The former ‘Paris of the East’, Ho Chi Minh City — known to most of its residents by its former name Saigon — is now a rapidly developing metropolis and possibly the most bustling and chaotic city in Southeast Asia. Charming old French colonial edifices sit next to gleaming new towers, while hordes of motorbikes whizz past street food hawkers in the iconic conical hats; the whole city is a fascinating contrast between ancient traditions and the very sudden arrival of the modern world.
Visiting Saigon requires patience and willingness to immerse yourself in the city’s rhythms, jostling with its traffic, sitting on a pavement drinking a strong Vietnamese coffee with the locals, and wandering around its fascinating and bustling markets. The Vietnam War is still a lingering presence here in various museums and markets — it was only a generation ago, after all — but the city’s youth care more about the present and future, and it’s their — and their city’s — energy and dynamism that will captivate you. This is especially true at night when it seems the entire city has hit the streets to eat, drink, be merry, and socialize. You may initially struggle to fall in love with Saigon, but once you do, it is a fast and hard fall — you will never forget it.
Saigon is characterized by such a unique blend of history and culture that your trip can be whatever you make it, no matter what type of traveler you are. Explore the street food markets or eat in high-class restaurants, visit temples by day and dance clubs by night — you can, and should, do it all. A trip to Saigon is never complete without being tossed around a little while you are still getting used to the city’s eclectic nature and fast-paced lifestyle.