Ho Chi Minh City Overview and Most Visited Destinations
Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon, is the largest city in Vietnam named after the late communist leader Ho Chi Minh, who led the nation against both France and the U.S.A. Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam has been historically a political and administrative centre of Vietnam. Today Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam is a rapidly developing, dynamic, and the economic capital of Vietnam. It is perhaps the heart and soul of Vietnam.
The bustling industrious centre of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam also harbors the ancient traditions and culture of Vietnam and bears the influences of French colonial rule. Life in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam resides in the city streets, markets, shops, pavement cafés and vendors selling their goods on the sidewalks.
Besides soaking in the rich culture and ethos of Vietnam on the streets, the visitors are also offers a number of tourist attractions in Ho Chi Minh City. Some of these are
Saigon, the second largest city in Vietnam and its economic center, is an electric and vibrant city of 8-million inhabitants. Swarms--literally--of bicycles, motorbikes, Pedi-cabs (called ‘cyclos’ in Vietnam) and other vehicles move in vast waves as if in a prearranged ballet of motion, constant animation and seeming chaos. Originally founded by the French in 1863, its now well worn French colonial veneer hints at times past while throbbing to rhythms and beats of the modern era. If only for a day, Saigon is a must see city for any visit to Vietnam.
Originally established as a Khmer trading post, more than 300 years ago, Ho Chi Minh City was destined for greater things. By the 18th century, the city, then named Saigon, had become the provincial capital of the Nguyen Dynasty. However, in the second half of the 19th century, control over the city passed to the French, and Saigon became the capital of French Cochinchina. This was a period of much infrastructural and architectural development, during which Saigon earned the epithet, “Paris of the Orient.” Many buildings of this era are in good condition even today. In 1954, the city was proclaimed the capital of South Vietnam. The ensuing war with the US lasted until 1975, when North Vietnam took over Saigon and renamed it Ho Chi Minh City.
Today, under growing economic and cultural liberalization, the city has entered a period of modernization and is constantly evolving and reinventing itself. Populated by an estimated 8 million people, the city is rapidly becoming the hub of manufacturing, entertainment, and cuisine in Vietnam. Upscale restaurants and cafe offering a range of international delicacies are opening every day, while bars, clubs, and discos are at the center of a thriving nightlife. The best place to catch the action is Dong Khoi. Attracting many tourists, the area is home to historical buildings and museums, sophisticated shops, and roadside cafes, as well as people of all ages zipping around noisily on motorbikes that often cause gridlock on the streets.
Exploring Ho chi Minh City The most prominent area in the city is around Dong Khoi Street in District 1, boasting fashionable shops, museums, and fine dining. It also features examples of French-colonial structures, such as the Municipal Theater, Notre Dame Cathedral, and the General Post Office. To the north are sprawling residential areas and the historic Jade Emperor Pagoda, known for its exquisite architecture and ornate carvings. To the west lies Cho Lon or China Town, home to the ethnic Chinese or Hoa this is the best place to find herbs, traditional Chinese medicines, and the other goods, as well as some of the city's most ancient pagodas.
Music Clubs & Theaters in Saigon
Saigon - Ho Chi Minh City, the largest city of Vietnam is also the administrative, the commercial and the economic hub of Vietnam. If you have opted to spend your vacation in this city to take a respite from the daily schedule of life you would find after arriving here that you have made the right decision. You would agree to the fact that it is a tourist's delight. Your stay at this place would remain incomplete without a visit to the Music Clubs and Theater in Saigon - Ho Chi Minh City.
If you have ample time on your hands then you can check out the theaters of this city. The shows or the performances that are organized by the theaters is bound to receive your appreciation and you would recognize the fact after watching a show that the people who are behind these shows put in their blood and sweat to make a show successful. To keep a track of the timing and also to gather more information about the shows you can avail the phone line. To get to a theater you can hire a car or a motorcycle or can take the help of the bus service. You can also check out the music clubs if you are hooked to music. You can also make a trip to the music clubs if you want to acquire some information about the kind of music that the citizens of this city prefer to hear.
Bright green public buses serve 150 routes throughout the city. You can find maps of the bus system at the large Ben Thanh bus station across the street from Ben Thanh Market in District 1 - just go into the waiting room to the desk in the middle. The buses are cheap, safe and not too crowded. Many are modern and comfortable, with such amenities as air conditioning, music, and even television. Finding the right line can be a challenge if you don't speak or read Vietnamese. If you cannot find your way, ask the locals nicely, they will try their best to help. A piece of paper and marker pen may help to ease the conversation.
The buses are efficient and fast. Most are staffed by two employees: the driver and the fare collector. The driver keeps the bus moving while the fare collector interacts with the passengers. Locals claim, plausibly, that buses are even faster than taxis. The reason is that buses have an informal right of way on the streets of Ho Chi Minh City; when another vehicle sees a bus coming, that vehicle gets out of the way. Taxis know that they are supposed to back down from confrontations with buses. Buses are also cheaper (4,000-8,000 dong per ride, which is considerably less that $1) and safer than many of the alternatives. The biggest problem is that when you get off the bus, you become a pedestrian (see below).
For those who aren't staying in Ho Chi Minh City very long, or want to save some time the Vietnam transfer service will take you to the famous places in Ho Chi Minh City. Price is from 15,000-75,000 dong, including the tour guide and the information in English.
