Ho Chi Minh City In 1975, at the end of the war, the North Vietnamese captured Saigon, and in 1976, when Vietnam was reunified, its name was changed to Ho Chi Minh City in honor of Ho Chi Minh, the former president of North Vietnam.
Ho Chi Minh City is a place in contrast with a mix of the modern and the colonial past, five star hotels and backpacker guesthouses, fine dining restaurants and food stalls on wheels, luxury boutiques and crammed local markets. The central downtown are is in District 1 where you can find the greatest variety of lodgings. First-time visitors are recommended to stay here as it is close to many museums, historical sites and good restaurants.
Although Saigon lacks the architectural excellence of Hanoi, there are numerous worthwhile sites such as the Notre Dame Cathedral, Reunification Palace and the War Remnants Museum. Visitors can take a leisurely tour in a cyclo to discover the city. The markets are bursting with an incredible range of goods. Tourists can find good deals on native handicrafts and custom-tailored clothing. Visitors will find an exciting trip to see the hustle and bustle of Vietnamese life in this vibrant and alluring city.
Reunification Palace Designed to be the home of former President Ngo Dinh Diem during the war time, this building is most notable for its symbolic role in the fall of Saigon in April 1975, when its gates were breached by North Vietnamese tanks and the victor's flag occupied the balcony. Today it is one of the most internationally recognized symbols of the Communist victory in Vietnam. The palace is a must-see when in Ho Chi Minh City, not only for its historical importance, but also because of its striking modern architecture and the eerie feeling you get while walking through the deserted halls. The government building is very well preserved and still looks the same as it was during the days of the Republic of Vietnam. Newly added are only a statue of Ho Chi Minh and a viewing room. Visit the various public rooms at the museum and you can see the desk where the last leader of South Vietnam surrendered to North Vietnamese soldiers. The most interesting section of the Reunification Palace is the basement - a network of tunnels and rooms, including a war room and a telecommunications room. One of the tunnels stretches all the way to Gia Long Palace, now known as the Revolutionary Museum.
Notre Dame Cathedral Situated at the Paris Commune Square in the center of Ho Chi Minh City, Notre Dame Cathedral, also called Grand Cathedral, was built late in the 19th century. It is an impressive building that combines the functional aspects of a cathedral with traditional Vietnam elements including the distinctly Asian spire. The huge red-brick edifice with twin spires is placed between two streams of traffic and is a clear reminder that the French once ruled this city. The twin towered neo-Romanesque facade faces a small square which still has a large statue of the Virgin Mary.
History Museum The Historical Museum in Ho Chi Minh City was built in 1929 and was called "Muse Blanchard de la Bosse" until 1956. During that period, the museum had different exhibits of ancient Asian art. In 1975, after some renovations, the museum was expanded and became the Ho Chi Minh City Historical Museum.. The museum is a well-rounded and informative presentation of 4000 years of Vietnamese history. At the back of the building on the third floor is a research library with numerous books about Indochina, from the French period.
War Remnants Museum The War Remnants Museum has become one of the most popular attractions to Western visitors. It's dedicated to publicizing the horrors perpetrated by U.S. armed forces during the Vietnam War. The museum houses countless photographs, US armored vehicles and a collection of weapons, such as artillery pieces, bombs and infantry weapons. The museum displays even a French guillotine, used against Viet Minh 'rabble-rousers'. Along with these photos are gruesome displays documenting the effects of Agent Orange, napalm, and other weapons of mass destruction. Such documents illustrate the killing of civilians, spreading of chemicals, torturing of prisoners, and the effects of the war on the north.
China Town (Cho Lon) Cho Lon means "large market" and represents the great trading centre of the capital of the South with a population of a half-million Vietnamese from Chinese origin, the Hoa. A pleasant way to see these is by hiring a local cyclo driver for a couple of hours. Cho Lon has a slew of interesting Chinese-style temples and pagodas. In addition to temples, traditional apothecaries, fortune tellers and the like, some excellent Chinese food is available in Cho Lon. Although it is likely to be hot and crowded, take your time here. The variety of goods here is positively astounding and will give you uncanny glimpses into modern Vietnamese life.
Ben Thanh Market The central market of Saigon with the surrounding streets makes up one of the city's liveliest areas. Everything commonly eaten, worn or used by the average resident of Saigon is available here. Ben Thanh offering a wide spread of pretty much everything from Ho Chi Minh T-shirts to cosmetics, diapers, pickled plums and live ducks. It has a wide selection of goods ranging from fake Nike shoes to beautiful silk Ao Dai. Ben Thanh is particulary useful for foodstuffs, household goods and flowers. The food court here has delicious and very tasty local specialties. Produce, flowers, and meats are sold on the sidewalks surrounding the building. If consumerism offers intimate glimpses of how people live, wandering among the tiny, packed stalls here will give you some unique insights into modern Vietnamese life.
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