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Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh City – A Mix of Past and Present

Formerly Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City is the largest city in Vietnam. Filled with a multitude of sights and sounds, sometimes the best thing you can do is just sit and take it all in.

 Ho Chi Minh City is a real mix – from the French colonial architecture to the American and Chinese influences scattered throughout; it ultimately means there is something of interest to everyone who visits.

The city is rapidly modernising with more and more urban and green spaces being added. Whatever you do, make sure it involves a bowl of Pho (noodle soup), a boat ride up the Saigon River and a cyclo tour.

Ho Chi Minh City’s Districts

Slightly confusing to navigate at first, Ho Chi Minh City is set on the Saigon River and is comprised of Districts (24 all told).

District 1

District 1 is the main district and houses the majority of tourist sites such as the Notre-Dame Cathedral, the Reunification Palace, the Saigon Central Post Office (designed by Gustave Eiffel) and City Hall. There are a myriad of city tours to take, the Cu Chi tunnels being high on the tourist list. These amazing tunnels once stretched from Ho Chi Minh City to the Cambodian border over 200km away.

It’s interesting to note that the majority of the buildings constructed since 1946 are French colonial style which makes the strolls down the streets extremely appealing. You can even opt to stay in some of the historic hotels such as the Hotel Majestic although there are many more modern or cheaper places on offer.

Food is varied, namely Vietnamese, French, Japanese and Chinese with plenty of western delights for those feeling slightly homesick. Dine at Ben Thanh Market courtesy of the street vendors or sit by the park and eat at Au Parc, the choice is yours.

Fun Fact: The Pham Ngu Lao area is where budget travellers are best to head in terms of their accommodation.

District 2

District 2 (also known as Thu Thiem), on the opposite banks of Saigon River of District 1, is seeing much change recently moving from what was one of the poorest parts of the city to one which is becoming popular with the expat community. (District 7 is also popular with the expat community.) Modern villas are popping up everywhere and with delightful places such as The Deck to dine in, it will only become more popular over time.

Fun Fact: The Deck was voted “One of the country’s best Asian Fusion Restaurants in January 2015”.

District 3

District 3 borders directly on District 1. It is full of French influence with many stunning French-style villas. The popular War Remnants Museum is located here as well as Xa Loi Pagoda, the largest pagoda in the city. You will also find that there are quite a variety of hotels located in this district.

Fun Fact: The pagoda was built in 1956 and was the headquarters of Buddhism in South Vietnam.

District 5

Cho Lon or China Town is located in District 5 as well as many interesting temples and pagodas. You can stroll down Lan Ong street, which has recently undergone some restoration, to learn about traditional herbs, trade and therapies. Named after physician Hai Thuong Lan Ong, your senses are in for a treat. If you are looking for a break from the heat then try Dai The Gioi Water Park. Windsor Plaza Hotel is one of the more popular hotels in the region.

Fun Fact: This area was featured in the movie, The Lover, based on Marguerite Duras’ novel of the same name.

Other Districts

Although we have covered the major districts, there are family friendly tourist attractions such as Dam Seng Water Park (District 11) and Suoi Tien Theme Park (District 9) scattered throughout the other areas.

Shopping, sightseeing and sampling the international dishes are all part and parcel of your Vietnamese adventure and while there is no escaping the city’s past, you can enjoy the blend of the past and present that the city provides.

Photo credit: Saigon Photography / Shutterstock.com


Kelly Winder is the creator of BellyBelly.com.au, a doula, writer and mother to three awesome children. Currently she's travelling the world for 12 months with her partner and three children, and hopes to inspire more families to do the same.