Ho Chi Minh City, which will forever be known as Saigon to the inhabitants of Vietnam, is a thriving and bustling metropolis. The streets are crowded, jam packed and bursting at the seams with eastern and western culture. From Buddhists monks in traditional garb and American and French expatriates to street venders hawking everything from designer jeans and noodles to lottery tickets, this city on the western bank of the Saigon River rivals New York in its sheer flurry of activity and energy. The crush of motorbikes and Honda scooters is enough to make a leisurely stroll through the city into an obstacle course. Ho Chi Minh City is in the midst of an economic revival, and people are venturing off the beaten path and away from South East Asia’s well-trodden cities, especially Bangkok and Singapore, and finding their way to this unique and exhilarating destination. Hanoi might be the official capital of Vietnam, but with its fancy restaurants, posh bars and chic clubs, Ho Chi Minh City is the lifeblood and commercial centre of the country. If you find yourself in Ho Chi Minh City’s tropical and baroque labyrinth, then rent a motor scooter and zigzag your way to the city’s pivotal attractions. It is a difficult tour, but worth the challenge.
1. There are lots of markets in Vietnam, but the Ben Thanh is by far the largest. Operating since 1914, this extravaganza is different than anything you have ever seen. It is nothing like those peaceful Sunday afternoon farmer’s markets were people quietly and demurely sell you jam and organic vegetables. It is loud, chaotic and completely mysterious. You will see bizarre varieties of seafood and other unknown food species. You can shop, haggle or stop at one of the food stalls for something to eat. Just be sure to watch out for scam artists.
2. There is nothing like the buildings and architecture of Ho Chi Minh City. The style is often referred to as tropical baroque. The old French colonial buildings have faded with time and nature’s elements, but this appearance of faded glory makes them all the more elegant. Park your motor scooter and visit the City Hall, Ho Chi Minh Post Office, Opera House and the Notre Dame Cathedral.
3. It is time to take a break for lunch. There are numerous dining options in Ho Chi Minh City. From street vendors selling pho to luxurious international restaurants, lunch runs the gamut, so it all depends on what you are in the mood for. If you are looking to be adventurous, then Com Tam is a popular local eatery. It specializes in beef noodles, suon nuong and ca kho.