Discover Ho Chi Minh City

Ben Thanh Market bustles with more than 3000 hard-working vendors, hawking everything from local delicacies to imitation high fashion.

Home to exotic food, French colonial architecture, memories of war, and friendly locals, the Vietnamese metropolis is one of Southeast Asia’s most invigorating drawcards. 

Upon touching down in Ho Chi Minh, the first thing that visitors usually notice is the traffic. Crossing the road can be a nerve-racking yet exciting experience for apprehensive tourists. Motorbikes choke the wide streets, often laden with whole families, hurdling towards intersections at a swift but controlled stride. 

From road traffic to foot traffic, Ho Chi Minh’s markets also brim around the clock with constant activity. Open until midnight, the city’s most famous market, Ben Thanh Market bustles with more than 3000 hard-working vendors, hawking everything from local delicacies to imitation high fashion. 

Where the city’s traffic and markets showcase its rambunctious Asian character, its architecture strikes a stark contrast, carrying a distinctively romantic European feel. Formally known as Saigon, the city once stood as the capital of the French colony of Cochinchina. As a result its cityscape boasts grand boulevards lined with stately trees, magnificent villas, impressive structures like the Opera House and Notre Dame Cathedral, and scrumptious French bakeries. 

Saigon fell and was renamed Ho Chi Minh City after it was captured by the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong during the Vietnam War. One of the most devastating wars in history, the Vietnam War and its effect can still be seen and felt in the city today. 

The War Remnants Museum documents the war through text and photographs and showcases retired military vehicles such as helicopters, attack bombers and tanks. Reunification Palace stands as a poignant reminder of Saigon's official surrender. While an hour’s drive from the city centre, the infamous Cu Chi tunnels have been preserved by the government and turned into a memorial park. 

Championed by US and allied troops, the war effort of the 1960s-1970s, transformed Ho Chi Minh into a thriving cosmopolitan hotspot. Today prominent wartime haunts like The Rex Hotel and Continental still stand proudly, offering cocktails bars and fine dining restaurants. 

Words by Alice Nash - Published 13 May 2013
Quick Facts 
Population 8 million
Time Zone GMT + 7
Languages Vietnamese (official), French, English and Cantonese
Currency Vietnamese dong
Share this article 
facebook Twitter Pinterest Google
Related Articles 
Take Me to the River
Cruising up the mighty Mekong river, a journey into the unknown. Bringing you up close to Vietnam’s traditional riverside life.
The Lost City: Cambodia
Welcome to the land of ancient temples, and a whole new chapter of human history.