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The cultural modernising metropolis of Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, is situated in the far south of the Vietnam and is one of the main hubs for visitors entering the country. The city has a colourful history and there are reminders of that throughout, but it is also an extremely modern city and a fascinating destination for travellers. It is home to countless museums, marketplaces and varying architecture which spread across the city’s many neighbourhoods and offer visitors a real mix of activities. A trip to the city is sure to keep travellers on their toes with excitement around every corner.
Navigating central Ho Chi Minh
Ho Chi Minh City is an extremely hectic experience and for many it can initially feel overwhelming, but the central areas of the city quickly become familiar. There are many recognisable landmarks that are useful for orientation in the various districts of the city, with one of the most central being the Reunification Palace. Indeed much of the city’s attractions can be found in this central area known as District 1, plus it is possible to reach a great deal of these on foot. Similarly, there are dozens of Ho Chi Minh City hotels in and around District 1, providing guests with various options for staying in the heart of the city. Just a few minutes from the Reunification Palace is the Notre Dame Cathedral; built by the French in the late nineteenth-century it is one of the most obvious signs of the colonial days. Ho Chi Minh City is a religiously diverse city and there are further architectural highlights to be found with places of worship, including the city’s main mosque and a variety of temples and pagodas in and around District 1.
Many museums represent the city’s rich history
The diversity of the city that can be seen in the architecture and culture owes a great deal to its history. Colonial days are clearly evident from the vast amount of Western style architecture, including many administrative buildings which are attractions in their own right, such as the Saigon Central Post Office. There also several older hotels in Ho Chi Minh City that display this architecture but more frequently the larger Ho-Chi-Minh-City hotels are housed in modern glass skyscrapers. Another huge influence on the city was of course the mid-twentieth century Vietnam War; the city now houses multiple museums dedicated to various aspects of the conflict. The War Remnants Museum is the quintessential war related museum for visitors wanting to witness and begin to understand the topic in more depth. The city owes its name to the late Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh and there is another museum dedicated to entirely to him, plus for more of a general overview of the country, the Museum of Vietnamese History is an additional must-visit.
Bustling street markets and a sea of food stalls
Cuisine is one of Vietnam’s most iconic aspects and any trip to the country is likely to have a huge focus on the food. Ho Chi Minh City contains literally thousands of restaurants, cafes, and street food options, catering for all budgets and offering the wide variety of Vietnamese cuisine. Markets present a glimpse of the most authentic everyday life for Saigon locals and there are always endless food stalls waiting to be sampled. There are dozens of large markets across the city with Ben Thanh Market being one of the most central and well known. It is located in an area of District 1 which contains the style of hotel in Ho-Chi-Minh-City favoured by the young backpacker crowd. Vietnam is actually one of the world’s largest coffee exporters and the coffee scene is thriving in the city. As a result there seems to be an limitless amount of cafes, providing travellers a spot to relax and recover from the frantic metropolis. Similarly, Ho Chi Minh City also has a growing bar and club scene for tourists and locals, with a variety of tourist-oriented establishments contrasted with local hangouts. Many of the tourist bars can be found close by Ben Thanh, near many of the Ho Chi Minh hotels frequented by the party-focused traveller.
Away from District 1
Although District 1 dominates most of the time visitors spend in Ho Chi Minh City, it is vital to delve further into the suburbs to further understand the city’s real charm and character. The city has an extensive transportation system which can seem daunting, however there are regular bus routes that can be followed, plus an endless supply of taxis; both of the regular and motorbike type. District 5 is home to the city’s Chinatown and many of the ethnically Chinese Vietnamese. Here visitors can find bustling street markets and a multitude of Chinese restaurants and food stalls. Indeed this district can provide an excellent chance for those seeking a hotel in Ho Chi Minh City with further cultural exposure on their doorstep. District 6 is home to the city’s international airport and is also a more comfortable residential area. This calmer district contains several Saigon hotels that are conveniently placed for flights, useful if concerned about the city’s notorious traffic jams.