The city of Saigon or Ho Chi Minh (since 1975) is a fast moving mix of highs and lows, you can see everything here from extreme poverty to luxurious opulence and from deeply spiritual to sinful pleasures. To take it all in explore the streets of Saigon where the action is always taking place. Hop on the back of a motorbike taxi (after agreeing on the price) and speed off into the dangerous traffic to see the sights.
The Reunification Palace is said to be as it was in 1975, don’t expect a “palace” but more like an administrative building, two of the main attractions here are the basement with a collection of the electrical equipment, phones etc. that were used at the time and the Huey helicopter on the roof. Check out the French colonial city hall (Hotel de Ville) and the statue of Uncle Ho next to the building. For some Vietnamese culture visit the Museum of Vietnamese History and Ho Chi Minh Museum. Ho Chi Minh Opera House is one of the most beautiful buildings in the city but unfortunately shows are no longer held here. The Emperor of Jade Pagoda is one of the most beautiful and is full of character and atmosphere. See the statue of the Jade Emperor and on either side of the main hall is Kim Hua the Goddess of Fertility and the King of Hell. If you only see one temple make it this one. Other pagodas of interest are the Thien Hau Pagoda dedicated to the sea goddess and the Phung Son Tu Pagoda. Another beautiful pagoda is Chua Quan Am the oldest pagoda in Saigon, which is used by Chinese Buddhists and is very ornate. Within the gardens of the compound are a pond and several other altars dedicated to other gods. See also the carved dark wood figures of holy men. For shopping and to see Saigon’s busiest market visit Thanh Market where you can virtually buy anything, just watch your pockets! In the market area you can also sample some great local food.
If you’re looking for entertainment see one of the Xin Chao shows, an extravaganza of Vietnamese cultural acts with a large cast of acrobats, singers and dancers. Also check out the Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theatre for a traditional water puppet show where wooden puppets skim across the water covered stage. Saigon also has a wild nightlife with all the modern amenities you could imagine – cinema, spas, parks and shopping centers. You can also have a drink in the roof top beer garden of the Rex Hotel or at the Saigon Saigon Bar on the roof of the Caravella Hotel. There is also an endless choice of bars and dance clubs in the Caravella Hotel area.