Last Updated: 16th Feb 2011
Easily the biggest and most populated city in Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City is in the south of the country and is one of the fastest growing regions of Indochina with good reason.
The city has seen a wealth of history and has changed hands from the French to the South Vietnamese to the present day Vietnam. Located on the banks of the Saigon River, the city is still known to many as Saigon while its original name was Prey Nokor. The current name of the city is taken from the former leader of North Vietnam and is often shortened to HCMC.
Originally a Khmer fishing village, today the city is bustling and busy with 7 million inhabitants but the wide boulevards and palatial buildings created by the French help create an open feel to the city.
Stepping into this huge museum is like stepping back in time. Very little has changed in the old palace of the South Vietnamese President since the fall of Saigon in 1975. Filled with loads of equipment from the 1960’s and 70’s it’s very cool to walk around and check out how life used to be as well as being an opportunity to get a Northern perspective on the capture of the city. The front garden includes a replica of the tank which crashed though the gates of the Palace and symbolically ended the Vietnam American War, known locally as the American War.
Dedicated to the father of modern Vietnam, the displays tell the story of Ho Chi Minh’s life, rise to power and success in leading the North to victory in the Vietnam War.
Built by the French, this twin-spire church bears very little resemblance to the more famous church of Notre Dame in Paris, France. However, it’s the biggest Catholic Church in a city filled with Chinese-style temples.
The most famous markets in the city are also the largest. Hundreds and hundreds of vendors are crammed into this central city location. As well as the regular tourist goods, the markets are also very popular with locals who shop for food, everyday needs and anything and everything else you could think you would need. Bartering and bargaining is part of the fun. The main markets close at around 5pm but this also coincides with the opening of the nearby night markets where the shopping fun and market atmosphere continues.
The village of Long Tan is within an easy day trip from Ho Chi Minh City. Although it’s only a small village, it is of particular interest to Australians, New Zealanders and Americans as well as those interested in the Vietnam War. Controversy surrounds the exact details and circumstances of the battle itself but what is clear is that in 1966, just outside the village, a little over 100 Australian soldiers combined with elements of the US and NZ armies to fend off an attack of at least 1500 North Vietnamese troops. The battle is still used today as an example in military schools to show the value of combining various elements of the armed forces.
Also close to Ho Chi Minh City are the Cu Chi tunnels- a huge complex of underground tunnels that were vital to the success of the North during the Vietnam War. The tunnels were built at the South end of the Ho Chi Minh Trail and grew over the decades into a huge underground city. Today the area is a war memorial park; you can visit the tunnels, see the war rooms and even the booby traps intended to snare would-be invaders.