If you’ve ever picked up a history book or watched a movie, you’ve surely heard about a far-eastern city called Saigon. You see where this is going, right? Of course, Ho Chi Minh City is, in fact, the old Saigon, transformed and grown. Before being annexed to Vietnam, the city had been known as Prey Nokor – a vital Khmer seaport. By later becoming the capital of French Cochinchina, the city flourished and headed towards its modern-day form. What’s important to know about it is that it merged with the Gia Định Province in 1976 and it was renamed after the celebrated revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh. In spite of the existence of that name, many people still call the city Saigon (Sài Gòn) – know this if you are asking around for directions.
As we may all know, Vietnam has three main climate zones within its bounds: the monsoon climate zone, the tropical one, and the subtropical one. Ho Chi Minh City, fortunately for travellers, is located in the tropical climate zone (called the tropical wet and dry climate zone specifically). This means that it does not suffer from heavy temperature fluctuations. In fact, you can expect the air to be above 30 degrees Celsius at all times. Rains, however, are as abundant as they can get and the general humidity of the city can sometimes cause mosquito problems. Pack that protection and you should be fine.
Ho Chi Minh City is served by the Tân Sơn Nhất International Airport, the largest in terms of passengers handled per year (23 million). With a total capacity of 28 million people, the airport cannot help but suffer from congestion at times so we recommend that you be a bit more patient and wait for things to clear out. The buildings themselves may be upgraded in the future, so this is not going to last for too long. Located in the Tan Binh district of the city, the airport serves as a hub for the following airlines: Jetstar Pacific Airlines, VASCO, VietJet Air, and Vietnam Airlines. What’s interesting to know even from a cultural perspective is that it has the code SGN, coming from its old name: Saigon.
Like Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City is very prominent when it comes to motorcycling. Some streets can get a bit narrow and for this particular reason (and for other ecological ones), scooters and other two-wheel-based vehicles have been put into common practice. If you plan on renting a scooter, you are bound to find an establishment facilitating just that in your close vicinity. This is because they are extremely widespread and effective. If you do not have huge bags to lug after yourself, you might want to consider this option.
You cannot speak about Vietnam and omit the fact that they are water-based transport experts. The position of Ho Chi Minh City on the Saigon River aids it in being one of the most significant commercial and passenger ports in the country. Both cargo and passenger ships operate within the region and the water-network reaches as far as the Mekong Delta. If you are up for a little cruising, the Ho Chi Minh hub is perfect to start out from!
SIGHTS AND ACTIVITIES:
If you’re in Vietnam, you cannot leave out Ho Chi Minh City’s massive Independence Palace. Also known as Reunification Palace, the building stretches upon a massive land area of 120,000 square metres. Designed by master architect Ngô Viết Thụ, the palace has 4 floors and a striking height of 26 metres. If that wasn’t enough to draw you to it, then probably sharing the following fact will: it was the home and workplace (headquarters) of the President of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. Oh, and let us not forget about the fact that during the Fall of Saigon in 1975, a tank burst through its main gate.
How about another Notre-Dame, dear travellers? Well, yes, Ho Chi Minh City has one of its own called Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon. Built to adhere to the Romanesque architectural style, the cathedral was built between the years1863 and 1880. Officially known as the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of The Immaculate Conception, it has two symmetrical bell towers (both soaring at 58 metres). What’s interesting to know about it is that it was built using only materials imported from France.
Next up, you should head over to the War Remnants Museum of District 3. The establishment holds thousands of items pertaining to the Vietnam War and the first Indochina War. This means that you might catch a glimpse of a few weapons and uniforms used by the French Colonialists. Visited by approximately 500.000 people each year, the museum boasts with not only general war-machines such as heavy tanks and aircraft, but with a guillotine as well. Some areas might reflect miserable conditions but we assure you that the depictions, however dreadful they might be, are all adherents to the truth. War has never been a positive exteriorisation of humankind and the War Remnants Museum reflects this flawlessly.
If you are up for hot weather, great restaurants and a lot of motorcycling, then Ho Chi Minh City (or Saigon) is just for you. Bask in the beauty of the surroundings and stay tropical!