Ho Chi Minh City
A Taste of Paris in Asia
Ho Chi Minh, more popular with its common name Saigon, is bustling with culture, commerce, and colors. This Vietnamese City showcases its people’s tenacity and resilience to rise up from the war that has ravaged and divided the country for so many years. Now, Ho Chi Minh is a rising tourist destination in Asia and is considered as the “Paris of the East.”
The Best Time to Visit Ho Chi Minh
The best time to visit Ho Chi Minh is from late November until January during the dry season, as May to October is a wet season. Another reason to schedule your visit during the dry season is the Tet festival happening in the later part of January or the early week of February. Celebrated on the same day as Chinese New Year, Tet festival features flower-decorated streets, street dance and other performances, and fireworks display.
Where to Find Affordable Hotels in Ho Chi Minh?
From five-star hotels to affordable budget guesthouses, you have a wide array of places to stay in Ho Chi Minh. You can get a fan room and enjoy hot shower and cable TV for $12 at one of the mini-hotels lining up the alleys of Pham Ngu Lao. The Ben Thanh area has hotels with reasonable rates ranging from $25 to $35. Luxury hotels with room rates ranging from $200 per night are found right in the midst of the bustling tourist center of Ho Chi Minh.
Best Places to Visit
You can visit the Central Post Office, History Museum and War Remnant Museum. History Museum boasts of its French and Vietnamese architecture and collection of relics and artifacts depicting the cultural evolution of Vietnam. It also has a museum gift shop. As its name implies, the War Remnants Museum displays the atrocities of war: photos of massacre, torture scenes, and bombings. It also showcases photographs and posters promoting anti-war initiatives and movement.
Places for worship for different religions abound in Ho Chi Minh. The Notre Dame Cathedral in Han Thuyen Street is a replica of the original Catholic Church in France. Chinese Temples abound in the Chinatown of Ho Chi Minh. Some of them are Thien Hau Pagoda and known for its walls adorned with sculptures; Phung Son Tu Pagoda with sculpted grounds that provide a well-needed resting place after a walk in the city; and Quan Am Pagoda features with Chinese style architecture and inscriptions. Another pagoda worth visiting is the Giac Vien, its features are of typical southern Vietnam pagodas. Parallel sentences are engraved on the temple’s wooden pillars.
Shopping and Dining at Ho Chi Minh
Shop at Ben Thanh Market and unearth some of Vietnam’s treasures and antiques at reasonable prices. Check out the wood carvings, the woven silk, lacquer-painted plates and bowls with designs that are unique to Vietnam. But if you want to shop in an air-conditioned place, go to Saigon Square. Wherever you shop, learn to haggle for a lower price.
Dine and drink at the Night Market. Opening when Ben Thanh Market closes shop for the day, the Night Market offers a variety of food and drink. Have a bite of the French-inspired local baguettes filled with cheese, ham, or onions; Vietnamese pancakes noted for their crisp, crepe-like texture and sumptuous filling of meat, prawns, mushrooms, and bamboo shoots. Of course, do not forget a bowl of Vietnam’s very popular Pho soup made from rice noodles and served with herbs. Another delectable soup is the Bun Bo Hue beef soup. You can also check the popular night spots like Hard Rock Café, Villa Romaine and Au lad do Brazil. But do not leave Ho Chi Minh without a sip of its world famous coffee, ‘ca phe’ which is served in different variations: from the strong and sweet iced ‘ca phe da’ to the freshly brewed ‘ca phe ning.’ American-style coffee, cappuccino, and espresso are also available.
A Word of Caution
The tourism boom has brought heavy traffic flow in Ho Chi Minh, mostly of motorcycles. Thus, crossing the street can be quite scary at times. When crossing the street, do it with constant and assured pace and avoid making sudden stops. For your own safety, be wary of locals offering you some services and stuffs and business opportunities that may turn out to be nothing but scam meant to rob your money.