Take a trip to the Mekong Delta
Messing about on the Mekong - river trip on the Mekong Delta
The 'Nine Dragon' river delta is only a couple of hours bus ride out of Ho Chi Minh City and easily accessible for a day trip. Most tours can be booked through hotels or hostels or through the myriad of travel agents in the Pham Ngu Lao area. Tours generally follow the same format - trips to rice paper and sweet factories, a lighting boat ride along the river (where you will be rowed by an overzealous female oarsman replete with traditional Vietnamese 'non la' conical hat) and the chance to hear traditional music. It is certainly interesting if not action packed although at times can feel like a conveyor belt of souvenir-buying opportunities. Longer trips on the Mekong (including overnight stays on boats and trips to the floating markets) are also on offer and perhaps a little less frenetic.
9) Shop at Ben Than Market
Enjoying the food stalls in Ben Than Market
Packed full of knock-off stalls, Ben Than is the perfect place to pick up fake Ray Bans and other 'designer' merchandise including handbags, shoes and clothes at rock bottom prices. Don't forget to bargain! And once you are bored of shopping then visit the food stalls for the cheapest and best lunch in town.
10) Learn to Cook
Yes Chef! At Saigon Cooking Class
Given the amount of fabulous food on offer, it is little wonder that cookery lessons are in popular demand. Many tour operators, guest houses and travel agents offer classes, as well as independent schools. Most of them take in a market tour in the morning with the opportunity to shop for the produce that you will cook up later. Our favourite is the Hoa Tuc cookery school
in Hai Ba Trung.