Ho Chi Minh City
After the stay in charming Hoi An it was time for the final destination of my Vietnam tour. I flew south to Ho Chi Minh City.
Ho Chi Minh City, mostly known as Saigon, is the most populous and most visited city in Vietnam, though not its capital. It lies in the very south of the country and it’s the economic and financial centre of Vietnam, also famous for its Vietnam War history. The city's core is still adorned with wide elegant boulevards and historic French colonial buildings. Many of the city's landmarks which are well known to international visitors include the Bến Thành Market, Ho Chi Minh City Hall, Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon, Independence Palace and the Municipal Theatre.
I stayed in a crappy and not so clean hotel, close to a very busy traffic hub in the very city centre. There is a Chill Skybar nearby, and I have to say, I love sky bars. I enjoy seeing a new city from every direction. Whenever I come to a new destination, I try to get on a viewing deck somewhere to catch a glimpse of the skyline. And sky bars are the perfect place to get that feeling.
In HCM I met various locals and travelers there and I also visited quite a few places with various people. So here’s my pick of places I recommend to see.
Go to the War Remnants Museum. It’s a memorial museum exhibiting photographs, weapons and other objects from the Vietnam and Indochina wars. The Vietnam War was an important and tragic part of the Vietnamese history, and it’s interesting to see the recorded memories from the Vietnamese point of view. Though be careful, the Vietnamese perspective might not be entirely objective, but biased against the US for obvious reasons. Still, to become aware of the tragic experiences from the wars should be an integral part of every first-time visitor to HCM as those experiences define the city’s historical identity.
Visiting the Independence Palace should be a must. This museum is absolutely unique and fascinating. It’s a historical building of the Vietnam War era, with tours of government offices, war rooms and artefacts. But don’t be mistaken, it’s not another boring and distant history museum. Everything about the past era becomes incredibly alive in this palace. You can visit so many rooms that served so many, different purposes. And remember: this was the place where the President of South Vietnam was residing during the Vietnam War, so you’re basically visiting something like a former White House of South Vietnam. To walk in the places where important decisions were made and the head of state resided, is absolutely intriguing and fascinating. Go check it out when you’re next time in HCM.
Another highlight for me was to see Landmark 81 from up-close. It’s a super tall skyscraper, the tallest completed building in Southeast Asia that houses a hotel, business facilities, luxury apartments, you name it. Landmark 81 is the heart of a high-end urban business area called Vinhomes Central Park. It lies north of the historic city centre. The whole area is a truly modern, concrete jungle built on the western banks of the Saigon river. I didn’t go on the upper deck of the skyscraper, which I can image would be another splendid city view. However, I walked around the park along the river and the impressions were stunning. So many families and children played there, definitely a happy place to be. Although very urban, modern and expensive, it’s definitely worth a visit. Landmark 81 overlooks the entire city and I already saw it for the first from the plane when I was landing. I immediately caught my attention. So it truly is a landmark for the city.
One last area I can recommend, though you might not like it at all, is the party Bui Vien party street in central HCM. It was really just a few streets away from my accommodation, so I could get there very easily by foot. Bui Vien is known for its dining, shopping and drinking spots and it’s especially busy at night. Like ridiculously busy and crowded. I met some folks there and we went out to a few bars. To be honest, at this point memories somehow fuse together and I don’t even remember exactly which bar was where and in which order on which day at what time and I’m not talking about being drunk. There was just so many places and chaotic meetups and timings, I can’t even tell exactly any more. But the party street is definitely a place for an entire night to spend all the money you should be saving, and to meet all the different exciting and less exciting people. I’m sure the experiences will be unforgettable.