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Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) Guide
 
 
 

General

Ho Chi Minh City, commonly known as Saigon is the largest city in Vietnam. Wander through timeless alleys to ancient pagodas or teeming markets, past ramshackle wooden shops selling silk, spices and baskets, before fast-forwarding into the future beneath sleek skyscrapers or at designer malls, gourmet restaurants and minimalist bars.

Despite an estimated seven million residents when all of the transients are counted, the central urban districts will give you the feeling of a small, intimate city. However, in the nearby rural districts that make up approximately 90% of the nearly 2,000 square miles covered by the city, rice paddies and the tranquillity of the timeless countryside surround you.

The myriad rivers, canals and ditches that cross the city not only add charm but also contribute to the extensive traffic jams in the endless flow of motorcycles, bicycles, and other vehicles. While the traffic can be intimidating to visitors it is a sight never to be forgotten.

Neighbourhoods

Centre

The centre of the city with many of the tourist attractions is known as District 1. Stretching away from the promenade overlooking the river with its numerous ferries and ocean-going ships are several of the wide boulevards that put most of the major attractions within an easy walk or cyclo ride from the major hotels in this area (Rex Hotel, Renaissance Riverside Hotel Saigon and the Saigon Prince Hotel). Many of the more interesting museums are nearby, including the former Presidential Palace, now known as Reunification Palace and famous for the 1975 pictures of the tanks crashing through the gates. Across the street is the Museum of Ho Chi Minh City which along with the History Museum near the City Zoo will entertain you with the unique art form of Vietnamese water puppets.

Among the new large office buildings of this area you will find upscale modern shopping (Diamond Department Store and Saigon Centre). Tourists will delight in browsing on Dong Khoi Street, running from the Saigon River to the famous and beautiful Notre Dame Cathedral, completed in 1883. Nearby is one of the city's most beautiful buildings, the French colonial-style General Post Office. Dong Khoi and the adjoining small streets are where you can wander through the many shops offering local handicrafts, find Western books or relax in the many fine restaurants featuring Vietnamese traditional fare or cuisine from around the world.

Nguyen Hue Boulevard

Nguyen Hue Boulevard runs from the riverfront to the classic European-style City Hall that today is the Ho Chi Minh City People's Committee Building for the city administration. Where Dong Khoi Street meets Le Loi Boulevard sits the beautiful Municipal Theatre, the classic opera house built in 1900, where frequently you will see wedding couples posing for photos. Moving east past the shops along the broad boulevard of Le Loi you will come to the Ben Thanh Market, one of the most popular and large markets in the city, where you can find almost anything available in Vietnam and have the opportunity to try your bargaining skills.

Passing the New World Hotel Saigon takes you into the area frequented by backpackers. This is centred on De Tham Street and many budget hotels and restaurants can be found here.


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