Years of war and a difficult reunification took their toll on Ho Chi Minh City. The bustling, French colonial city was on the skids for years. But in the 1990s, the city Westerners once knew as Saigon gradually returned to life. Ho Chi Minh's central district is still called Saigon, and the war is recalled in the War Remnants Museum and Reunification Palace. But visitors will also find intriguing attractions like Ben Tanh Market, sandy beaches and mouth-watering food stalls. Ho Chi Minh is a city worth exploring.
Things to Do
Vietnam is inextricably linked to war in many visitors' minds. The War Remnants Museum remembers the conflict with displays of weapons and photos that are poignant if grim. Some opt for the atmospheric Emperor Jade Pagoda with its incense and intricately carved figures. Escape the omnipresent noise and crowds exploring the wide, tree-lined boulevards laid out by the French. Ride down central Ho Chi Minh by "cyclo," or bicycle taxi, then soak up the sun at Phan Thiet beach.
Racks of rainbow-colored silks fill stalls at the Ben Thanh Market. So do bamboo what-nots, souvenir t-shirts, cone-shaped hats and hordes of visitors. Ho Chi Minh's favorite market, Ben Tanh is an overwhelming and noisy must-see. Secure your wallet and browse, then make your way along less-crowded Le Loi Street, which sells many of the same goods. For hipper shopping, the boutiques of Dong Khoi Street sell trendy clothing, cameras and watches.
Nightlife and Entertainment
Dong Koi Street has long been a center for grand hotels, cafés and bars. Grab an umbrellaed street-side table and people-watch over a Bia Saigon beer, or follow the young crowds inside for dancing and a tropical cocktail. Go2 Bar attracts everyone from backpackers to business travelers since it serves alcohol 24 hours a day; Pacharan shows sporting events on television, often features live music and has a spacious outdoor patio.
Restaurants and Dining
To get a true taste of Vietnam for mere pennies, feast on rice and vegetable dishes, noodle bowls and che, a local dessert, at open-air restaurants surrounding Ben Tanh Market. For a chaotic, unforgettable, authentic Vietnamese dinner, visitors and locals flock to Quan An Ngon Restaurant. Cooking stations prepare dishes from around the country, including bun bo (cold noodles with beef), various types of pho (noodle soups) and seafood.