Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon as it was called earlier, is the largest city in Vietnam and one that carries the influence of its French colonial past, its alliance with China, and the scars of the Vietnam War with much aplomb, while still retaining its Vietnamese identity. The city comes across as much modern and vibrant as it is historical. It is a city of many contrasts and that’s what makes it unique and compelling.
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Not to miss in Ho Chi Minh City
- History Museum: This museum is a must see if you are interested in understanding the history of this city which dates back to around 2000 years through its huge collection of artifacts. The museum also houses a water puppet theatre and an excellent souvenir shop.
- Reunification Palace: Your next stop after the museum has to be the Reunification Palace, the former Presidential Palace. The beautiful palace, surrounded by palm trees wears a deserted look indoors. A grim reminder of the 1975 fall of Saigon and the reasons behind it, the palace has meeting rooms on the ground floor and grand reception rooms upstairs. The upper storeys and roof has lavish card rooms, bar, theatre, and a helipad! The basement is the interesting for the visitors as it houses the telecommunication center, the war room, and a host of tunnels.
- War Remnants Museum: As the name suggests, this museum is home to photographs and documents that portray the brutality and the ultimate futility of wars. War equipment and weaponry, including experimental weapons, is on display outdoors while a corner of the museum grounds artifacts like the guillotine and tiger cages from the notorious French and South Vietnamese prisons on Phu Quoc and Con Son Islands.
- Cu Chi Tunnels: These are a part of a huge network of interconnected underground tunnels that were built by the VietCong in Saigon during the Vietnam War. These tunnels were used as hideouts, bomb shelters, and living quarters as well as supply routes. These were also used in the guerilla warfare tactics used by the North Vietnamese army and the VietCong against the American troops. At the height of the war, these tunnels housed entire villages and had kitchens, ordinance factories, as well as hospitals built into them.
- Jade Emperor Pagoda: This Pagoda honors the Jade Emperor or the King of Heaven, Ngoc Hoang, the supreme Taoist God. Built in 1909, the temple has statues of many divinities and heroes of the religion. The statues are unique in that they have been made from reinforced papier mache.
- Shopping in Ho Chi Minh City: The city has a lot more to offer apart from the obvious war reminders and no place brings you back to the present bustling city than the Ben Thanh market with its tiny stalls and excellent food court. District 1 is another such place where you can shop for jewelry, silk, antiques, ceramics, etc.
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