Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) hotels
The Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) Rundown
Once Saigon and now Ho Chi Minh, the top dog in Vietnam is a frisky, elbow-to-elbow city with ceaseless energy. New initiates come to either love or hate the infamous motorbike and scooter swarms in the core districts of the metropolis of 7.2 million people. Whether the cacophony is music to your ears or a diabolical din depends a lot on your tolerance for chaos. Sure, Ho Chi Minh City can seem hectic but duck into a narrow, surreptitious alleyway and, all of a sudden, a sublime, simple and ethereal bowl of soup assaults your taste buds. Turn the corner and a sacred temple emits wafts of incense and serenity now mantras. Across the street is a faded, yellowed café from the French colonial period. You get the point: Ho Chi Minh City has many faces.
On a macro level, however, the premier urban hub in Vietnam is far from sleepy. Like the rest of the country, the former Saigon is on the verge of cataclysmic change, as it wrests itself from the doldrums of a dirty, malevolent and violent century. From colonial landmarks to native architecture, brand-new skyscrapers to the scenic riverside, feverish intersections to open-air markets, evidence of the new and old Vietnam is everywhere. The evolution of the country over the last few decades has left avid observers spellbound. A trip to Ho Chi Minh City is likely to incite a similar sense of curiosity and wonderment.
Ho Chi Minh City’s Top 10
10. Giac Lam Pagoda dates back to the mid-18th century and is one of the most important national historic monuments in Ho Chi Minh City.
5. Fine Arts Museum houses an elegant collection in an equally elegant landmark.
9. Ho Chi Minh City Hall, or People's Committee, is not open to the public but is a remarkable example of French colonial architecture.
4. Jade Emperor Pagoda features extraordinary Buddhist and Taoist carvings. The temple is a mainstay on the Ho Chi Minh City tourist circuit.
8. Saigon Opera House, built in 1897, is a notable holdover from the era of French rule.
3. Ho Chi Minh Museum is patently nationalistic but worth a visit nonetheless, especially in the late revolutionary’s namesake city.
7. Ong Bon Pagoda has gorgeous gilded details and is a major spiritual nerve center in the city.
2. War Remnants Museum, once known as the Museum of American War Crimes, tells Vietnam’s 20th century story in dramatic fashion.
6. Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens is one of the oldest zoos in the world and a wonderful escape from the urban hustle bustle.
1. Reunification Palace is a powerful and conspicuous memento of the Vietnam War.
Ho Chi Minh City History
- Cu Chi Tunnels – Crawl through tunnels used in the Vietnam War.
- Reunification Palace – A palace turned museum after the war.
- Cholon – Even Vietnam has a Chinatown.
- Xa Loi Pagoda – Houses a memorial to martyred Buddhist monks.
- War Crimes Museum – Remember horrible events from the Vietnam War.
Ho Chi Minh City Art & Culture
- Ho Chi Minh Museum – The residence of this area's leader before exile.
- Sri Thendayyutthapani Temple – A colourful place of worship for Hindus in Vietnam.
- Cafe Cao Minh – Sit down for traditional music every Tuesday.
- Municipal Theatre – Indulge your musical tastes March through May.
- San Khau Theatre – Give traditional Vietnamese pantomime or drama a chance.
Ho Chi Minh City Shopping
- Ben Thanh Market – The city’s main market is a literal plethora of goods and the place to people watch.
- Sozo – This dessert eatery with a heart employs those who have few skills.
- Mac Thi Buoi Street – For the hippest shopping destination, including higher-end wares, this is the place to be.
- Minh Hanh – For handcrafted souvenirs that are locally made, head to this boutique in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City.
- Binh Tay Market – Wholesale, bulk and cheap goods can be found here, as well as the occasional souvenir.
Gay & Lesbian Ho Chi Minh City
- Vuon Lai Cinema – Very active if you are cruising at night.
- Bitch Party – Chill at themed gay parties held monthly at different venues, like the 61 Bar or Papa Café.
- Massage and Spa – From blind massage to Ha Son Spa, getting relaxed was never so easy, or easy on the eyes.
- Nguyen Tri Phuong Swimming Pool – Swim laps and enjoy the view.
- Vincom Plaza – Can be gay enough if you keep your eyes open.
Ho Chi Minh City Outdoor
- Saigon Wonderland – Family-friendly amusement park.
- Lam Son Swimming Pool – For a clean, soothing dip to relax away a busy day, this 50-metre pool is perfection.
- Binh Quoi Tourist Village – A small pool and tennis court overlook a riverside pub.
- Saigon River – Take a stroll and enjoy the river air or simply watch the cargo boats.
- Dam Sen Park – Part garden, part sports centre that is adorned with pagodas and lakes.
