Commonly referred to as Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City is a sprawling metropolis that is
home to more than 6 million people. Vibrant and alluring, this city
offers something for everyone. It is a study in contrasts: traditional
and modern, young and old, rich and poor. If you ever wondered what
Bangkok must have been like before the gridlock or Hong Kong before
the high rises, this is your chance. But don't wait too long, this place
is changing fast. Plan on spending a minimum of 2 or 3 days, longer
if you can.
Most first-timers stay in District
1, as it's close to many museums, historical sites, hotels and restaurants. District 1 also encompasses the central business district which has seen a non-stop building boom since the turn of the century. You'll find the greatest variety of lodgings here, from the century-old, French colonial Majestic to the gleaming new Park Hyatt.
Numerous worthwhile sites within Ho Chi Minh City itself include the
Historical Museum, Reunification Hall and the War Remnants Museum (formerly
the War Crimes Museum). Within a day's drive there are also several
attractions well-worth the trip, including the Cau Dai temple at Tay Ninh and the Cu Chi tunnels. Of course Ho Chi Minh City is also a great place to just sit and watch the action or take a leisurely tour in a cyclo.
streets are dominated by two-wheeled traffic. Fashionably-dressed women
with designer sunglasses, high heels and elbow-length gloves cruise
past on their Hondas, followed by teenage girls wearing traditional
Vietnamese ao dai, peddling bicycles and holding hands. Pedestrians cross the street by simply walking into the melee, hardly
breaking stride as the traffic swirls around them. It all sounds crazy,
but it works!
Most offices, stores and museums open early, usually around 7:30 a.m.
Most close their doors for lunch for up to 2 hours. The city literally
shuts down between noon and 1. Doors reopen by 1:30 and stay open until
around 4:30 or 5. Most restaurants stop serving at 10 p.m.
Ho Chi Minh City has essentially two seasons: dry and wet. The dry season
runs from November through April; the wet season from May through October.
Dry or wet, it's always hot! If you arrive during the wet season, bring
a raincoat and umbrella, you'll need it!