Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam was, until 1976, known as Saigon, a name which is still used by many Vietnamese today. There are numerous things to do in Ho Chi Minh City and the moment you arrive in Vietnam’s largest city you’ll notice the humidity and energy but most of all the entire population of some 6.6 million seem to have taken to the streets on mopeds! HCMC is the former capital of the now non-existent South Vietnam.
The city of Ho Chi Minh is bustling with markets, ancient pagodas, modern skyscrapers, café culture and chic restaurants, hotels and bars. The former French colony suffers from lengthy traffic jams and there are more than three million motorbikes but once you’ve explored all the city has to offer there are also tranquil getaways just outside the city.
1. Mekong Delta – Escape the hustle of the city and take a scenic drive through the Mekong Delta and journey down the narrow tree lined canals on board a sampan. The typical Vietnamese conical hat is obligatory!
2. Cu Chi Tunnels – In greater Ho Chi Minh City are the Cu Chi Tunnels which were used in 1960s by the Viet Cong army to control the area in their fight for independence. In Cu Chi district alone there were more than 250km of tunnels and people lived their lives in these tiny hideouts for years. Today a few of the tunnels have been increased in size to allow Western visitors to crawl through them which is quite an eerie experience and definitely not one for the claustrophobic!
Whilst at the Cu Chi Tunnels there is also an opportunity to shoot various models of guns in a controlled environment. The AK47 is the most popular and makes for quite an unusual and loud experience!
3. Reunification Palace – The striking 1960s architecture of the Reunification Palace is an incredible sight whilst in Ho Chi Minh City, almost untouched since 1975 when the government used the building. Explore the halls, chambers and decorations and the basement with its network of tunnels and rooms.
4. Notre Dame Cathedral – Completed in 1883, the Notre Dame Cathedral sits in the center of Ho Chi Minh City with two bell towers dominating the skyline. In front of the cathedral stands a statue of the Virgin Mary and the cathedral runs services
5. History Museum – Also called the Museum of Vietnamese History, this is well worth a visit as it features collections from when the area was first settled 300,000 years ago. Built in 1929 the museum is located in Saigon’s Botanical Gardens and Zoo. Don’t miss the captivating Buddha statue with 1,000 eyes and 1,000 arms.