Ho Chi Minh City Sport
- Diamond Plaza – Bowl one of 24 lanes at an hourly rate.
- Thong Nhat Stadium – Catch a football game at the stadium.
- Vietnam Vertical Run – The Bitexo run is a vertical race up the 49 floors of the Bitexco Financial tower that occurs in late October.
- AFF championship – Currently held in December, the Suzuki Cup is the official championship of the Asian Football Federation.
- Australian Rules Football – The first team in Siagon, the Saints, was made up of Aussie expats, but today the Ho Chi Minh City team is the Saigon Swans.
Ho Chi Minh City Local
Ho Chi Minh City is a busy node at the heart of a metropolitan area that will, in all probablity, surpass 20 million people by 2020. Still, the upside for tourists is the fact that the best action and points of interest cluster in a small, tidy enclave of the city. Of Ho Chi Minh City’s 19 inner districts - home to 259 wards and 5.9 million people - a few emerge as chronic and obvious favourites for locals and tourists alike.
District 1 is the commercial pulse point of Ho Chi Minh City and ground zero for a lot of modern, sleek development projects, from Bitexco Financial Tower to Diamond Plaza. The new wealth of Vietnam is most evident in this de facto central business and consulate zone. Bellwether District 1 landmarks include Saigon Opera House, City Hall, Notre-Dame Basilica, Rex Hotel, Reunification Palace and backpacker central, Pham Ngu Lao street.
Binh Thanh District is home to Binh Quoi Tourist Village, a popular hub of riverside restaurants, traditional entertainment and faux Mekong Delta charm. The district borders District 1.
District 2 has a lot of open poverty (the fact that many parts of Ho Chi Minh City do is no secret) but is a target for hyper-growth in the mold of a mini-Singapore or Hong Kong. The new economic trade zone will contain the usual mix of multi-purpose residential, commercial, corporate and leisure developments, with the inevitable relocation of slums and subsistence farmers as a result.
District 3 is home to Xa Loi Pagoda, Jade Emperor Pagoda and the Vinh Nghiem Pagoda.
Ho Chi Minh City Eat & Drink
Ho Chi Minh City is cosmopolitan and multicultural enough to have restaurants that bridge a wide range of styles, from chichi supperclubs to humble alleyway family kitchens with low stools and tables.
Temple Club (29 Ð Ton That Thiep) is a slick refurb of a colonial villa with a fresh, innovative menu.
On the 6 (6 Ð Dong Khoi) is a fabulous bistro with Rive Gauche-like ambitions.
Le Toit Gourmand (31/4 Ð Hoang Viet Ward 4 Tan Binh) is not quite a closed-door restaurant but feels like one. The gourmet hot spot is a gem.
Zan Z Bar (41 Ð Dong Du) is a swish fine diner with a pan-Asian menu.
Tin Nghia (9 ÐL Tran Hung Dao) is a haven of delicious calm across from Ben Thanh Market.
Xu (75 Ð Hai Ba Trung) lures the glitterati and beautiful people of Ho Chi Minh City with avant-garde décor and Vietnamese fusion fare.
La Camargue (191 Ð Hai Ba Trung) is an old-school institution of French cuisine.
Nam Kha (46 Ð Dong Khoi) is a plush spot run by the Khaisilk group that serves stylish royal Vietnamese cuisine.
Pho Quynh (323 Ð Pham Ngu Lao) packs in busy locals with well-made pho and other staples.
Ngoc Suong (172H Ð Nguyen Dinh Chieu District 3) is a wildly popular seafood restaurant that seems to be in constant expansion mode.
Ho Chi Minh City Events
Ho Chi Minh City has a small ensemble of annual events, many of which hinge on traditional Buddhist holidays.
Tết Nguyên Đán, or Tet Festival, celebrates the Lunar New Year and is the most important festival in Vietnam. Parades march through the streets and the atmosphere is accordingly joyous and light-hearted.
National Day celebrates independence from France on September 2.
Mid Autumn Festival, or Moon Festival, is a popular harvest festival in China and Vietnam, where it is known as Tết Trung Thu. The holiday usually falls in September.
Pagoda Festivals abound in Ho Chi Minh City and, indeed, Vietnam, with specific rites, rituals and special events at individual temples.
Le Van Duyet Tomb Festival begins on the 30th day of the seventh lunar month and commemorates the heroics of a famous late 18th century general who put down a bloody coup to unify the Nguyen Dynasty.
When To Go
Southern Vietnam has a tropical wet and dry climate that features powerful monsoon storm systems and torrid humidity. Factor in vast urban sprawl and Ho Chi Minh City is certainly not immune. While a few brave souls do brag that they prefer the rainy season, the truth is that occasional temperature highs of 105°F (40.5°C) make it inexorably hot. The average range in the wet season is more like 75°F (24°C) to 94°F (34.5°C) but still, difficult conditions nonetheless.
