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Ho Chi Minh City

Thursday, November 13, 2008
Ho Chi Minh City is Vietnam's largest city. Under its former name, Saigon, it served as the capital of the independent state of South Vietnam between 1954 to 1975. Saigon and the province of Gia Dinh merged in 1976 resulting in Ho Chi Minh City. Locals still prefer to call their home Saigon. The city is on the banks of the Saigon River, 60km from the South China Sea and is 1760km south of Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam.

Ho Chi Minh City is the heart and soul of Vietnam. It's a bustling, dynamic and industrious centre, the economic capital and the cultural trendsetter, yet within the teeming metropolis are the timeless traditions and beauty of an ancient culture.

From 1859 the French were a major influence over Vietnam's development and there is still plenty of their style in buildings in the city. A replica of Notre Dame was made in France in 1877 and transported brick by brick.

One of the most celebrated times in Ho Chi Minh City is Liberation Day. It marks the end of what is known there as the American War, and despite being called Liberation Day, celebrations go on for weeks.

Getting around can be pretty chaotic but cycles are probably the best way for tourists to get from place to place. The tricycle taxis have specific routes in Ho Chi Minh City and make sure to come to a price before you board. It's a good idea to hang on tightly to your belongings as they are open and passing motorists have been known to grab bags and disappear into the traffic.

The War Remnants Museum contains exhibits relating to the American phase of the Vietnam War, and is the most popular war-related tourist attraction. Eight themed rooms in several buildings have military equipment, tiger cages (which held political prisoners), graphic photographs and even a guillotine.

Once known as the Museum of Chinese and American War crimes, this museum's name was changed to avoid offending American and Chinese tourists, but to many its exhibits remain one-sided.

For something more light-hearted, Ben Thanh Market is Vietnam's oldest and busiest market. More than 3000 stalls give you the best scope to test your bargaining skills. There is a two-tier pricing structure — one for locals and one for tourists, so go low.

The market has been one of Ho Chi Minh City's most famous landmarks since French occupation. Goods are grouped into areas — fruit and vegetables in one spot, meat in another, then clothing, shoes, souvenirs, jewellery and so on. It makes shopping and price comparing easy and there are plenty of stalls selling food and fresh juice.

There are many, many Buddhist temples around the city. Nam Chon Temple has its own traditional medicine centre and is a charity operation where people pick up an ancient cure for whatever ails them. You may also be amazed to see young men practising Vietnam's own martial art, nam huynh dao. They are sure to impress.

There's plenty of nightlife to be enjoyed. Saigon Saigon Bar is a winner of awards, and its open-air design gives spectacular views across Ho Chi Minh City. It has an impressive drinks list and serves light meals. Ambience is French Colonial — dark wood, plants and ceiling fans, and it is a friendly place to relax and meet people.

Pham Ngu Lao area is budget travellers haven. Streets and adjoining alleys have a treasure-trove of inexpensive accommodation and cafes catering to the budget end of the market.

Duna Hotel is a beautiful, modern building, minutes away from many of Ho Chi Minh City's attractions. It has just 40 rooms and is an economical, comfortable and friendly place to stay. Each room as ensuite facilities and air-conditioning and rates include breakfast.

Sheraton Hotel & Towers is in the centre of the business and entertainment districts of Dong Khoi Street. It's close to the opera house and Reunification Palace. The property has 374 spacious rooms. Beds are the famous Sheraton Sweet Sleepers and luxurious bathrooms feature floor-to-ceiling marble, separate bath and Visy massage shower.

There are plenty of eating and drinking options within the hotel. Mojo has homemade cakes, wood-fired pizzas and great coffee.

The Lounge in the ground floor lobby serves premium wines, cocktails, specialty coffees and light meals.

Nightspot has live entertainment and refreshments and is one of the highest vantage points in the city.

Grand Towers Lounge has cooking stations whipping up delicious meals to be indoors or al fresco.

Li Bai Chinese Restaurant offers a mix of Cantonese and traditional Chinese specialties in relaxing surroundings.

Signature Restaurant offers fine dining at its best, serving Pan-Asian cuisine accompanied by stunning views.

Saigon Café is open all day, barbecuing at cooking stations. Seafood is a specialty.

Wine Bar on the rooftop is the place for beverages and light dining and The Lifestyle Bar offers the same at the poolside.


Ho Chi Minh City in the south of Vietnam.


World Expeditions has 13-day Vietnam Family Explorer Tours out of Ho Chi Minh City. Most meals, internal flights, airport transfers, accommodation, entry fees and an overnight cruise along Halong Bay are included and tours cost $2290 for adults and $1550 for children on a quad share basis.

Duna Hotel rooms start at around $30 a double. Sheraton Saigon Hotel & Towers rooms start at around $432 a night.

Vietnam Airlines has flights to Ho Chi Minh City.

Fare from:

  • Melbourne $1425
  • Sydney $1436
  • Brisbane $1512
  • Adelaide $1525

Valid for travel between January 24 and March 31, 2009.

Prices correct at November 13, 2008.

For further information

Ben Thanh Market
Cho Ben Thanh
Corner DL Le Loi, DL Ham Nghi, DL Tran Hung Dao and D Le Lai
Ho Chi Minh City

War Remnants Museum
28 D Vo Van Tan, District 3
Ho Chi Minh City
Ph: +84 8 9305 587

Duna Hotel
167 Pham Ngu Lao, District 1
Ho Chi Minh City
Ph: +84 8 8373 699
Fax: +84 8 8376 606

Sheraton Saigon Hotel & Towers
88 Dong Khoi Street, District 1
Ho Chi Minh City
Ph: +84 8 827 2828
Fax: +84 8 827 2929

Saigon Saigon Bar
Caravelle Hotel
19 Lam Son Square
District 1
Ho Chi Minh City
Ph: 84 8 823 4999

Vietnam Airlines
13/31 Market Street
Sydney 2000
Ph: 1300 888 028

It is recommended travellers to Vietnam see their doctor at least six weeks before departure as there are specific vaccinations recommended. Other health precautions and preventions may also be recommended and are best discussed with your doctor. For further information visit

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User comments
I like to know what was the name and address of the shop where Jason went to get his suit made? Thanks Elise

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