Ho Chi Minh City Guide

Jul 30 07:55 2010 Bryony Print This Article

Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon is absolutely thronging with people, mopeds, street markets, animals and more. The atmosphere is pretty electric. There are also some really interesting things to see and do around the city. Here's a handy guide to get you going.

Up to 1975 Ho Chi Minh City was called Saigon,Guest Posting a name that is still used by many people. It’s a city of about 5 million inhabitants. Much of the busy life of the city takes place literally on the streets, especially in the centre of the city by the River Saigon and in Cholon, Saigon's Chinatown. There’s an incredible number of mopeds. It's a really fascinating city to walk around, cycle or take a moped ride around. The city is divided into 17 city districts and 5 country districts.

Temples and pagodasThe city has a number of interesting temples and pagodas. One of the oldest is Giac Lam Pagoda in District 10. It was built in 1744 and most recently restored in 1900. Ten monks now live in this Vietnamese pagoda, and it's absolutely worthwhile making a visit. The Dai Giac Pagoda is much newer as it was built in the 1960s complete with a 2.5m high Buddha with a neon halo. The Thien Hau Pagoda, dedicated to the Chinese Goddess of the Sea stands in Chinatown. It’s one of the most visited pagodas in HCMC. There’s also the Emperor of Jade Temple, one of the most colourful and one of the largest temples in HCMC, full of statues of gods, including the Emperor of Jade. CholonCholon is the Chinatown of Ho Chi Minh City. Literally translated Cholon means 'large market'. Cholon became an important neighbourhood when many Chinese immigrants started to settle here from 1778 onwards. There are far fewer Chinese residents here than in the past, because of the anti-capitalist and anti-Chinese campaign in 1978-79. Fortunately it is still a bustling neighbourhood, with plenty going on in the streets. You see people trading all over the place. A visit to Binh Tay Market, close to the bus station, is a must.American War MuseumsIn Ho Chi Minh City there are lots of museums that will give you an impression of the Vietnam War, the Vietnamese call it 'The American War'. There is the War Remnants Museum. It’s a good idea to prepare yourself for what you’re going to see because the photos leave nothing to your imagination, and many of them are quite shocking. The Revolution Museum takes you through various periods of revolt in Vietnam. Reunification PalaceThe symbol of the end of the Vietnam War is the Reunification Palace. Up to the end of the Vietnam War the palace was the presidential palace of the rulers of South Vietnam. This is the spot where the first communist tanks rode into on 30 April 1975. After they drove through the iron gates they hoisted the Viet Cong flag from the roof symbolising the communists were taking over power. The building is still in the same state and has been opened to tourists. There are guided tours in English, which show you the bunker in the cellar. This was built by President Ngo Dinh Diem, who was so hated by his own army that they tried to assassinate him in 1962. Unfortunately for Diem the construction of a bunker made no difference to his safety. His troops succeeded in killing him in 1963.What can you do from Ho Chi Minh?Cu Chi Tunnels and Mekong Delta tours - these are by far the popular choices for excursions from Ho Chi Minh City. The Viet Cong dug the haunting network of the Cu Chi tunnels during the Vietnam War to hide from American forces. The underground labyrinth covers an incredible 250km and enabled the Vietcong to carry out covert attacks. The tunnels were built to live in; they include sleeping quarters, kitchens, ammunition stores, and command centres. You can also take a Mekong Delta River Cruise from Ho Chi Minh towards tropical Phu Quoc Island. This is a great way to get a feel for life along the banks of the Mekong. There are so many possibilities in Vietnam that you'll definitely be able to build a brilliant Vietnam itinerary including Ho Chi Minh.

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