Ho Chi Minh City, named after revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh, used to be known by the name Saigon. 'Saigon' is still used unofficially in some circles.
As the then capital of the Republic of Vietnam, the city went through a tough time during the Vietnamese War, from 1955 to 1975. You can still see the legacy of war here.
Today, Ho Chi Minh is the largest city in Vietnam. Although its economy is developing rapidly, it still feels full of French romanticism and influence, earning it the nickname, Paris of the Orient.
PS: Vietnam has eased its travel restrictions from March 16, 2022. All travelers are exempt from quarantine to visit Vietnam now as long as you're fully vaccinated.
Witness a Twentieth-Century Miracle - the Cu Chi Tunnels
Recommended length of visit: half-a-day to a day
Even if you're not a history buff, the Cu Chi tunnels are interesting as a legacy of great significance for understanding the American war in Vietnam.
The tunnels stretch for about 200 km and incorporate water wells, barns, meeting rooms, hospitals and dormitories. They played an important role in resisting American invasion.
When you crawl through the tunnels, you'l be amazed by the intelligence of the Vietnamese. You'll also be enlightened as to how Vietnamese lived in the underground tunnels and survived the war.
Meditate on the Importance of Peace - the War Remnants Museum
Recommended length of visit: a day
The War Remnants Museum, once known as the Museum of American War Crimes, opened to the public in 1975.
War machinery, including helicopters with rocket launchers, tanks, fighter planes, and bombs, is presented in the museum along with explanatory text. There are also many photographs: battlefield photos and post-war photos of victims.
The texts and pictures are silent, but after visiting, you may hear the cry of war echoing in your mind. Pictures of ruins scarring the land may also be etched in your memory.
On reflection, you may realize that such history is not just for the record, but serves as a stark warning about the importance of peace.
Walk Round the History of Modern Vietnam - Reunification Palace
Recommended length of visit: two to three hours
Reunification Palace was built between 1962 and 1966, during the period of French colonization. It served as the presidential palace of the regime of South Vietnam, from 1967 to 1975.
The palace is a white building with four floors, more than a hundred splendid and magnificent halls, a helicopter deck on the roof, and a basement. The total floor area is 120,000 square meters. The surrounding complex includes spacious gardens.
After a visit to the palace, you will know more about Vietnam's modern history.
Marvel at Some Great Architecture - Notre Dame Cathedral
Recommended length of visit: half-an-hour
Notre Dame Cathedral, one of the landmarks of Ho Chi Minh, is located in the center of the city near the Central Post Office. This 19th-century gothic building is a legacy of the days of French colonization.
The cathedral is modeled after Notre Dame in Paris. It's said that all its red bricks are from France. After more than a century, their color hasn't faded, loaning the building another name, Red Cathedral.
You will marvel at this gorgeous building with its four-ton statue of Mary between the spires, its two 40-meter-tall bell towers and its exquisite reliefs in the porch.
The church is a place of worship. It was sculpted and built so magnificently, however, that it makes everyone simply stand and marvel at the wonderful architecture.
Revert to the Letter-Writing Era - the Central Post Office
Recommended length of visit: half-an-hour to an hour
When did you last write a letter with pen and paper? Before humanity entered the digital age? When you walk into this hundred-year-old office, you can't help feeling like picking up your pen again.
The Central Post Office was designed by a French architect and built between 1886 and 1891. It is a grand and classic building.
Many details will impress: the carved wooden telephone booths, a magnificent tiled floor, fascinating historical maps of South Vietnam, Saigon and Cholon (a suburb of Saigon) on the walls, and barrel-vaulted halls.
Witness a Different Life - a Mekong Cruise
Recommended length of visit: half-a-day
If you would like to experience a different Ho Chi Minh, without traffic jams, magnificent French structures, or exquisite food, how about taking a boat-ride?
Try a Mekong cruise, with fleeting boats, floating houses, and traditional Vietnamese cuisine.
On the cruise, you will visit an early-morning floating market, and see a local temple, a rice factory, and a honey factory. Watch how people harvest fruit and observe the local way of life. Enjoy local music and cuisine.
Enjoy Vietnamese Culture - the Water Puppet Theatre
Recommended length of visit: half-a-day
The Water Puppet Theatre, with a history of a thousand years, is the quintessence of Vietnamese culture.
The stage is set on water and puppets are manipulated by people who stand in the water. The show comprises seventeen short stories, each three to five minutes long. The stories are from folklore, customs and tales of Vietnam. Through this show, you can learn more about Vietnamese culture.
Be a Vietnamese Chef - Saigon Cooking Class
Fancy a cooking course in Hoi An, a street-food walk in Hanoi and a scooter tour in Saigon? The Saigon Cooking Class has got you covered.
In the morning, your guide will show you round the local market, and teach you how to select the freshest vegetables and bargain with local people.
Back in the classroom, do as instructed and you can learn to be your very own Vietnamese chef.
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