Get in quick! Vietnam has recently been unveiled as THE fastest growing tourist destination, with visitor figures last year up 19.1% over the previous year.Haggle at Saigon’s Markets As in all cities, the market is often the center of town and a great place to truly appreciate a local culture. The robust En Thank Market opened in 1914 and is best known for its iconic clock tower. Upwards of 1,200 vendors flood the market with clothing, food, and tourist items. Towards the back of the market don’t miss the small cafes that provide the best location to sample a local dessert called ‘che.’ Bin Tay Market, while smaller, is often more crowded. Best known for the wide array of produce and livestock such as chickens and duck; Bin Tay Market offers similar products to the En Thank Market but with a discernible Chinese influence. Central Ben Thanh Market is perfect for coffee, bags, shirts and souvenirs. Ben Thanh, which is easily accessible from some of the city's major hotels, also offers a night market with fresh food. Most night markets operate from 5pm to midnight including Ba Chieu, Hoa Hung, Cho Lon and Ky Hoa. Discover the Thien Hau Pagoda Known as “The Lady Temple,” Thien Hau Temple honours the goddess of the sea, Thien Hau. In a classic Chinese temple located in Chalon (Big Market) in Saigon, the Statue of the goddess is surrounded by the goddess of fertility and the protector of fishermen. The temple is not only popular with visitors but also with local devotees.
Ho Chi Minh City continues to experience tourism growth with 3.5 million visitors to the city last year. This year’s visitor numbers are up 8% for the first quarter compared with the same period last year with 972,000 travellers discovering the delights of Saigon.Crawl through the Cu Chi Tunnels The Cu Chi tunnels were dug by hand during 25 years of conflict, first with the French, then with the United States and are located about 25km outside of Ho Chi Minh City. It is estimated that at the height of construction 155 miles of tunnel were completed. During that time, the passages housed everything from Hospitals to theatres. The majority of the network was destroyed during the fighting. In 1990 the Vietnamese government opened two to public viewing. There are two locations available for tours; both start in Ben Duoc, approximately 37 miles northwest of Ho Chi Minh City. A short stretch of tunnels has been widened to accommodate tourists but be prepared to stoop or crawl for the full experience.
British travellers officially love Vietnam and with direct flights now running between London Gatwick and both Saigon and Hanoi, Vietnam has never been more accessible – there’s no excuse not to visit!Admire the skyline from the Bitexco Financial Tower Skydeck The best way to take in the sheer size and frenetic pace of Ho Chi Minh City is to view it from above. And at 262m the Bitexco Skydeck is an ideal location to gawp at the city. Designed by Carlos Zapata, an architect from New York, this is the tallest structure in Saigon. In all there are 68 storeys and the public skydeck is on floor 49, with a helipad on the rooftop. Chill out at the Dam Sen Cultural Park Everyone enjoys a little fun while traveling. Dam Sen Park offers something for everyone: from intricately manicured Asian gardens to the kid-friendly butterfly garden; from the historically themed venues to the impressive water-park. This entertainment oasis in the center of this urban environment is by far the most popular destination for families. Admire the Central Post Office Also located on Dong Khoi Street is the Central Post Office which stands opposite to the Notre Dame Basilica in downtown Saigon. The building is architecturally intriguing and was constructed during the French Indochina period during the early 20th century. The Post Office was designed by the legendary architect and engineer Gustave Eiffel (who also designed and constructed the Eiffel Tower in Paris) and is Gothic in style. Today the Post Office is firmly on the tourist trail and as such can be very busy. Treat the family to a water puppet show The biggest and most famous water puppet show is in Hanoi but if you’re not venturing north the check out Saigon’s version at Thao Dien Village. You can make an evening of it with local traditional Vietnamese food on offer as well as the cultural show which is held each Saturday night. By Julie Bowman