Vietnam first stops

Every holiday has to begin somewhere, but knowing where to start isn't always easy.

First Stops is a collection of top picks you can rely on for a great time.

Ben Thanh Market, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Explore

Right in the middle of Ho Chi Minh City is Ben Thanh Market, which can trace its history back to the early 17th century. You can find anything you need here and haggling is part of the experience. Watch the locals, if you want to improve your negotiation style. To get back to your accommodation, consider a cyclo ride. You'll sit up front while the drive pedals from behind. You'll get a whole new appreciation for how the intersections work

 
Man holding Vietnamese banh mi.

Eat

A Ho Chi Minh City specialty is banh mi - a baguette sandwich with a very Vietnamese filling. They're sold by hundreds of street vendors, but some of the best stalls can be found right in the heart of the city. To make banh mi, a piece of baguette is sliced down the side, filled with meat (grilled pork patties are common) and garnished with Vietnamese pickles, cucumbers, cilantro and a dash of chilli sauce. Pick a stall that's busy with locals and you're unlikely to be disappointed.

 
Rooftop skybar, Vietnam.

Drink

To see where Vietnam's night scene is headed, walk through Ho Chi Minh City and look 25 floors up to Chill Skybar. As upmarket as it is lofty, this is the place to go if you want to drink fashionable cocktails with the trendy people. At that impressive height, you'll also get a panoramic view of the vibrant city sprawl. There are other rooftop bars in the city, including the riverside M Bar on top of the Hotel Majestic.

 
Conical hats at market, Vietnam.

Relax

If you'd love feet that look good in sandals, Ho Chi Minh City is a hotbed of excellent pedicurists. And of course you can get your hands done too. Beautifully-dressed ladies tout for business on the street, and then lead you to their salon. Or you can book into a hotel spa - it'll cost you more, but the result will be top notch. Nail art is huge in Ho Chi Minh City, so consider lashing out on some cute imagery for your digits.

 
Dragons, Vietnam.

Play

If you're travelling with kids and want an entertaining twist on heritage, hit Suoi Tien Theme Park, where Buddhism meets thrills. Though it might be hard to absorb Vietnamese culture while screaming around a roller coaster, the park's spectacular oriental architecture and legend-based installations are captivating. And if you're visiting Ho Chi Minh City when the weather is hot, a water park is part of the fun. Located about 40 minutes out of the city, Suoi Tien is open daily.

 
Boat market, Vietnam.

See

The Mekong Delta is an easy day-trip from the city. There are plenty of operators who'll collect you from your accommodation, then ensure a fascinating day unfolds perfectly. Expect to see rustic river villages, boats laden with produce, coconut palms, orchards, water buffalo, sugarcane groves and endless rice fields. If you want to visit the famous Cai Rang floating market, you'll need to make an early start (3:00am!).

 
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