Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam
The flagship city of Vietnam in terms of economic development and international exposure, Ho Chi Minh City is a truly happening city. Many of the best attractions in Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) centre around the events of 20th century war and conquest. It sounds sombre, and in parts it is, but there are some truly fascinating historical activities suitable for all ages. The central area of District 1 is imposing with its high-rise buildings, shopping centers as well as other entertainments such as restaurants, café shops, and bars.
From classic French architecture to perfectly maintained American war planes, walking around Ho Chi Minh is like seeing the past come to life with so many famous places of interest scattered throughout the city. Of course, as Vietnam’s biggest city and business capital, times are changing and modern skyscrapers are starting to punctuate the sky combining the new and old in a uniquely Vietnamese way.
China Town in District 5 is a contrasting destination with colorful lanterns and exotic Chinese shop-houses that date back at least 40 years ago. Historical heritages such as Dinh Thong Nhat and Bao Tang Cach Mang Vietnam will let you step into the epic history of Gia Dinh or Sai Gon. Furthermore, Ho Chi Minh City boasts its diversely flavorful cuisine as good foods from all regions concentrate here. In the menu, some of the must-try are Banh Xeo Nam Bo, Bun Bo Hue, snails and seafood.
Top 10 Most Popular Attractions in Ho Chi Minh
1. War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh
The War Remnants Museum once known as the ‘Museum of American War Crimes’ first opened to the public in 1975. Vietnam’s war-torn history can’t – and shouldn’t – be ignored. Ho Chi Minh City Museum has many informative exhibitions, and explains the country’s bloody past through photographs, artefacts and memorabilia. It’s sensitively done, without glossing over the atrocities, and (rather ironically) is housed in the Gia Long Palace, where Ngo Dinh Diem spent his final hours in power before his assassination in 1963.
It’s a shocking reminder of the long and brutal Vietnam War with many graphic photographs and American military equipment on display, including a helicopter with rocket launchers, a tank, a fighter plane, a single-seater attack aircraft and a 6,800kg conventional bomb.
All these weapons were used by America against the Vietnamese at some point during the infamous war that lasted from 1945-1975.
2. Jade Emperor Pagoda
Emperor Jade Pagoda, also known as Tortoise Pagoda, is one of the five most important shrines in Ho Chi Minh City. Built in 1909 in honour of the supreme Taoist god (the Jade Emperor or King of Heaven, Ngoc Hoang), this is one of the most spectacularly atmospheric temples in HCMC, stuffed with statues of phantasmal divinities and grotesque heroes. The pungent smoke of incense (huong) fills the air, obscuring the exquisite woodcarvings.
Its roof encrusted with elaborate tile work, the temple’s statues, depicting characters from both Buddhist and Taoist lore, are made from reinforced papier mâché. Inside the main building are two especially fierce and menacing Taoist figures. On the right (as you face the altar) is a 4m-high statue of the general who defeated the Green Dragon (depicted underfoot). On the left is the general who defeated the White Tiger, which is also being stepped on.
In the main hall, the Emperor Jade Chua Ngoc Hoang or the ‘God of the Heavens’ reigns supreme. Aided by two assistants, the Emperor decides who can enter this higher realm. Those who don’t pass this gate will meet with the formidable ‘God of Hell’, on the left, who will send sinners to one of the 10 levels of hell. Life in purgatory is magnificently if somewhat gruesomely represented by the intricate carvings on the temple wall, depicting different kinds of punishments that await transgressors.
3. Cu Chi Tunnels
Visit Cu Chi Tunnels (70 km northwest of Ho Chi Minh City), an amazing complex of underground tunnels used during the Vietnam war.
Two sections of this remarkable tunnel network (which are enlarged and upgraded versions of the real thing) are open to the public. One is near the village of Ben Dinh and the other is 15km beyond at Ben Duoc. Most tourists visiting the tunnels end up at Ben Dinh, as it’s easier for tour buses to reach.
There are more than 200 km of tunnels, comprising a main axis system with many branches connecting to underground hideouts, shelters and other tunnels.
4. Reunification Palace
When the French left in 1954, Ngo Dinh Diem constructed the Independence Palace to demonstrate his country’s strength, but it was pulled down after an attempt to assassinate him. The replacement building was later renamed Reunification Palace after the fall of Saigon in the 1970s.
Surrounded by Royal Palm trees, the dissonant 1960s architecture of this government building and the eerie mood that accompanies a walk through its deserted halls make it one of the most intriguing spectacles in HCMC. The building is deeply associated with the fall of Saigon in 1975, yet it’s the overblown kitsch detailing and period motifs that steal the show.
Much of the palace remains unchanged since the 70s, and although the shiny rosewood-clad meeting rooms and musty library are interesting, perhaps the most fascinating relic resides in the garden. Here, you’ll find the tank that crashed through the gates of the palace on 30 April 1975, signalling the fall of the Saigon regime.
Get Around and Things to Do In Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam
|Experience the Truly fascinating of Ho Chi Minh City
4 stars & above
|only fr US$20