Ho Chi Minh
Ho Chi Minh City is a buzzing modern metropolis, yet a scattering of Colonial buildings and ancient temples creates a fascinating juxtaposition which gives the city its own unique signature. Ho Chi Minh City is also the best place to learn about the America-Vietnam war, serving as a base for trips to the notorious Cu Chi Tunnels, or historic military buildings such as the Reunification Palace.
Ho Chi Minh City was known as Saigon until 1975, when Northern Vietnam conquered the south. In terms of tourism, whilst the city is perhaps best known for its role in the America-Vietnam war, its history stretches back centuries, and the area has previously been under both Khmer and French rule.
The city has a vibrant food scene, and this is a fantastic place to try an eclectic variety of dishes beyond the more standard pho and spring rolls. A plethora of trendy rooftop bars, intimate jazz clubs and boisterous karaoke bars means Ho Chi Minh City offers the best night out in the country. Huge crowds of motorbikes and mopeds add to the high-octane atmosphere, and it is definitely worth taking a ride on the back of a scooter during your time here; although we do not recommend visitors riding solo, as the rules of the road (or lack thereof!) are a mystery known only to locals.
Alongside the buzz of modern life, there is plenty of history to explore. Within the city there are a number of museums and historical buildings. including the Notre Dame Cathedral and Central Post Office, which act as reminders of the Ho Chi Minh City's French Colonial past. For those interested in war history, it is worth a visit to the Reunification Palace, also known as the Independence Palace. Built during the 1960s, this is the site where Northern Vietnam tanks famously burst through gates in April 1975. The building has remained virtually unchanged since then, and so this is a fascinating glimpse into the past.
The Cu Chi Tunnels are located around 30km from Ho Chi Minh City. The tunnels, which were used by the Viet Cong, are absolutely astounding. Many of the tunnels, which at one point stretched all the way to the Cambodian border, would be a tight squeeze for a small child, and yet they were used by the soldiers to transport supplies and launch surprise attacks.
Ho Chi Minh City is the gateway to the Mekong Delta, and many flights to the central coast or southern islands, as well as wider Indochina, will require a change here, and so it is well worth stopping off for few nights to experience modern Vietnam at its most exciting.