Updated: Jan 5
If you're thinking of visiting Ho Chi Minh City as part of your South East Asian holiday, here's 5 things to be aware of:
1. One of the first things that you will notice in Ho Chi Minh City is the traffic - there's a lot of it. Most of the traffic is made up of scooters - there are about 6 million scooters in the city and most of them seem to be on the road during the rush hours.
Traffic Lights and zebra crossings tend to be regarded as 'roadside decoration', so crossing the road can be an adventure. The trick is to wait for a lull in the traffic and walk slowly across the road. Don't Stop! Keep going. The scooters will weave their way around you, in the same way that they avoid each other.
Or ... find a nun. Cross the road with the nun - the scooters will never hit a nun!
2. Vietnam was part of the French empire and the architecture and lifestyle of the people in the city reflects this. The Central Post Office and Cathedral area has some lovely french inspired buildings. This is also the centre of the city and one end of the main upmarket shopping street.
Another French influence is the people's love of coffee. There are coffee shops everywhere selling a wide variety of coffees, many of which are grown in Vietnam.
3. The Vietnam War is still within living memory of many Vietnamese. The local tours centre on this with visits available to the War Remnants Museum (full of anti American propaganda) and the Cu Chi Tunnels, from where the Viet Cong waged a guerrilla war against the South Vietnamese, American and Australian troops. Both of these are well worth visiting but you may need a strong stomach to view some of the pictures in the museum and some of the personnel traps at the Cu Chi Tunnels.
4. Ho Chi Minh City is expanding at a rapid rate with many high rise buildings under construction. Some of these are hotels and 'Sky Bars' are a big thing. Bars and Restaurants on the top floors of the high rise buildings, offering great views over the city. These are open to non residents, so pop in for a drink.
Here is the view from the Sky Bar on the 31st floor of the Pullman Saigon Hotel:
5. Last (but should have been number 1), the people are lovely. Very friendly and helpful. We never felt threatened on the streets, although I'm sure there are muggers and pickpockets around, as there is in every city.
The people of Ho Chi Minh City will offer you a warm welcome to their city - particularly if you enjoy haggling with them!
It's very likely that you will leave the city to take a cruise up the Mekong River (of have just arrived from a cruise). If this is the case, read on ...
Places to stay in Ho Chi Minh City