There are plenty of nice and reasonably priced local hotels available for tourists as well as the very expensive international chains like Sheraton and Hyatt. Do take note (especially lonely male travelers) that most hotels do not allow you to bring back a local female companion to stay overnight. Inquire about their 'guest privileges'. Many of the non-international chain properties (that are very nice) do allow guests.
For Hotel Scams see also the Scams section.
If you need to fill a complaint (for example, a stolen object), you can go at a police station. For a stolen thing, you need to report to the station corresponding at the place where the theft is supposed to have happened. It can be tricky as small station will probably not have an officer with very good english. If possible, go with someone speaking vietnamese.
- Police station District 1, 24-26 duong pasteur, District 1 (10mn by walk from ben thanh bus station, near Fideco tower, crossing Ham Nghi & pasteur streets.), ☎ 0838297373. 7h30-11h30, 13h-17h.
- Police station Phu Nhuan, 181 Hoang Van Thu, Phu Nhuan. 7h30-11h30, 13h-17h.
The central post office (next to Notre Dam) isn't just a magnificent building and tourist attraction in itself, you can actually post things there. Don't package up parcels yourself as standardised cardboard boxes must be used. This will be done for you and is included in the price. Price guide- 2kg to UK is 630,000 by air or 280,000 surface mail. 330gm 183,000 air or 105,000 surface.
Saigon Popular Destinations
Saigon - Ho Chi Minh City, the largest city of Vietnam, is its economic and as some say, its tourism capital. This bustling city is the most densely populated city in Vietnam. The City's status as commercial capital has not taken away anything from its cultural roots. The timelessness of tradition and its ancient culture is still as much a part of the city as it was in the yester years.
The city streets are a lively scene. They are a dizzying jumble of street markets, shops, pavement cafes, stands-on-wheels and vendors selling wares spread out on sidewalks. From DVDs to street snacks everything is sold by the pavement vendors and the air in the markets is always charged with excitement.
Popular tourism destinations in from Saigon - Ho Chi Min City include the Vietnam History Museum; the grisly War Remnants Museum. Nearby is Cholon, the Chinese District, with its pagodas and exotic markets. The food in Ho Chi Minh City is some of the best Vietnam has to offer, its nightlife is rocking, and the shopping to die for! The city is also an excellent starting point for excursions to southern destinations including the Mekong Delta, the Cu Chi Tunnels, and Vung Tao beaches.
Traffic is made up of a staggering number of motorbikes and, since import duty was reduced upon Vietnam's joining of the WTO, an increasing number of private cars. However its exceptionally rare to see a motorbike of more than 150cc, and the traffic rarely gets above 20-30 km/h in central areas.
However crossing the road in Saigon can be a nightmare. It is always scary, for some they will get used to it quite quickly. If ever in doubt, Saigon's "Tourist Security" officers (guys in marked green uniforms) will happily help you across. A quicker way of getting across is to simply follow the lead of a local crossing the street.
However the true trick to crossing the road is to stay aware, and walk slowly and confidently. The motorbike riders are actually exceptionally good and will simply move to avoid you - just don't make any sudden lurches forwards, backwards, or stop for that matter. Just look for a gap or seam in the traffic, and begin a slow but steady movement. If you hear a beep coming your way it's likely a motorbike rider is about to enter your personal space. Be a alert and prepared to stop putting your foot forward until he passes.
Adherence to traffic signals in Saigon is worse, and while they're not always followed, riders/drivers tend to use "best judgment". Just remember though that vehicles can always turn right at any time (regardless of lights). Motorbikes often drive in the wrong direction to make a short cut from point A to point B even if they are against the traffic. Crossing roads therefore maybe a challenge for westerners used to traffic laws and traffic lights.
A typical scenario played here, and in other big cities in Vietnam is motorcycles dash from everywhere. The thumb rule of crossing in the US of look to the left and at the median, look to the right does not follow. Look everywhere as you cross, in all directions - to your left, to the back at your left, to your right, to your right in front, even if you have the right of way, like 5 or 6 kamikaze ninjas against one, they will insist and even if you stare at them in the eye and raise your hand horizontally signalling them to stop. Even in sidewalks, they invade and will just appear next to you before you know. Sidewalks are not the domain of pedestrians, they are used for car and motorcycles for passing if not for parking, then whatever space left is for the pedestrian. That's the hierarchy.
The streets, sidewalks, and outdoor markets are covered by motorbikes, and not yet geared towards pedestrian traffic (although sidewalk clearing campaigns are now underway - a few areas of the centre are easy to negotiate as long as you keep your wits about you for speeding motorbikes). However walking along the edge of the road is easy enough. Not all motorbikes behind you will generally beep at you to let you know they're there.
The traffic police occupy themselves with random roadside checks and do not bother the motorcyclists that are running red lights or driving on the sidewalks. The police recently announced a crackdown on pedestrians. This does NOT mean that they will hassle you; the most likely meaning of the crackdown is that you will be held responsible if you are involved in an accident.
But there are some open sidewalks to walk safely on and just walking around the city helps you really get a taste of it. Seeing people prepare, cook food and wash dishes, and even shave, manicure and pedicure, not to mention sleep and pee on the side of the street and just standing watching traffic go by in awe is just as entertaining as anything.
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