When Ho Chi Minh City’s blaring horns and pushy vendors become too much for you, you’ll find you can get quite a long way out of the city in a day. With public transport slow and erratic, day-trips are best arranged through a tour operator. The single most popular trip out of the city takes in one or both of Vietnam’s most memorable sights: the Cu Chi tunnels, for twenty years a bolt hole, first for Viet Minh agents, and later for Viet Cong cadres; and the weird and wonderful Cao Dai Holy See at Tay Ninh, the fulcrum of the country’s most charismatic indigenous religion. While it’s possible to see both places in a day (indeed, most people do), be prepared to spend most of the day on the road.
Another enjoyable day (or half-day) out can be had at one of the water parks that are located on the fringe of the city and make a great antidote to the dust and heat of Ho Chi Minh City. Southwest of the city, a new highway runs down to My Tho, where you can catch a glimpse of the Mekong River; while to the northeast, it breezes up to the dreary orbital city of Bien Hoa, from where Highway 51 drops down to the beaches around Vung Tau.