Ever wondered to visit a city which offers modernistic amenities and lifestyle yet remains culturally grounded to its roots, the ones where skyscrapers and historical architecture resides beside each other. Ho Chi Minh City , Vietnam offers a kaleidoscopic view of its past and present. Offered with tales of history and royalty intermingled in a dynamic urban sense . Ho Chi Minh city once known as the Diamond of the East for its luxury levels matching those of Europe’s, private villas and large boulevards adorned the streets before gaining independence from its French occupation during the colonial era. Also known as Saigon primarily as its situated on the banks of river Saigon and happens to be the economic capital of Vietnam courtesy its bustling trade and tourism. A place where Bankers and bakers come down for conversations on many a street cafes, lured by the aroma of fresh coffee and baked cookies. Street stalls sell colorful local drinks paired with pork rolls and noodles, a standard affair here. While you choose between street foods chances are you might run into an old war memorial or historical museum which dot the main roads jostling for space between the modern buildings and skyscrapers. If that was not enough the sheer volume of traffic might, Ho Chi Minh believes in tricyles, push carts and rickshaws among regular cars and buses for travel. A bit of a heckling here and there and you can lay your hands on one of these ‘mean cycles’ to explore the region or indulge in friendly races.
Conglomeration of ethnicities over the last few decades has given HCMC a charm in luring travellers and locals. Each ethnic group present here has brought its own varied past and culture, intermingling of these groups here has thrown open the gates to hospitality and recreation. Almost all the folks here are overtly friendly and bubbling with enthusiasm, from being eager guides to showcase the prides of their cities to haggling with you for a better price for their commodity. They go out of their way to assist you and indulge in short friendly conversations. Weather in HCMC is very much pleasant through out the year with occasional bursts of heavy rainfall followed by humid conditions. Once you land and make your way through the streets , you see Chinese style pagodas lined beside museums and glass offices. Make sure you visit Reunification Palace , a five storied which time warps you to the 60’s, complete with war memorabilia including telephones, pictures , radios, office equipment’s left untouched since the siege. Heck you can even spot a junked tank in the memorial. War remnants museum houses the remains of the American Vietnam war , complete with pictures depicting the cruelties during that times. City hall and Museum of Ho Chi Minh are other famous historically connected places. Tired of hopping through the past head towards one of the many bustling districts( Ben thanh market in particular, notoriously famous for housing everything ) using your hired tricycles for a bit of shopping therapy and a quick bite at the streets before heading towards Dam Sen Water Park , a celebrated adventure spot here famous for its heart clutching water slides.
No trip to HCMC goes without a visit to its local spas and hair salons which offer services for a quarter of what given elsewhere. Choose between holistic spas treatments , naturopathy ,manicures and pedicures for no more than 10$. These salons some of which are open till late in the night pick patented services to rejunavate your senses with aromatherapy , swiss and thai deep tissue massages spoiling you with choices at the prices they are offered.
As corny as is sounds , HCMH is a paradise for shopaholics. Local handicrafts and weirdly designed tacky junks and souvenirs are abundant here for the curious shopper. Where else can one find war items, clunky old school jewelry, antique wood pieces, cigarette lighters made from M16 ammunitions clubbed with usual insignia like ‘ welcome to Nam’ and Chinese electronics and goods. Streets are filled with endless tailor shops who stitch ‘tailor made’ stuff at half prices. Even food and wine connoisseur’s can relish taking back bags of quality inexpensive coffees, local ingredients and wines(try Rou gao, if your feeling particularly adventurous) and take quite a bit of it back home too. Shopping here in HCMC includes for food and beverages too, dedicated stalls come during the night offering to take you on a food safari , gourmet style local cuisines are found aplenty here.
Those willing to explore the city alone can hire one of the fancy ‘tricycles’ here( even cycles are available) and hit the streets taking a picturesque trip through the downtown and suburbs. Transport is never a problem in HCMC , often locals join in and offer you free rides to prime areas. Once your treated yourselves to food and local places , head to nearby locales to feel the raw flavor of Vietnam. Cu Chi tunnels, located on the outskirts are renowned for their underground labyrinth of tunnels extending to as far as Cambodia. Trips through jungles where religious Pagodas and old tanks lie beside each other, hospitality which you cant refuse despite ‘hygiene’ screaming inside you. Vietnam and HCMC besiege you with spectacular options to spend a holiday.