Ho Chi Minh City (also known as Saigon) is truly the life and soul of southern Vietnam. There is a sense of never-ending vibrancy in this chaotic city where friendly locals welcome visitors with open arms. Once you’ve worked out how to cross the roads swarming with scooters flying past at full speed, Ho Chi Minh will soon hold a special place in your heart.
Famous for its tumultuous history, Ho Chi Minh is full of historical sites including French colonial landmarks such as Notre-Dame Cathedral and the Hotel de Ville, along with museums allowing tourists to delve into the history and culture of the country. The best place to expand your knowledge of the city’s role in the Vietnam War is the War Remnants Museum where victims of US military action are given a voice to share their stories. Although a lot of the exhibitions are disturbing and shocking, the ground floor of the museum has a more upbeat perspective, displaying a collection of posters and photographs supporting the anti-war movement. Other significant historical sites to visit include Reunification Palace, Jade Emperor Pagoda (an incredibly atmospheric temple built in honour of the Taoist god), and the History Museum.
Ho Chi Minh is also known for its abundance of bustling markets where you can sample local food or pick up travel souvenirs and gifts for friends and family. One of the best markets in the city is Binh Tay Market, which was originally built by the French in the 1880s. Here you’ll find incredibly delicious and fragrant street food sold by the friendliest vendors. For little knickknacks and souvenirs, head to Ben Thanh, Le Loi or De Tham markets – they won’t disappoint!
Along with the huge array of street food stalls at local markets, Ho Chi Minh has some wonderful restaurants. Try Propaganda for some traditional Vietnamese street-food classics or Quan Bui for authentic Vietnamese dishes and some of the best cocktails in the city. Another particularly noteworthy restaurant is Secret Garden, a gorgeous rooftop restaurant, strewn with fairylights, lanterns and luscious plants. The food is, again, authentically Vietnamese.
Ho Chi Minh is also a gateway to some of the most amazing day trips. A really exciting way to see the city and its surrounding rice paddies is to go on a scooter tour, where local guides take you to places you would most likely never have come across on your own while you get to experience to most common form of local transport. Another incredible day trip is to the Cu Chi tunnels, which are located about an hour outside of the city. Here, you will be taken by a guide down into a section of the huge network of underground tunnels used during the Vietnam War.
Ho Chi Minh is an absolutely fascinating city, steeped in history, but also an extremely fun and exciting place to experience Vietnamese culture and life.