The downpours are what hinder you the most from May to October, however. Ho Chi Minh City gets over 76 in (1,930 mm) of precipitation per year and most of it falls in the six month period, when at minimum, it rain 18 days out of every month.
Suffice to say then that the dry season is your best bet, not just for Ho Chi Minh City but the rest of southern Vietnam. You will not escape the heat - the equator is not all that far, after all - but the range settles down to more comfortable levels of 70°F (21°C) to 93°F (34°C).
What To Miss
The action in Ben Thanh Market is a must-see and must-do experience in Ho Chi Minh City. When crowds develop, however, the charms of the vital city nexus can seem more and more elusive. At peak tourist times the marketplace takes on a different hue and, understandably, makes some long for Huế. Be careful in large crowds anywhere you travel in the city and try to seek out lesser-appreciated, under-the-radar markets and nooks, which do unfurl in waves well beyond the central business district.
Prices tend to go up considerably wherever tourists and more affluent residents hang out (District 1 for example) and so it behooves travelers on a budget to shop around and haggle whenever possible. On the whole, however, Ho Chi Minh City is remarkably affordable and consistently ranks very low on the major “expensive city” indices.
This economic reality and manifest disparity breeds a distinctive kind of entrepreneurial and opportunistic spirit. Petty theft, nightclub prostitution, gangsterism, scam artists, beggars and other unfortunate aspects of poverty and social inequality do exist in Ho Chi Minh City. Just be aware of it, acknowledge it, show vigilance and go about your day.
Traffic is a persistent, incessant problem in metropolitan, urban Southeast Asia, with no end or relief on the horizon. Ho Chi Minh City has it especially bad in the congestion department. If you come in the dry season, which is wise, the gridlock borders on the surreal. Regrettably, there is no way past it, other than to suck it up, cope and display unusual calm, care and patience.
Tan Son Nhat International Airport is not quite Tokyo-Haneda or Beijing-Capital but the hub is a big one, with over 15 million passengers a year in 2010 alone. Easily the top airport in Vietnam in terms of arrivals and departures, the gateway to Saigon-Ho Chi Minh City serves a wide range of international destinations, such as London-Gatwick, Moscow-Sheremetyevo, Paris-Charles de Gaulle, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Seoul-Incheon, Singapore and Taipei.
The most affordable way into the city from the airport is a shuttle bus which departs the international terminal throughout the day for Distict 1, Ben Thanh Market area, until 6 p.m. Otherwise, taxis cram both the international and domestic terminals. Do be careful of illegitimate operators, however, and choose cabs with meters.
Regular cabs and moto-taxis provide easy transport in the city proper, so long as you heed the same rules when it comes to meters and dismiss shady chauffeurs. Visitors who arrive after 2012, however, will be able to make use of a shiny new Metro. The rapid transit system will eventually expand to six lines, in a sound attempt to help remedy Ho Chi Minh City’s titanic traffic mess.
Vietnam's premier city is rife with superb attractions that range from the historic to the eminently modern. In lockstep with Vietnam's recent surge in economic fortune, Ho Chi Minh City's rapid expansion has been phenomenal to witness for even the most casual observers of South East Asia. Demographers predict that by 2020, the metropolis once known as Saigon, will have a population of 20 million people. That will certainly make Ho Chi Minh City a formidable player not only on the Indochina Peninsula, but in Asia as a whole.
Massive urban expansion however, does not a great tourism city make. Suffice to say however, that with a collection of pristine colonial landmarks, native architecture and the scenic confines of the Saigon River, it's not surprising why people are compelled to travel and plan a holiday to Ho Chi Minh City. Busy, hectic intersections thrive with energy, in open air markets, shops and food stalls, and display the very best of the New Vietnam. Must-see stops in the city include the War Remnants Museum, Reunification Palace and Fine Arts Museum.
Attractions & Activities
- Reunification Palace
- War Remnants Museum
- Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens
- Ho Chi Minh Museum
- People's Committee Hall
- Ben Thanh Market
- Night Market
- Tet Festival
- Van Duyet Temple Festival
- National Day
Restaurant & Nightlife
- Quan An Nong
- Huong Dong
- Co Ngu
- Luong Son Quan
- Dong Ba
- Apocalypse Now
- Le Pub
Other than periods of heavy rainfall between May and October, Ho Chi Minh City enjoys a beautiful tropical climate, with temperatures between 22°C and 34°C throughout the year.
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141 Nguyen Hue Blvd. District 1 Map
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24 Thi Sach, Ben Nghe Map
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132-134 Dong Khoi Street, District 1 Map
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