From Dubai there is only one direct flight to Vietnam and it is an Emirates flight from Dubai to Ho Chi Min City (formerly known as Saigon). Our two weeks holiday, therefore, started and ended in the former capital of South Vietnam that still has the “capitalistic” influence of the Americans and the architecture of the French. HCMC in fact is more complex and westerly structured than the current capital Hanoi placed some 2,000 km up north and that is still a traditional socialist city.
The first thing that we noticed in surprise was the huge amount of motorcycles wandering around as fishes in the sea. We have been told that out of 9 million people living in HCMC, around 5 million use exclusively the motorbike for moving around. Most probably, the reason of this choice is the existence of a 200/300% tax applied to the car sale that makes this mean of transportation very expensive for people that averagely earn 1,500 USD per year.
The city was called Saigon but it was renamed in Ho Chi Minh City after the conclusion of the Vietnam War in honour of Ho Chi Minh, the leader of the socialist party that fought against the French first and the Americans later. surprisingly enough, we met many tourists coming from the States that wanted to visit the place where the US Army had such an hard time and caused many victims expecially with the use of chemicals weapons.
During our stay in HCMC we visited many places out of which I would recommend few that should not miss in your list as follows.
Ho Chi Minh City attractions map
– Notre Dame Cathedral: a Romanesque style church built during the 19th Century to support the French colonials after the conquer of Cochinchina. All the construction materials were brought directly from France. In 2005 the Virgin Mary statue was reported to have shed tears.
– Central Post Office: built in the early 20th century in a neoclassical architectural style, it was designed by the famous architect Gustave Eiffel in harmony with the surrounding area.
– Reunification Palace: it was the home and workplace of the President of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War and became the symbol of North Vietnam victory when on April 30, 1975 a North Vietnamese tank bulldozed the main gate and occupied the Palace. From November 1975, Ho Chi Minh changed its name to Reunification Palace in order to celebrate the victory in the long lasted war.
– War Remnants Museum: a must see museum in Vietnam with a lot of exhibits related to the American part of the war. Even though with a bit of ‘propaganda’ added here and there, the museum could help the visitor to understand the horrible atrocities committed during this ideological war that was actually started by the French.
Photos from Ho Chi Minh City by AndreaDetto
– Jade Emperor Pagoda: The Jade Emperor is in the Chinese culture the ruler of Heaven and it is one of the most important Gods in the Chinese traditional culture. It is also worshipped by Taoist and represents the Cao Dai for Caodaism. Other than the Jade Emperor there are also a fertility goddess, the Lord of Hell and even the Buddha of the future. The entire collection is somewhat of a fusion of Taoist, Buddhist and Confucian mythologies.
– Saigon Opera House: a clear example of French Colonial architecture in Vietnam.
– Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee: formerly a luxurious French hotel, after 1975 has been assigned to the people’s committee. It is not open to public for visit but it is an astonishing example of French colonial architecture. In front of the palace there is the Bac Ho statue (Uncle Ho).
– Cho Ben Thanh: If you seek for a local market where is possible to find some present to bring back home, you might want to visit this market (cho in vietnamese). Just be informed that there is no air conditioning inside and most of the time you can get a 75% discount after a very minimal bargain. I remember that my partner asked, just for curiosity, how much was a giant dead scorpion in a glass box. The guy replied 5,000 dong. She politely thanked the guy and walked away. “4,000 – 3,000 – ma’am 2,000 – ok, for you 500 dong” . . . everything in less than 20 seconds.
Photos from Ho Chi Minh by AndreaDetto
We managed to visit almost all the attractions by walk, however Jade Emperor pagoda is quite far from the centre and we needed to take a Taxi. We have been told that it could be risky to take a taxi in Vietnam unless it is a respectable and trust-able company as Visasun or MaiLinh. We took a Visasun taxi and even though the driver did not speak a single word of English, we managed to show him a local map and he dropped us just in front of the Pagoda. Just take note of few suggestions: ask always to have the meter on, ask someone else how much should be the fee to be paid before getting into a taxi (we asked to a waitress in a restaurant before taking the taxi) and how long it will take the journey, just to avoid any possible scam that apparently is not that uncommon.