Ho Chi Minh (Vietnam): an exciting capital with a shocking history

Photo: Unsplash/Tron Le Wu
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Formerly Saigon, nowadays it is famous as a metropolitan city full of skyscrapers and vibrant urban life.

If you're traveling to Vietnam, don't miss Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon, famous for its array of excellent museums, palaces, temples and pagodas. The city is famous for its range of museums, from those with archaeological treasures to those with more modern history, including the Vietnam War. If you want to learn more about the reunification period of the two Vietnams (North and South), then you can visit monuments, museums and places that were at the center of the action during the Vietnam War, such as the Cu Chi Tunnels, but you will also find a lively modern side of the city . Ho Chi Minh offers a lot of activities for fun-seeking tourists, with high terraces, bars and trendy cafes.

When to Ho Chi Minh?

The best time to visit is between December and March when the weather is most stable. The hottest month is April with average temperatures around 35 C, and the coldest month is December.

Photo: Unsplash/Jet dela Cruise

What should I see in Ho Chi Minh?

To start, turn into War Remnants Museum, especially if you want to learn more about the recent dark history of the nation. To understand the context of the war with the US and its devastating impact on Vietnamese civilians, this museum is of utmost importance. Many of the atrocities documented here are recorded in photographs and narratives, but since we in the Western world rarely get a chance to hear about them, perhaps it is high time we did so at the former scene of the war itself.

The museum deals mainly with the American war, but the French-colonial period and conflicts with China are also documented. Outside, US armored vehicles, artillery, bombs and infantry weapons are on display. One corner of the territory is dedicated to the infamous French and South Vietnamese prisons on the islands of Phu Quoc and Con Son. Artifacts include the guillotine and the notoriously inhumane “tiger cages” used to house prisoners of war.

Photo: Unsplash/Hu Nh

If you want to learn more about the culture of the nation, visit one of the pagodas. Jade Emperor Pagoda was built in 1909 in honor of the supreme Taoist god. Here you can admire an array of statues of deities and grotesque heroes, while the acrid smoke of incense wafts past the wooden carvings. We also recommend a visit to the Giac Lam Pagoda, which is considered the oldest temple in the city dating back to 1744.

Also called the Forest Temple, the fantastic place is also where you can admire the looming Bodhi tree in the front garden, a gift from a Sri Lankan monk in 1953. Next to the tree stands a dazzling white statue of the compassionate goddess of mercy on a lotus flower, a symbol of purity. As in many Vietnamese Buddhist temples, aspects of Taoism and Confucianism can be found here.

Photo: Unsplash/Ruslan Bardash

It bears witness to the glorious period of Vietnam Reunification Palace or independence. This famous government building, surrounded by royal palm trees, with unusual architecture from the 1960s and an eerie atmosphere, is a spectacle of its kind. The first communist tanks to arrive in Saigon landed right here on April 30, 1975, and since then time seems to have stood still for the palace. The building is closely associated with the fall of the city in 1975, but it's the kitsch details and period motifs that steal the spotlight.

What about the main attraction of the city? Food. V district number 4. South of glitzy Dong Khoi, across the Ben Nghe Canal, you'll find the working-class district - District 4. This part of the city is anything but touristy, so it's here that you can taste the city's richest culinary experience. Order a coffee here, a real Vietnamese coffee that tastes like motor oil, not frothy cappuccino.

Photo: Unsplash/Lumi

How to explore Ho Chi Minh?

The public transport system in Ho Chi Minh City is centered on the city's extensive bus network. While buses are cheap, most foreigners prefer motorbike or car taxis. Is there an Uber? No. That's why there is a great alternative - Grab. Basically, Grab is Vietnam's Uber and is undoubtedly the best way to get around major cities like Ho Chi Minh, Danang and Hanoi. You will have even more freedom if you rent a scooter and ride it around like a local. But beware, it will take you a day or two to get used to the heavy traffic in the city.

How much is a plane ticket to Ho Chi Minh?

Return plane tickets, including luggage, can be found for as little as 597 euros (Turkish Airlines). You can search for flight tickets according to your vacation date HERE.

Photo: Unsplash/Jet dela Cruise

Covid-19 restrictions in Vietnam

From May 2022 onwards, you do not need additional tests to enter Vietnam, and there are no longer planned isolations. Check all current information about Covid-19 restrictions HERE.

Accommodation in Ho Chi Minh

Landmark Plus Luxury – Vinhomes Central Park

Landmark Plus Luxury – Vinhomes Central Park offers pool views and a beautiful terrace with city views. The aparthotel also has a common lounge with a bar, and guests are also offered the use of a massage tub. You can rent bicycles and a car at the property, and the main attractions are only about 4 km away.

Cityhouse – CityOasis

Located just 1.4 km from Museum of Fine Arts, Cityhouse - CityOasis offers free WiFi, air conditioning, bicycle rental and an outdoor pool. The accommodation includes a hot tub. All units have a fully equipped kitchen with a dining table, a flat-screen TV and a private bathroom.

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