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About HCMC City

2099538475_660cd0f477.jpgSaigon was officially renamed Ho Chi Minh City on May 1st 1975. However, the old Saigon moniker is still very widely used by both Vietnamese and foreigners - especially when referring to the most central part of the city, to which most tourists flock.
With her back turned on a broad plain that stretches west across Cambodia, and with the rich Mekong Delta at her feet, Ho Chi Minh City sits regally on a giant bend in the Sài Gòn River.
Bulging with a population of nearly seven million, Ho Chi Minh City, is Vietnam’s largest and most exciting city. While Hanoi is the center of government, Ho Chi Minh City is the nation’s economic heart, and money is on the minds of everyone here.
Saigon's Top Sights You may be surprised to know how many tourists put the former American Embassy at the top of their list of things to see in Ho Chi Minh City. If you are one of them, resist temptation and head first for the History Museum near the entrance to the zoo. This unassuming, musty place, with its grimy glass cases, houses a formidable collection of artifacts from Vietnam’s two thousand years of recorded history.

cho_BenThanh1.jpgBen Thanh Market should be your next stop. Here, you will find practically every staple commodity imaginable except automobiles and real estate. If consumerism offers intimate glimpses of how people live, wandering among the tiny, packed stalls here will give you some unique insights into modern Vietnamese life. The food court here has delicious and very tasty local specialties. Produce, flowers, and meats are sold on the sidewalks surrounding the building.
A visit to Cho Lon, Ho Chi Minh City’s Chinatown, can take an afternoon, if not an entire day. Like Chinese districts in San Francisco, London, New York and Bangkok, Cho Lon is one of the oldest and most mysterious parts of Saigon. Cho Lon means ‘‘big market,’’ and the best place to begin your visit is at the overwhelming Binh Tay Market. Although it is likely to be hot and crowded, take your time here. The variety of goods here is positively astounding and will give you uncanny glimpses into modern Vietnamese life
 
JR-in-Cu-Chi-Hole.jpgIf you have an afternoon or two to escape the frenetic pace of Ho Chi MInh City, several nearby places make interesting day trips. Within sight of Saigon Gòn, the Cu Chi Tunnels are part of an extensive network of underground passages which extend as far as Cambodia. Built by the Viet Kong, the tunnels played a strategic role in the Communists’ victory. Since the vast network included hospitals, kitchens, dormatories, weapons factories and even classrooms, thousands of guerillas could move themselves and their weapons undetected for great distances
Another fascinating day trip is to Tay Ninh, the center of the Cao Dai religion, which has perhaps two million followers in Vietnam. Cao Dai is a 1920’s invention which took the best of Catholocism and Asia’s great religions, plus a dab of Hollywood. (The sect has bestowed sainthood on Victor Hugo and Winston Churchill, among others.)
 
images124550_diamondplaza.jpgShopping  As corny as it sounds, Saigon is a paradise for shoppers. Beautiful handicrafts and deliciously tacky tourist junk are in endless supply. If you love to shop and have at least elementary bargaining skills and a good eye, your money will go a long way and you can enjoy virtually endless retail entertainment.
Lacquerware made here is practically the best in the world and is still a real bargain. Scores of shops around District 1 sell boxes, trays, desk accessories, vases and other lacquerware items. Rosewood boxes and bowls are especially lovely. These make wonderful gifts.
 
If you are a Coffee lover, buy enough to fill those empty corner of your luggage. Vietnamese coffees are among the best in the world, and very inexpensive. Because Saigonites drink so much of it, the beans on display in scores of shops around District 1 are always quite fresh. Whole beans sealed in a plastic bag will last quite well until you return, and provide a lingering souvenir of your visit to Ho Chi Minh City.
 
2311439487_a8245401f8.jpgDining Saigon is not a place where you will easily go hungry, regardless of your budget. A glut of foreign business people with expense accounts has created plenty of elegant, albeit overpriced restaurants. You will find everything from enchiladas to dim sum here, although I can not imagine why anyone but terminally bored expatriates would even bother. Many of these places are pretentious and offer only passable food.
 
Beer (special local beer 333 ) 333, or “Ba Ba Ba” as it is known in Vietnam, is a pretty decent rice lager that has found export success in a number of countries including France, Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong and even America.

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