Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City, often still referred to as Saigon, is a buzzing city of culture and commerce set against the backdrop of stunning 19-century colonial architecture. Wander through the streets to see how traditional and modern live side by side in this energetic urban environment. A difficult history of conflict from French colonisation through to the Vietnam War is clearly evident in the city's architecture and museums.
From spectacular temples in the Buddhist and Taoist tradition to magnificent cathedrals built entirely with materials sourced from France, Vietnam's largest city is rich in spiritual culture too.
Ho Chi Minh City is divided into districts with District 1, the most tourist-friendly, located on the western bank of the Saigon River. Explore the area, making sure to pay a visit to the Reunification Palace, the Central Post Office as well as Notre Dame Cathedral. The magnificent boulevards and elegant villas of District 1 in particular are evidence of an era of French colonisation. There a multitude of hotels to choose from here also, meaning that attractions such as Tao Dan Park and the Jade Emperor Pagoda are all within a reasonable distance.
If you'd like to escape the tropical heat for the day, a visit to the Dam Sen Water Park is a must with fun-filled rides and slides for all the family. Alternatively, leave the humidity and motorbike-filled boulevards behind for a while and venture outside the city to experience some of Vietnam's history. Visit the infamous Củ Chi Tunnels, an underground system used by the Viet Cong in the war, while the War Remnants Museum depicts the chilling barbarity of the Vietnam conflict.
At nightfall, temperatures drop to a more comfortable level, which makes it a great time to walk around the city centre. Explore the streets of districts 1 and 3 and their diverse selection of shops, restaurants and bars. This is the perfect time to try some shopping in Ben Thanh Night Market, followed by some top-notch pho (rice noodle soup) and a freshly chilled Bia Hoi, the local beer.
Temperatures can get pretty high in Ho Chi Minh City but many buildings are air-conditioned and there are plenty of shaded city parks where you can take refuge from the sun. It is cheap and easy to make your way around the city, although do be careful as motorbikes tend to whiz around literally everywhere!