Hoh Chi Minh City (or people tend to abbreviate the name to HCMC), is the largest city in Vietnam. It is located on the banks of the Saigon River near the delta of the Mekong River. To what I know most visitors and locals alike still like to use the name of Saigon. In fact, Saigon or Hoh Chi Minh was named in honor of North Vietnam’s revolutionary leader who died in 1969.
This great city is the fast-beating heart of Vietnam. It is dynamic and industrious, serving as the country’s economic and cultural focus, although it does not change much from those pre-Communist days.
Places of interest or interesting places? I would say there are plenty of interesting old buildings, museums and galleries to be found in HCMC, as would be expected in a former French colonial capital, in addition to some striking modern architecture. But the real joy of this vibrant place is the city life of South East Asia as it really is, i.e. the traffic, which largely consisting of overloaded motorbikes and scooters, is ferocious, and with little respect for small details like pavements and pedestrians, though and surprisingly there are miraculously few accidents. One thing amuse me is that although traffic lights are all over Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, we shouldn’t put too much faith in them, as we will often see that red lights are often ignored, especially at night and in Hanoi. Further, the one-way streets in Vietnam are also dangerous, why? This is because there is almost a trickle of traffic flowing the wrong way! It seems to me that although Vietnamese technically drive on the right side of the road, the concept of lanes seems not occur in their minds!
There are endless bars, markets, restaurants, street vendors and the old-fashioned cafés that are famous for strong coffee brewed in the cup. Many who went there commented that Saigon or Hoh Chi Minh, is a city of contrasts, meaning that it is with traditional ways of doing things such as rubbing shoulders along with their rapid modern developments of international character of a 21st century city. You will notice this striking contrast if you go and visit Phung Son Tu Pagoda, a small and dusty oasis of peace surrounded by the high rises of modern Ho Chi Minh City, then you will know what I meant!
What are the interesting places or places of interest that you shouldn’t miss?
- The General Library, if only to see one of the finest buildings in the whole of Vietnam.
- Reunification Palace – a former South Vietnam’s Presidential Palace, and left ‘as was’ is complete with a replica of the original tank that crashed through the gates that symbolically ending the war.
- The extremely emotive War Remnants Museum (once provocatively called ‘The Exhibition of American War Crimes’) with various displays and hardware from the Vietnam war.
- French-built Notre Dame Catholic Cathedral in the city centre.
- The Dam Sen Water Park, which let us cool down by riding the spectacular water slides.
- Bcn Thanh Market, a place that offers tourists and travel visitors with a huge selection of goods and produce, plus an authentic slice of Vietnamese city life.
Some traveling facts and money savings traveling tips you might want to know:
- Saigon was known as ‘The Pearl of the Far East’ for its number of fine colonial buildings.
- If you are planning to travel there during late January or early February, be sure to take the Tet Festival into account, as hotels are often fully booked far in advance, and that many services are closed for extended periods.
- If you need to hire drivers or travel guides, give at least 10% tipping, as it is often expected and is greatly appreciated there. And be sure to tip anywhere from 5 to 10% when eating out.
When to go to those interesting places in Hoh Chi Minh City (or Saigon or The Pearl of the Far East)? I would suggest during the tropical dry season from December to April.