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Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

Renamed Ho Chi Minh City after reunification in 1975 in honour of the nationalist leader, most people in the south still call Vietnam's largest city Saigon. Saigon buzzes with energy: people are either buying, selling, building or moving – this really is a city that rarely sleeps and is quickly becoming one of the most fashionable cities in Southeast Asia, as it progresses and grows, and becomes more and more cosmopolitan. There are impressive modernist developments springing up everywhere, but really what gives this city its charming edge, is the architectural, cultural, and culinary legacy left behind by the French, coupled with Vietnamese way of life.

Contributing to the buzz of the city are the estimated 3 million motorbikes that dart through the city’s streets every day, passing beautiful French colonial buildings and newly built skyscrapers alongside women dressed in Vietnam's traditional ‘ao dai’ tunics.

For adventure enthusiasts keen to explore the city in authentic fashion, we recommend a city tour by Vespa: zoom through the streets amidst the thousands of other scooters and marvel at the vibrant chaos of it all whilst you familiarise yourself with the city’s landmarks. Don’t forget to whet your appetite en-route by trying some of the country’s best street food – from fresh Banh Mi to mouthwatering Pho, there is something to suit every palette; keen food enthusiasts can also take a privately guided street food tour to discover some of the city’s best hidden culinary gems.

The War Remnants museum is a reminder of the horrors of the war, and Reunification Palace tells the story of where it ultimately ended, both essentials if to understand where the country has come from. For a more in-depth insight, travel out of the city to the infamous Cu Chi Tunnels, a dense network of tunnels that represented the stronghold of the Viet Cong resistance – a war veteran will show you around, allowing a moving insight into the struggles they endured.

Before leaving Ho Chi Minh City, make sure you visit the city’s historic Opera House to see a local style Cirque du Soleil. Watch as talented acrobats fly across the stage to southern Vietnamese songs, framed by the building’s timeless French architecture. Another essential is to visit the historic Saigon Central Post Office, a grand and impressive building incorporating Gothic and Renaissance styles - use the opportunity to send a postcard home.

There’s a great deal to take in, and if you feel like escaping into serenity, we would suggest a leisurely stroll in the centrally located Tao Dan Park or a relaxing boat ride along the Saigon River at sunset.

Travelling further afield, we highly recommend taking an opulent river boat from the nearby southern Mekong, through the Delta, and onto neighbouring Cambodia, taking three nights to Phnom Penh. This is a truly wonderful way to both experience southern Vietnam and to cross into Cambodia.

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There are no foreign lands. It is the traveller only who is foreign.
Robert Louis Stevenson

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