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Ho Chi Minh City (Sai Gon)

Ho Chi Minh City is commonly known as Saigon or by the abbreviation HCMC. Although it is not the capital of Vietnam, it is the largest city in Vietnam and it was the capital of the former Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam). As the throbbing commercial and economical center of Vietnam, Saigon is always busy, and the heat, the noise of the traffic and crowds can be overwhelming. Be nice to Saigon: it rewards patient tourists with a fascinating glimpse of Vietnam, of its past and present, and it will always be developing ahead of all cities in Vietnam.

 

Ho Chi Minh City is located in the southeastern region of Vietnam, it has a muggy, tropical climate with an average of 75% humidity. Rainy season runs from May to late November, with December to April being the driest, coolest months.

 

The city is somewhat chaotic, boasting an electric, near palpable energy. Ho Chi Minh City is one of Southeast Asia’s liveliest cities. For the casual visitor, Saigon – as its still called by all but the city officials who live here – can seem a chaotic mess of traffic-clogged roads and urban bustle. But zillions of expats and Vietnamese immigrants couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.

 

If asked for a symbol of Saigon, it would surely be the motorbike. More than three million of them move along the streets. Cruising along boulevards and narrow streets, the crowds of private easy-riders and xe om (motorbike taxi) belong to the image of the city. Hectic markets, stylistic cafés, massage and acupuncture clinics, centuries-old pagodas, modern skyscrapers and ramshackle shops selling all kinds of goods all try to attract customers amid the surreal urban collage. Saigon is one of the most forward-looking cities driving the current economic boom. Investments are materialized in new lavish hotels and restaurants, trendy nightclubs and high-end boutiques as well as modern expensive development areas and neighborhoods.

 

Saigon has now some 10 million inhabitants in the greater HCMC area, 7 million in the city itself; it has almost 7% of the total population of Vietnam. The population is growing rapidly, with a rate of about 200 thousand per year. About 90% of the population is ethnic Vietnamese. Another 8% of HCMC residents are Chinese; they make up the largest Chinatown in Vietnam, Cho Lon. Most residents of Ho Chi Minh City are Buddhist or practice ancestor worship, but about 15% are Roman Catholic or Protestant. Other religious groups such as Islam and Hinduism are found in smaller numbers.

 

Ho Chi Minh City began as a small fishing village called Prey Nokor, inhabited by Khmer people originally from what is now Cambodia. Over time, Vietnamese refugees fleeing civil wars elsewhere in Vietnam filled the region. By the end of the 17th century, under the Nguyen dynasty, Vietnam had completely absorbed Prey Nokor, which was by then known as Saigon. The French arrived in 1859 and conquered Saigon and later the rest of Vietnam.

 

With its wide boulevards and French-inspired architecture, Saigon became known as "the Pearl of the Far East" (Hòn ngọc Viễn Đông) and "Paris in the Orient." Many visitors claim that this charm is still present in the city.

 

Independence movements against French colonial rule, led by liberation movements, were organized by the Viet Minh and others. In 1954 Ho Chi Minh's communist Viet Minh forces defeated the French in the Battle of Dien Bien Phu, causing them to withdraw from Vietnam. Subsequently, Vietnam was partitioned into North and South Vietnam, with the government of the South, the Republic of Vietnam, holding its seat in Saigon. On April 30, 1975, North Vietnamese troops captured Saigon, ending the Vietnam War. Following North Vietnam's victory, Vietnam was unified and the capital of the reunified Vietnam became Hanoi. Saigon was renamed Ho Chi Minh City.

 

Saigon: getting around and transportation

 

Air

 

Most domestic flights from Tan Son Nhat Airport are operated by Viet¬nam Airlines. Pacific Airlines also offers the HCMC-Hanoi and HCMC-Da Nang routes, while Sasco flies between HCMC and the Con Dao Islands. Tan Son Nhat Airport was one of the three busiest airports in the world in the late 1960s. The runways are still lined with lichen-covered, mortar-proof aircraft-retaining walls, hangars and other military structures.

