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CruiseDirection - Magazine May 2019

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Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Saigon) is the largest city in Vietnam located near the Mekong Delta. Sitting on the banks of the Saigon River, Ho Chi Minh City is Vietnam’s major port and home to nine million people.  

The weather in Ho Chi Minh City falls into two seasons, the rainy season which occurs between May through November sees frequent downpours and monsoons; this is definitely an off-peak time for tourism. The dry season from December to April is definitely the time you want to visit, with its limited precipitation and average temperatures of approximately 26 degrees.

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Why visit Ho Chi Minh City ?

Ho Chi Minh City location iamge - CruiseDirection

Home to nine million people

The largest city in Vietnam located near the Mekong Delta

The Vietnam History Museum is a popular place for visitors to Ho Chi Minh City. It presents a clear picture of the nation’s history (though it tends to focus more on the South) through its exhibits. The museum houses fine displays of ancient ceramics and Cham sculpture. It also features an interesting collection of weaponry with some that date to the 14th century. The museum also offers various displays of archaeological interest and a small theatre that offers hourly water puppet performances.  

Adjacent to the museum is the Ho Chi Minh City Zoo and Botanical Garden. Many tourists choose to bypass this attraction in favour of others and while it tends to receive mixed reviews it is definitely worth a visit if you are travelling with children or are a fan of the botanical or zoological sciences. The botanical garden houses a collection of rare orchids and the zoo houses hundreds of species including tigers, lions, monkeys, apes, and others.  

Historians of the Vietnam War will want to visit the War Remnants Museum. Please be forewarned it is not for the faint of heart and it is not particularly complimentary toward the West. The museum was formerly named the “Exhibition House of American War Crimes.” The name was changed after the reconciliation of diplomatic ties with the United States in 1993. The museum features an extraordinary collection of weaponry, machinery, pictures and documentation of Vietnam’s wars with both the United States and France (though it focuses more on the U.S.) including planes, helicopters, tanks, bombs, and a French guillotine. There are halls filled with graphic photographs of war casualties and exhibits that recount the devastating effects of napalm, Agent Orange, and other biological agents. While many of the displays focus on the brutality war, there are also exhibits devoted to the many anti-war efforts that abounded during the period.  

On a lighter note, no visit to Ho Chi Minh City would be complete without a trek to Ben Thanh Market where you are the centre of attention as the dozens of local vendors peddling their wares all vie for your attention. At the front there are people selling clothing but be careful, as many of designer labels may be fake. Further back are cafes serving coffee and local cuisine including “che” which is a popular Vietnamese dessert. At the far end of the market, you will find a section that features fresh produce, meat, seafood, and flowers. Be warned, keep an eye on your wallet when traversing the market as the narrow, one way aisles can be a haven for pickpockets.  

Directly outside the market, you will find numerous open-air stalls with local eateries. Here you can sample some of the finest Vietnamese cuisine available in the city. Specialities like noodle soup, rice dishes, and ice cream are available and the prices are very reasonable.  

A trip to Ho Chi Minh City is not for everyone, however if you are a history buff or simply crave something different for your next holiday, it is certainly a destination worth considering.

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