From £41 pp
A place where sleek glass skyscrapers clash with dingy market alleys, where one minute you can be in a pristine mall epitomising 21st-century capitalism, the next in an ancient temple shrouded in incense smoke, Ho Chi Minh City, previously Saigon, is a city of endless discovery.
Traditions and ancient cultures whirl together with commerce and ambition to create a chaotic experience of perpetual motion and endless discoveries. Jump into the tsunami of mopeds that flows unstoppably between the bright neon lights, coming to rest at a lively street food spot or a boutique spa.
This is Vietnam at it’s most overwhelming and addictive. The heavy presence of troubles still fresh in the mind of many of those who live here, there is a certain warmth to their hospitality that is unmatched in many parts of the world, and an evening spent with a few Saigon’s, some impeccably cooked food and a lively music is an evening you won’t be forgetting in a hurry.
War Remnants Museum
It’s hard to travel around Vietnam without being reminded, every once on a while, of the turmoil that gripped this country not so long ago. The ghosts of the Vietnam War live on in the pockmarked walls of temples and hilltop fortresses, but for an all-encompassing understanding of the conflict, the War Remnants Museum is a must.
A fascinating, poignant exhibition, it tells the story of a people who suffered horribly as part of a proxy war, as part of a war they should never really have been embroiled in. You’ll leave feeling reflective, enlightened, and with a real understanding of the tragedy that still affects the population today.
Food is ubiquitous with Vietnam wherever you go, but nowhere has taken on the number of influences quite like Ho Chi Minh City, and nowhere else has quite the range of incredible eateries as this living mass of a city.
Whether it’s a high-end restaurant offering incredible views over the glittering skyline, serving up incredible delicacies of stunning flavour, or a simple plastic stool outside a humble shop selling steaming bowls of Pho or goi cuon, the joy in Vietnamese food is in kicking back with a few Saigon beers and enjoying the wholly sociable aspect of eating like a local.
Jade Emporer Pagoda
The centre of Taoist spirituality in Ho Chi Minh City, this incense smoke-drenched pagoda feels as if it’s stepped out of another time. Jaw-droppingly atmospheric, venture through the shrouds of smoke to uncover beautiful wooden carving, grotesque depictions of heroes and mystical figures, and epic stories and legends carved into the walls.
Dingy, candlelit rooms, mysterious shrines, stunning courtyards complete with ponds of turtles, this temple is a weave of faiths and legends that can’t fail to captivate.
When is the best time to go?
If you could pick one month, February would be a great one, when humidity is low and there’s hardly any rain. It’s warm all year round of course, in fact it can get seriously sweaty, but December offers a little respite if you can time it to arrive then.