 

• Bus

 

Intercity buses depart from and arrive at a variety of stations around HCMC. Cho Lon bus station (Le Quang Sung Street, north of Binh Tay Market) is the most convenient place to get buses to My Tho and other Mekong Delta towns. Buses to the Mekong Delta also depart from Mien Tay bus station (Ben Xe Mien Tay, Tel. 825 5955). This huge station is about 10km west of HCMC in An Lac, a part of the Binh Chanh district. Buses to travel north leave from Mien Dong bus station (Ben Xe Mien Dong; Tel. 829 4056), in Binh Thanh district about 5km from central HCMC on Hwy 13 (Quoc Lo 13, the continuation of Xo Viet Nghe Tinh Street). Destinations are Buon Ma Thuot (12 hours, 110 thousand Dong), Da Nang (26 hours, 200 thousand Dong), Hai Phong (53 hours (!), 340 thousand Dong), Nha Trang (11 hours, 75 thousand Dong), Hanoi (49 hours, 320 thousand Dong), Hué (24 hours , 220 thousand Dong), among others.



• Car and motorbike

 

Inquire at almost any tourist café, travel agent or your hotel to arrange car rental. Car rental will include a driver as it is against the law for foreigners to drive in Vietnam without a Vietnamese license. Motorbikes are available for about US$10 per day.


• Train

 

Trains from Saigon train station (Ga Sai Gon; Tel. 823 0105; 1 Nguyen Thong Street, District 3; ticket office 7.15-11 a.m. & 1-3 p.m.) serve cities along the coast north of HCMC. Train tickets can be purchased from Saigon Railways Tourist Services (Tel. 836 7640; fax 837 5224; 275C Pham Ngu Lao Street; 7.30-11.30 a.m. & 1-4.30 p.m.) or from most travel agents.



• Boat

 

Hydrofoils (US$10, 1 hour 15 min) depart for Vung Tau almost hourly from Bach Dang jetty on Ton Duc Thang Street (contact Petro Express, Tel. 821 0650 at the jetty). Travelers who have time can ask (at the dock, Ham Nghi Street, at the river end, Tel. 829 7892) for departures to destinations in the Me Kong Delta like An Giang, Vinh Long, Ca Mau, My Tho, among others. Tickets can be purchased on the boat.

Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon): places of interest

vietnam.com 2013-09-12

Saigon offers some interesting sites:

The General Post Office

vietnam.com 2013-09-12

The Notre Dame Cathedral and General Post Office in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City are as old as 130 years old. Yet, the older they are, the more they attract visitors from as far as foreign countries and have even become “iconic” symbols in their place and in their own right as well.

Pagodas in Ho Chi Minh City

vietnam.com 2013-06-25

In Vietnam, pagodas offer a final resting place as well as an opportunity to commune with the departed. Moreover, they also serve as a preparation for the after life as some people book shelves in the place early so that everything is in order when it’s their time to leave the physical world.

Hands-on cooking classes for foreigners

vietnam.com 2013-09-12

Are you a foreigner traveling around Vietnam or an expatriate working in the city? Do you love Vietnamese cuisine and want to learn the way to cook it?

Tan Dinh Cathedral

vietnam.com 2013-09-12

Tan Dinh Cathedral was built by French colonists when the nation was part of French Indochina over a period of six years from 1870-1876.

Cua Dong Restaurant

vietnam.com 2013-09-12

As a country with a long sea border, they have an abundant supply of shellfish and fishes. Of all popular sea food served in Vietnamese tables, crabs is among those that have the most variation in cooking and preparation. In Vietnam’s largest and most bustling city, Ho Chi Minh, is also where you...

Giang’s Shashlik

vietnam.com 2013-09-12

The War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh is sure among the most visited places in the city. But apart from seeing the popular Vietnam-American war exhibits, there is another good reason why many would frequent Vo Van Tan Street. Just adjacent to the museum is a narrow space serving one of the tastiest...

