Saigon, or Ho Chi Minh, is the largest city in Vietnam, which is located in the south of the country and as you would expect, there is much to see and do in this unique metropolis. Vietnam opened its doors to foreign tourists a few years ago and it quickly became the number one South East Asian destination and Saigon is the largest city in this amazing country and here are a few must-add venues to include when planning your stay in Saigon.
- War Remnant Museum – If you are interested in the US-Vietnam conflict, you simply must visit the War Remnant Museum, which details the 30-year conflict with the US. Outside the main building there is a large collection of tanks, jeeps and aircraft, which are very well preserved and give you some idea of the technology they had at their disposal in the 1960s. Inside there are exhibits, documents and images that reflect the stark reality and horror of war and it is definitely worth spending the day at this venue. Some of the older Vietnamese do not like to talk about the conflict, while the younger people were not around at that time and hold a different view. Like all wars, this conflict was brutal and was mainly due to the US being paranoid about a Communist take-over. If you are interested in learning more about the war before you arrive in Vietnam, the Internet is full of resources, with many great documentaries on YouTube.
- Cao Dai Temple – The Cao Dai religion is a mixture of Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Taoism and Confucianism and this temple is the popular venue for many people of varying faiths. Those who practice Cao Dai wear white robes and a sash to denote their former religion and the temple is beautifully adorned with cloud murals and dragons. Tourists are welcome to visit and learn more about this relatively new religion and even if you are not religious, the architecture is amazing and there’s an air of peace and tranquillity about Cao Dai Temple. The cost of living is low compared to Europe and you can enjoy luxury accommodation by booking at the Hotel Des Arts 5-star hotel in Saigon, a fantastic boutique hotel that is ideally located.
- Reunification Palace – This iconic structure symbolises the North Vietnamese victory over the Americans and as the name suggests, the documents that reunited North and South Vietnam were signed here. The palace has been preserved just as it was in 1975 when the Vietnamese tanks came crashing through the gates and you can check out the command centre, secret rooms and, of course, the grandeur of the reception halls. When walking the grounds, it is easy to imagine what this building has witnessed and it is a very popular attraction for tourists and locals alike. Here is an informative blog about long-stay holidays and why they are becoming the norm.
- Binh Tay Market – Built by the French in 1880, Binh Tay is a bustling daily market in the centre of the Chinatown district of Saigon. This market is the central hub for food from all parts of the country and is the place to go if you want the best fresh vegetables for cooking, or you could simply take in the hustle and bustle, which might look chaotic but it kind of works. There are vendors selling cold drinks and desserts and lots of shady spots to sit and relax, plus you are never far from coffee shops, where you can sample great Vietnamese coffee. This is a great venue if you are a budding photographer; you can capture the local people going about their business in a colonial setting and you could write a travel blog and submit this to a travel mag.
- The Tunnels of Cu Chi – Another relic from the Vietnam war with the US, these amazing tunnels are one of the reasons the US military could not defeat their enemy. During the conflict, large field guns were removed from the tunnels, assembled and fired upon enemy targets all night, then disassembled and concealed underground until the following evening, when the barrage would be repeated. You can watch an informative movie and take a guided tour through some of the tunnels; when you are underground, you really do appreciate how dedicated the Vietnamese were in defence of their homeland.
You could spend a week in Saigon and still not take in all of the popular attractions this vibrant city offers and here is a link to the Vietnamese government tourist agency, which is crammed with information about Saigon and other parts of this unique country.