One of the jewels of the Far East, Ho Chi Minh City is a spectacular urban environment with a rich and diverse history. Home to over 8 million inhabitants, the city is the largest in Vietnam – and was the setting for some of the most dramatic and fascinating events in modern history.
Ho Chi Minh City was formerly known as ‘Saigon’ and was the capital of the French colony of Cochinchina – and of South Vietnam – from 1949. The city’s French colonial years saw a rise in Western influence and architecture – which mixed with the steamy, subtropical culture of traditional Vietnam. Many of the city’s most remarkable buildings, including the extravagant City Hall (pictured above), the Saigon Opera House and the Notre-Dame Cathedral embody this strong Gallic influence.
The city assumed its modern name in 1976 in the wake of the Vietnam War – and began a period of recovery and growth which included ‘reunification’ projects like the palatial Reunification Hall. Today, Ho Chi Minh City is a bustling political, cultural and economic centre in which echoes of the past mingle with a glitzy modern edge.
A tour of Ho Chi Minh City reveals a skyline of wonders, including the Bitexco Financial Tower, Diamond Plaza and Saigon Centre – while, beneath the skyscrapers, the city’s commercial side thrives, in places like Ben Thanh Market and the eclectic War Surplus Market. Vietnam’s captivating heritage is visible throughout the city’s various districts, in locations like the War Remnants Museum, the sacred Quan Am Pagoda and the nearby village of Binh Quoi, which showcases a era long past – complete with thatched cottages and fishing huts. Wherever you travel, the streets of Ho Chi Minh City are thronged with people and vehicles, including hundreds of motorbikes, which often double as taxis – zipping travellers between its incredible attractions with ease.