Perched on the banks of the majestic Saigon River, Ho Chi Minh City now easily challenges Singapore, Bangkok and other Southeast Asian powerhouses.
Commerce and culture come together with pulsating energy here offering an almost dizzying combination of sights, sounds, smells and more mopeds than you have possibly ever seen in your life. Stroll incense-infused alleyways and temples or negotiate sleek designer malls beneath 21st-century skyscrapers. The city also offers a fascinating insight into the Vietnam War, which only a generation ago had the city in turmoil. No matter how long your stay, it's guaranteed to be an exciting journey.
Vietnam has a fascinating history and colonial culture, and you'll find Ho Chi Minh City an easy place to start exploring. With friendly locals, delicious fresh flavours and hot, steamy weather it's best just to dive right in.
- No visit is complete without seeing the indulgent and imposing 1960s-styled Independence Palace
- A tear-jerking eye-opener, see the war from the side of the Vietnamese locals at the War Remnants Museum
- See the famous Cu Chi Tunnels in the morning and taste delicious local delicacies with a Street Food Tour
The city is divided into 24 districts with most of the visitor attractions, hotels and restaurants located centrally in district 1, 3 and 5.
The epicentre of Ho Chi Minh City, District 1 frames the famous avenue Rue Catinat (known today at Dong Khoi) and is arguably the financial, commercial and tourist hub of the city.
Within its European designed and moped filled streets you'll find many of the major sights here. Not to be missed are the Saigon Opera House, Notre Dame Cathedral, Central Post Office, and Reunification Palace.
And for sustenance, locals and expats alike are filling the District's expanding number of stylish cafes, lavish night clubs and exceptional restaurants.
Conveniently, many of the city's premier hotels are located in District 1 making it easy to venture forth during the day and not have to travel far to rest and refresh at night.
Directly west of District 1 is the quieter, more urbane District 3, where its tree-lined avenues are home to clusters of foreign embassies, French colonial buildings and a thriving cafe scene.
So if it's relaxed and reflective sightseeing you seek, check out Vinh Nghiem and Xa Loi Pagodas, along with Tao Dan and Le Van Tam parks, which are all conveniently located in District 3. As is the haunting War Remnants Museum, Ky Dong Church and Archbishop's Palace.
However, no excursion to the area should be without a visit to the Jade Emperor Pagoda. Dating from the early 1900s, the main temple brims with intricate statues and wood carvings, all shrouded in a pungent smoke of incense.
Cho Lon (or Chinatown) is home to more pagodas and temples than any other district in Ho Chi Minh City. Located a short distance south of the bustling centre, District 5 boasts a more distinct oriental ambience reflecting the strong and abiding Chinese influence on the city.
Apart from the vast array of ethnic food options, Nghia An Hoi Quan, Tam Son Hoi Quan and Thien Hau are just a few of the notable sites of worship worth visiting too.
District 5's other main drawcard is the Binh Tay Market, the country's largest. It you can't find it here, it probably doesn't exist. It's also where locals come to buy in bulk and serves as a fascinating insight into Vietnamese daily life.
This watery world of rice paddies, fruit orchards, coconut palms, mangrove forests, sugar-cane groves and shifting swamplands, all tended by conical-hatted farmers, is often referred to as the country's 'food bowl'.
Sustained by the ebb and flow of the mighty Mekong, this agricultural marvel produces more than a third of Vietnam's food crop from just 10 percent of the land mass.
Along with the delta's nine main tributaries, a web of interweaving channels and canals dissect the nutrient rich farmland. Boats and houses and floating markets make their home here according to the rhythms of the river. Contrasting this simple yet productive rural idyll you'll find thriving commercial centres too.
But it's the random encounters with Khmer monks, or children riding water buffalo, or squawking birdlife, or isolated Buddhist temples spotted from the seat of a pushbike as you ride past that makes time spent in and around the Mekong Delta such a diverse and memorable experience.
Vietnamese Dong (VND)
With a tropical climate of 2 distinctive seasons: dry and wet, it's suggested that you should pay a visit to Ho Chi Minh City during the dry season, starting from December and lasting until April. May to November is monsoon season when it is quite humid and rainy.
From the airport
If you're getting out of town into rural Vietnam, there's no better way to see the country than by hiring a car. The saying goes, 'might is right', so the bigger your car the better. But if driving isn't for you, and you'd have to love it to even attempt it in the cities, there are plenty of bus and taxi companies who can convey you to your destination with minimal stress. Or why not take an airport transfer for added peace of mind.
In and around the city
Luckily most of the most popular things to see and do are within walking distance from most of the hotels. If you organise a well priced private city tour transport is taken care of, alternatively why not take a cyclo tour where you're the one being pushed around the city. Hiring a scooter is not to be advised.
Ho Chi Minh City
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