In 1976, to mark the reunification of North and South following the American War, the city known as Saigon officially became Ho Chi Minh City. Saigon is still used in the south although if used by locals it can suggest their political leanings.
With 9 million people Ho Chi Minh City is the largest city in Vietnam. While it’s half again as large as Hanoi, the roads system in Ho Chi Minh City is far superior.
At the end of my 23 day scooter trip from the capital, I chose to stay 4 nights in Ho Chi Minh City in hope of selling my scooter, exploring the city and to take a rest.
Compared to many places in Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City is packed with pagodas in its central city.
Giam Lam Pagoda
One of the oldest pagodas in the city.
Simply called the Great Ancient Large Buddhist Temple, although it’s dwarfed by the skyscrapers on all sides.
Minh Dang Quang Pagoda
A cluster of pagodas with more under construction just outside of the central city.
In turn, unlike many places in Vietnam, the city has few churches. This one was built in 1863 in the french style similar to the Basilica of Notre-Dame. The statue of the Virgin Mary in front of the cathedral was said to have shed a tear in 2005 attracting crowds of thousands. Whether it actually did is yet to be proven.
Built in 1902 the city hall began as a hotel, but in 1976 it was renamed Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee head office.
Suoi Tien Amusement Park
On the north side of the city is a large amusement park designed to illustrate Vietnam’s past. The park includes a large manmade beach and a massive waterfall sculpted in the likeness of one of the former emperors. The face is large enough that it can be seen from the highway going past.
War Remnants Museum
Unlike the war museum in Hanoi, the War Remnants Museum showcases some of the atrocities inflicted upon the Vietnamese people during the American War. While the museum is illuminating and a tad macabre, it comes across as anti-American and full of communist propaganda.
Vietnamese New Years
The roads of District 1 in the central city get quite busy as darkness descends. Nighttime denotes dinnertime and people emerged to bustle around the bars and restaurants. On Vietnamese New Years Eve, also known as Chinese New Years and Luna New Years, the street is much the same except for an added expectation for midnight. There are fireworks at the witching hour but nothing spectacular and before long it’s over. It certainly nothing like traditional Western New Year’s Eve celebrations.
Cu Chi Tunnels
There’s an extensive tunnel system running under much of Vietnam. The Cu Chi section is famous for being the site of several offensives. When I visited site, I joined a group and we were led through some of the tunnels. Our first stop was to a gun bunker where some of the entrance holes were too small for many of us.
The tunnels themselves are short and thin, with many at Cu Chi having been enlarged for tourism. Even so, I still had to crawl through most of them. Being tall in Asia is not always fun.
After a month in Vietnam, it’s time to move on. Next stop, Cambodia.
The Lone Trail Wanderer