Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Fasten your seat belts, we are approaching Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), a metropolis that is always on the move. And not only due to the endless streams of scooters, stools, motorcycles, cars and bicycles flowing through the city in all directions. Saigon (as many still call it, despite the new name) is the quintessence of Vietnamese fuss. This is the center of the commercial and cultural life of the whole country, a living organism, whose breath reaches the most remote corners of Vietnam, and the beating of his heart gives powerful shocks even in careless Fukuoka.

Whether the traveler chooses luxury hotels or ultra-budget guesthouses, classic restaurants or wok-flaming street stalls, designer boutiques or bustling malls, Saigon has it all in abundance.

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Souvenirs, clothing, art and even a homemade tablecloth can be found in one of the hundreds of shops in the center of Ho Chi Minh City. The best quality and the highest prices are on Dong Khoi street, cheaper and more interesting – in Ben Than market. What to buy? Silk and textiles from Sapa, lacquered miniatures, plates, bowls, posters and posters from the time of “resisting” Vietnam.

You should definitely devote two to three hours to visiting the market. The best, most “characteristic” is Cho Ben Thanh or Ben Thanh at the southeast end of Le Lai Street. It will not be difficult to find it: look for a high clock tower, near which this “old-style” bazaar is located, dating back a couple of centuries.

At least half an hour is worth a look at the night market of Ho Chi Minh City. Shopping here is far from the main thing – people come here for the atmosphere, communication, to have a glass or two, eating something unimaginable from street stalls. The market opens at 18:00 – just as Ben Thanh closes.

A civilized alternative is Saigon Square, an air-conditioned market with mid-range shops where you can find clothes, household goods, and appliances. Cho Binh Tay in Ho Chi Minh’s Chinatown is like a twin sister to Ben Thanh Market, which also sells everything from spices, Chinese medicines, silk, to fish and seafood.

And finally, the so-called “American bazaar” War Surplus (aka Cho Cu and Khu Dan Sinh in quarter 1), which, behind the mountains of low-quality equipment and electrical equipment, hides real pearls in the form of military artifacts – American Zippo lighters and similar rubbish that has survived in the forests of Vietnam. Read more about shopping here: shopping in Ho Chi Minh City.

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Cuisine and restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City

Dishes of Vietnamese, French and Chinese cuisine are far from a complete list of gastronomic temptations of Ho Chi Minh City for lovers of delicious food. Expensive restaurants offer European and Asian cuisine prepared by the author. You can appreciate it in the EON51 restaurant on the 51st floor of the Biteksko tower. Dinner with wine and views of Ho Chi Minh City will cost 2,000,000 VND per person – not cheap even by European standards.

A 5% service charge and a 10% tax will be added to the total cost of the ordered food and drinks.

Local cuisine is less spicy than in other parts of Vietnam. This is easy to see in the colorful restaurants and cafes on the tourist streets of Pham Ngu Lao, Nguyen Thai Hoc and Than Hung Dao. Another popular place is the Ben Tan market, where many small cafes open after sunset. The hearty beef soup “pho bo” with noodles, ginger and herbs is good for the first, as well as the soup “lau”, which is prepared right in front of the visitors. For the second, you should order “ga kho” – a dish with juicy chicken meat and a sweet-salty taste. Exotic lovers can try snake, crocodile or turtle meat dishes, or even crunch crickets fried in oil. You should not worry about your wallet – lunch in a cafe costs no more than 250,000 VND.

For a snack on the go, Lotteria fast food chains are suitable. In addition to the usual hamburgers, they have happy-box sets for VND 40,000 with meat, rice, a small portion of soup, an egg and vegetables. They will compete with French baguettes with various fillings for 10,000 VND.

Entertainment and attractions of Ho Chi Minh City

The sights of Ho Chi Minh City are a whimsical mix of Asian exoticism, French charm and American cosmopolitanism. The colonial spirit of Indochina still hovers around Dong Khoi Street, with trendy bars and cafes where the characters from Graham Greene’s The Quiet American met. The former city hall building, modeled on the Parisian one, is now occupied by the People’s Committee of Ho Chi Minh City. The opera house with its exquisite façade was once the epicenter of the social life of the French beau monde, as well as the neighboring Hotel Continental, which has preserved the tradition of afternoon tea.

The Rex Hotel was also built by the French, but it became a tourist attraction thanks to the Americans. During the Vietnam War, the highest ranks of the US Army were quartered here, the legendary The Rolling Stones raised the morale of soldiers with performances, and war correspondents met with American officers in the famous rooftop bar.

Reunification Palace

The Reunification Palace – also known as the Governor’s Palace – went to Saigon at the end of the 19th century from the French colonialists. Despite the fact that in 1963 it was significantly damaged as a result of the bombing, three years later it was completely restored. Then, until 1975, the palace was the residence of the presidents of the pro-American government, and after the liberation of South Vietnam, it became known as the Reunification Palace.

Notre Dame Cathedral

Notre Dame Cathedral, located, as you can easily guess, on Paris Square in the city center, was built in colonial style in April 1880. It is still considered one of the most unique buildings in Vietnam.

Saigon Park

The Dam-Sheen park, the largest cultural and entertainment center of the city, deserves special mention. There you can see a small copy of the Jacques-Vienne pagoda, a lake resembling the West Lake in Hanoi, a puppet show, a bird garden, a water park, visit the sports center and Nam-Tu Royal Garden. It is also nice to spend time in the zoo and botanical garden, which was designed in the late 19th century. The first inhabitants of the garden were the rarest species of trees and plants from India, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand. Today, here you can see thousands of plants, hundreds of species of animals and birds, unique and creepy reptiles.

Temple of the Jade Emperor

The whimsical temple (73 Mai Thi Luu Street) is a gift from the Chinese community to the Taoist deity Ngoc Huang, who determines the fate of a person after his death. The torment awaiting sinners is depicted on the walls of the Hellish Room. In the Main Hall, there is a statue of Ngoc Huang himself, surrounded by the Four Heavenly Guardians and other deities.

Thien Hau Pagoda

In the temple, located in the Chinese shopping area Tölon (Nguyen Trai Street, 710), the goddess of the sea Thien-Hau reigns. Believers established a reliable postal service with the patroness of sailors and fishermen. They write their requests on prayer flags – red paper strips, which, rustling in the wind, pass them on to the goddess. The decor of the temple with wooden panels and exquisite ceramic friezes is one of the most beautiful in the city.

Ku-Chi tunnels

Another original attraction is the Ku Chi Tunnels, created during the guerrilla war. It is a huge tunnel system (200 km) with several levels of depth, countless entrances, living quarters, warehouses, weapons workshops, field hospitals, command centers and kitchens.

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The weather in Ho Chi Minh, located near the equator, is consistently hot. The whole year is divided into dry and wet seasons. From December to April is the dry season. There is practically no rain, the air gradually warms up to maximum temperatures in April, when even the night does not save the metropolis hot from the stuffiness.

Rains from May to November are plentiful, but short-lived. The clouds quickly disappear, leaving behind a pleasant freshness. The maximum amount of precipitation occurs in September. Short showers can fall several times a day. Thanks to them, day and night temperatures drop to quite comfortable values, and tourists fill the city to capacity.

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam 2