Ho Chi Minh City is a fascinating metropolis with a rich and interesting history. Formerly known as Saigon, this Vietnamese destination is a rising destination in Southeast Asia that has plenty to explore. Home to 7.3 million inhabitants, Ho Chi Minh City’s is a culturally significant destination with plenty of stories to tell through its history. As a tourist-friendly destination today, visitors enjoy a good variety of things to do in Ho Chi Minh city. Like what? Well here are 3 reasons for starters why you should visit Ho Chi Minh.
Ho Chi Minh’s History
Ho Chi Minh has a deeply rooted and somewhat complicated history. Until the 17th century, Saigon was part of Cambodia, and it wasn’t until the 18th century that French missionaries began spreading their influence in the region.
Ho Chi Minh was formerly known as Saigon
Saigon was captured by the French in 1892, and remained under French control until 1940, when it was occupied by the Japanese. Vietnam declared its independence in 1940, but rioting in Saigon promoted more fighting between Vietnamese and French troops. The Vietnam War ripped through the country in the 1960s and ’70s, and American forces made their headquarters in Saigon throughout the conflict. Many parts of Saigon fell throughout the fighting, and in 1975, the city was captured by North Vietnam. It was at this point that Saigon became Ho Chi Minh City.
You’ve seen it in many American movies, how this war was very politically charged and had many repercussions on American soldiers. Hollywood gives us the American point of view. In Ho Chi Minh, you get to see the Vietnamese side. After all this war was on Vietnamese soil in a tumultuous time. See how it affected the locals and what that meant for the Vietnam we know today.
Museums in Ho Chi Minh
Today, Ho Chi Minh City still shows the remnants of its many battles, former glory and historic significance.
History buffs will want to study Ho Chi Minh City’s past at museums such as the War Remnants Museum, the Museum of Vietnamese History and the Ho Chi Minh City Museum (formerly known as the Gia Long Palace).
Of course there’s more to Ho Chi Minh than the Vietnam War. Museums in Ho Chi Minh also take you to Old Vietnamese dynasties, Indochinese architecture, religious carvings and Vietnamese fine arts.
The Ho Chi Minh Museum of Fine Arts is housed in a French colonial villa with traces of Chinese architecture. Inside, you’ll find beautiful paintings by famous Vietnamese painters, representations of war heros, and a collection of rare historic artifacts from the Mekong Delta and Indochinese kingdoms.
The Museum of Ho Chi Minh City displays pre-historic artifacts, folk art, representations of Vietnamese villages, an American fighter jet, Vietnamese tools, and wooden boats that transported people and food across the Saigon River. The building itself was once the palace of the Governor of Cochinchina.
Shopping in Ho Chi Minh
Cheap shopping! Ho Chi Minh City is home to a number of markets that are sure to impress. If you’re seeking authentic, artisan-crafted goods, you’ve come to the right place – this city is full of them. You just have to know where to look.’
If you like to shop, look for no better place in Ho Chi Minh City than the fabulous Diamond Plaza. Explore the first floor where you can purchase traditional handmade souvenirs from small boutique outlets and find unique local bargains. Head upstairs to the second floor and treat yourself to a stylish new outfit from one of the many designer stores. This floor also sells a great range of perfumes and jewelry.
Make your way up another flight to discover a vast array of the newest electronic gadgets.
Ben Thanh Market
Ben Thanh Market is your first stop, and is a great place to find a wide selection of pieces. If you’re looking for produce, you’ll be delighted to discover fresh, Vietnam-grown fruits and vegetables – some of the most quintessential produce types grown near Ho Chi Minh City are taro, yucca, jicama, yam, tamarind, dragonfruit and pomelo.
But food isn’t all you’ll find at Ben Thanh Market. You can also browse the stands for spices, spirits, tobacco products, clothing, jewellery and more.
For an more niche shopping experience, you may want to check out Mekong Quilts. This non-profit organisation sells high-quality, hand-made quilts crafted by Vietnamese women in rural villages. The organisation pays their quilt-makers a living wage, which means you’ll be supporting local communities – and getting a beautiful, authentic, long-lasting souvenir – when you purchase a quilt.
Even if you’re not in the market to buy, you won’t want to miss the craftsmanship that’s apparent in these products.
Delicious Food in Ho Chi Minh
A trip to Ho Chi Minh City wouldn’t be complete without some great food. There are numerous gastronomic delights to be found here, whether you’re looking for upscale dining or laid-back food stands.
Ho Chi Minh Street Food
The good stuff is really on the streets of Ho Chi Minh. Vietnamese street food has lots of variety so you can eat very well even on a budget. As a rule of thumb, follow the locals :)
Some great places for food in Ho Chi Minh are:
Tran Khac Chan Street
Vinh Khanh Street
Nguyen Thuong Hien Street
Phan Van Han Street
Van Kiep Street
At the ‘The Lunch Lady’
What to eat:
Fresh fruit juice
Banh beo (water fern cake)
Canh chua (sweet and sour soup)
Banh canh (noodles)
Seafood, especially clams
Banh Da Xuc Hen (rice cracker with clams and chilli)
Che (like ice kachang, with different flavours)
Bột chiên (fried rice flour)
mì vịt tiềm (duck noodles)
ốc hương ràn muối ớt (fried sea snails with salt and chilli)
Ho Chi Minh Restaurants
Bobby Chinn Saigon always tops foodies’ lists. Chef Bobby Chin is known world-wide for his dishes, which combine French, American, Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian flavours and concepts. The restaurant has won numerous accolades, including the 5 Star Diamond Award and the Wine Spectator Award for excellence.
To discover the restaurant celebrity chef and food writer Anthony Bourdain called ‘one place visitors shouldn’t miss’, head to Com Nieu Sai Gon. This authentic eatery offers rice made in clay pots, which expands and shatters its casing to the delight of everyone watching. It’s not just novelty though. The food in this Ho Chi Minh restaurant is also absolutely delicious. Specialties include pan-fried noodles, seafood and com dap.
History, Food and Shopping. That’s just Ho Chi Minh at a glance. Explore and you’ll find all that’s fascinating, tantalizing and unique about this Vietnamese city.