Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, is Vietnam’s most dynamic city. With a populationof 8.4 million, its streets are brimming with shops, stalls and busy vendors with their wares spread out on sidewalks.
Popular sights include the Doc Lap Palace, the War Remnants Museum and Notre Dame Cathedral, built in neo-Romanesque style. The central Ben Thanh Market is the best for souvenir bargains and delicious street foods.
You can also visit Giac Lam Pagoda, one of the oldest pagodas in the city, and the spectacular Chinese-style Emperor of Jade Pagoda.
The flat but lusciously green Mekong River Delta is the southernmost region of Vietnam and is an attractive patchwork of rice paddies, swamps and canals. The Cai Rang floating markets are the hub of the Mekong River Delta’s fishing and farming trades. These markets appear frantic but tourists should not be discouraged. Everything on sale usually hangs off the front of each boat, and bargaining is encouraged.
A sampan boat is the perfect way to watch the Mekong River come alive, and tourists can expect to find everything from fish to jack fruit. The riverbank is dotted with stilted, wooden houses that are built right on the water’s edge.
My Tho is a quiet city, a day trip from Saigon, with an interesting Central Market. Take a boat trip to explore local canals and nearby islands including Tan Long, where longan orchards are found.
Further into the Delta lies the colourful town of Can Tho, the biggest city in the Mekong River Delta, with rice the most important industry. Can Tho has an array of delicious, local cuisine and photogenic floating markets nearby, and is close to the Cambodian border. Here you can also find the lively river city of Chau Doc, with beautiful sunset views from the top of Sam Mountain.
Off the far southwest coast of Vietnam Phu Quoc Island has beautiful white sandy beaches and a choice of resort style hotels. It is famous for its black pepper and nuoc mam, or fish sauce, as well as its pearl factories. While it is not considered a prime nightlife destination, for peace, tranquility and relaxation, it is the perfect holiday spot.
With war tourism being one of its biggest draws, it does not come as a surprise that Ho Chi Minh’s Museum that is stacked with war remnants, and war-themed historical park that draws its ideas from an underground guerrilla troop base that existed back in the day, are on every tourists checklist on their trip to South Vietnam.
While Vietnamese cuisine is known for its trademark noodles, in the south you will find that rice takes its place above noodles. Owing to its large coastline, seafood is a dominant part of the cuisine. Every meal will be accompanied by a platter that contains hot pepper, bean threads, cucumber, mint, basil, coriander and other herbs.
Saigon may have some of the craziest traffic that you will find in South Vietnam, but the pulsating traffic is what keeps the city’s heart beating in a way. You will find both souvenirs and clothing at the various discount malls in Saigon, and once you’ve had enough of that you can eat your heart’s fill at one of its many gourmet restaurants.