Bia Hoi: Amidst modern bars and new coffee shops

vietnam.com 2013-09-12

Amidst the proliferation of “girlie” bars and pricey coffee shops all over Saigon today, a bit of “old” Saigon remains, standing strong against the irresistible call of the glitz and glamour of modern entertainment establishments today.

Lemon Grass Restaurant

vietnam.com 2013-09-12

Lemon Grass is one of the best Vietnamese restaurants in the city centre. The ambience was softly romantic.

Chè - delicious dessert served by street vendors

vietnam.com 2013-09-12

A popular Vietnamese dessert, chè refers to any traditional sweet soup or sweetened porridge that can have numerous varieties. They may be served hot or cold in bowls, glasses, or over ice, with dumplings, potatoes, or with about just anything that’s good to add.

Quan An Ngon Restaurant

vietnam.com 2013-09-12

"Ngon" in Vietnamese means 'delicious'. This restaurants lives up to its name. Quan An Ngon looks reminiscent of an open-air French villa and has nice indoor and courtyard seating.

Hotel Majestic

vietnam.com 2013-06-25

The Hotel Majestic Saigon is one of the classic colonial hotels. Built in 1925, the Majestic had lots of changes and expansions, and thus, a breeze of Art Deco merges with the historical flavor of the old Saigon. The Majestic is a good choice for business and leisure travelers.

Star Hotel Saigon

vietnam.com 2013-06-25

Welcome to your new home in Ho Chi Minh City! Star Hotel has 79 spacious rooms ranging from a minimum of 25 m² to a maximum of 50 m². This Ho Chi Minh City Hotel offers a level of service and comfort, designed to ensure that both business and leisure travelers who visit this emerging and bustling...

Thanh Binh 2 Hotel

vietnam.com 2013-06-25

Thanh Binh 2 Hotel is a 3-star hotel with 75 well-designed guestrooms on 5 stories where you can enjoy a perfect blend of attentive service and modern convenience.The hotel is one of the members of the Thanh Binh Tourist Group, a group of professionals in the field of hotels and restaurants in the...

Little Saigon Boutique Hotel

vietnam.com 2013-06-25

Right in the heart of vibrant Saigon, next to the TAKA shopping plaza and within easy walking distance to the key attractions of Saigon: Ben Thanh market, the Opera House ect... The little Saigon hotel with 18 elegantly designed rooms with modern facilities and amenities offers guests a refined and...

Rex Hotel

vietnam.com 2013-06-25

Rex Hotel – a symbol of the past. Through out well-chronicled historical events, originally opened as a French garage from 1927 till now, one of the events that visitors might not be so attentively but worthy to know this place used to be American Cultural Center in 1960 during the Vietnam war.

Vien Dong Hotel

vietnam.com 2013-06-25

Ideally situated in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City, overlooking the biggest park of the city, the international 3-star standard hotel offers easy access to business and leisure areas and is close to all major tourist attractions. It is only a few minutes walk from the Ben Thanh market, and on our...

What other people think Create New Comment

an amazing, beautiful city.

a.j juarez 2010-07-07

two trips to vn in one year, visited hcmc both times. making plans to go back soon.

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Sai Gon

kamranggt 2010-04-30

I must say that it is a great place to spend vacation. Very good article.

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Vacation City

Farzana Mir 2010-04-29

What a great place to spend vacation.

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Will always make you feel at home!

Melissa Shoaf 2010-04-02

A city so alive everywhere you look - - - probably the place where you see the most motorbikes. Traffic is a bit discouraging at first, but as long as you know how to get around, you could easily keep up with schedule. The city is the perfect mix of modern cafes and centuries-old cultural sites. Indeed, the whole place is huge and it comes with all the noise and hassles of a typical urban setting, but whatever magic Sai Gon has that makes people feel so at home in it, you would only understand the moment you set foot on this amazing place.

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