Ho Chi Minh City is the largest city in Vietnam and informally referred to as Saigon. It is remarkable for the harmonious blending of traditional values with northern and western cultural features. Skyscrapers dot the city and everywhere are the signs of growing status cars, mobile phones, upscale cafes, fine dining and trendy nightlife. And yet the city still retains a uniquely Vietnamese feel with the hustle and bustle of the local markets, incessant horns and local vendors on every street corner.
Ho Chi Minh City (usually shortened to HCMC) was called Saigon in the past, and some people still call it Saigon today. It has become the cosmopolitan commercial and financial hub of Vietnam in recent years and is the most popular tourist destination in the country. HCMC is an eclectic mix of old and new, featuring elegant colonial architecture together with contemporary modern Asian and international structures. Some of the older tree-lined streets are reminiscent of European urban areas, while the steel and glass multi-storey buildings and office blocks present the modern face of the city. The city also boasts many fine restaurants and numerous sidewalk cafes that are popular with both locals and visitors alike.
In addition to the busy modern business and shopping districts, 300 year old HCMC has many historical sites to explore such as Giac Lam Pagoda, which was built in 1744, and Giac Vien Pagoda that was founded two centuries ago. Victorian era Notre Dame Cathedral, the most famous French colonial church in and around Saigon, is located in heart of the city along with many fine examples of architecture from that period. Cholon, or China town, and the famous central Ben Thanh market are also highlights of any visit to the city.
More recent history is evident in the Reunification Palace and the War Remnants Museum, as well as all the modern entertainments one expects to find in most big cities in the world.
Today, Saigon is the big tourism center as well as the commerce and financial hub, attracting a large number of business and leisure travel to Vietnam.
What to do?
Saigon has various attractions such as the Opera House, Ben Thanh Market, the Notre Dame cathedral, the Reunification Palace, the China town, Cu Chi Tunnels, museums, theatres and cultural houses, shopping centers, etc… Recently, local tourist areas including Thanh Da, Binh Quoi Village, Dam Sen Park, Saigon Water Park, Suoi Tien, Ky Hoa also draw the interest of visitors. In addition, Saigon is a good starting point for excursions to the Mekong delta or nearby beaches of Phu Quoc, Phan Thiet (Mui Ne), Vung Tau, Long Hai.
When to go?
Generally, the climate in Saigon is hot and humid with an annual average temperature of 27 Degree Celcious. There are two distinctive seasons: the rainy season (May to November) and the dry season (December to April next year). The hottest month is April and coolest is December. It is possible to visit Vietnam and Saigon in winter for the best weather, avoiding the monsoon (May to October). But be prepared for humid conditions throughout the year, especially in the south. The best month is January.
Vietnam has its fair share of pickpockets, especially in large cities like Saigon and Hanoi. Thus, always keep an eye on your valuables or better to leave them at hotel before going out. Sometimes while traveling, a desperate beggar or street vendor suddenly grabs your arm, then follow you to ask for money or sell their stuffs. Please do not offer money to them; instead donate to a local charity. For the traffic, when crossing the road, always keep looking to the left and right and walk slowly.
Source: Vietnam Travel Guide