It is said that the old French colonial capital, Saigon, is a transition city. The change of name to Ho Chi Minh City did not break it from its influences from the colonial era, evident from the historic French buildings, wide elegant boulevards and culinary inspirations. You’ll be captivated by the rich history and traditions, fused with the rapid pace of modernisation. To help you discover some of the fascinating sights that this city has to offer, we have put together some suggestions.
Cu Chi Tunnel
Located just 90 minutes away from Ho Chi Minh City, you will find the Cu Chi Tunnels, one of the main attractions drawing history aficionados to Vietnam. This immense labyrinth of connecting underground tunnels was used by Viet Cong guerillas in their resistance to American forces during the Vietnam War. They served as communication and supply routes, hospitals, food and weapon caches, as well as living quarters for numerous guerrilla fighters. Visitors can gain a first-hand experience of the trying conditions that people had to deal with by crawling through the tunnels.
The unique scenes of river life in Saigon and its outer areas can be experienced in an boat trip down the Mekong Delta, where you will see children playing in the water, adults bathing or doing their laundry, and the villagers generally going about their daily business along the river and canals. You can choose to join one of the available tours from the city, in which a typical itinerary would include visits to floating markets and stops at fruit orchards, farms and some of the rural villages to learn more about the culture and traditional lifestyles of people who call the Delta their home.
The Vietnamese name “Cholon” literally means “big market”, and in every sense of the term, is reflected in the sounds, smells and frantic energy prolific in the area, which is essentially the Chinatown of Saigon. Explore the alleyways, visit the temples, shophouses and Binh Tay Market, and find yourself spoilt for choice with the massive selection of food to sample. Visit in August and you will see streets adorned with Chinese decorations and corner shops selling paper lanterns and lion dance costumes, as Cholon gears up to celebrate one of Vietnam’s major festivities, Mid-Autumn Festival, culminating with a Mid-Autumn extravaganza with lantern parades and a lion dance procession on the actual day.
Getting around the City
If you haven’t already heard, travelling around Saigon can be a somewhat daunting, but at the same time, riveting experience. In addition to taxis and buses, you could explore the xe oms (motorbike taxis), cyclos (a type of reverse tricycle) or even speed boats. As a general guideline, with the taxi, xe om and cyclo, you are advised to agree on a price with the driver, write it down on a piece of paper, and have the driver sign it if possible, before setting off. You can also choose to rent a bicycle or a motorbike to get around, but this option is really for the exceptionally seasoned and fearless! Crossing the streets of Saigon can be unnerving as traffic signals are more like guidelines and drivers tend to use their “best judgement”. When in doubt, approach one of the tourist security officers in green uniform and they will readily assist you to cross. In any case, always be alert and prepared when on the move.
Approach one of our friendly associates at PARKROYAL Saigon for more information about discovering the city’s hidden gems. To get you started, find out more about our recommendations below.
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