GUEST POST OVERVIEW: Saigon or Ho Chi Min. Whichever you call it, the capital of Vietnam is a beautiful old city with lots of charm and insanely busy streets. Carrie and I spent a few days there back in 2009, but didn’t have time to do half of the things Nick suggests in this new guest post.

“The main impressions in my mind of the ancient city of Saigon were built from images of The King and I, Graham Greene and the musical charting the fall of the city during the Vietnam-American war: Miss Saigon. During my first trip to Vietnam, I decided to visit the capital.

We booked a central hotel in District 1 in the up and coming area of Pham Ngu Lau, which also has a lot of great priced hostels. The

A statue of Ho Chi Min in VietNam's Reunification Palace
A statue of Ho Chi Min in VietNam’s Reunification Palace

Saigon / Ho Chi Min

A dusty fan at the Jade Emperor Pagoda in Ho Chi Min City, Viet Nam
A dusty fan at the Jade Emperor Pagoda in Ho Chi Min City, Viet Nam

We walked everywhere, but beware if you want to fit a lot in as market stalls and other sights all around the city make for great distractions; not to mention the heavenly scent of food cooking.

Of course now called Ho Chi Minh City, the bright bustling place is so very different nowadays, with so much to see and do but a little fascination from each era can be found with careful planning.

To pay tribute to my inner Victorian governess from the King and I, as well as learning about the man whose name the city now carries, we visited the Ho Chi Minh Museum. The governess part of me was more satisfied as the museum is in the old colonial customs house, which every visitor used to pass through on arriving in the city by boat.

Known as The Dragon House, this pretty pink building set in lovely gardens houses some of Uncle Ho’s personal belongings and tells his tale but is by no means the best museum in the city – it’s mainly worth visiting for its architecture, history and location.

Remembering the Vietnam War

A shot-out old jeep at the Museum of the Ho Chi Min Campaign in VietNam
A shot-out old jeep at the Museum of the Ho Chi Min Campaign in VietNam

The most impressive museum, which is not for the faint hearted, is the War Remnants Museum. It was originally called the Museum of American War Crimes but has been renamed since relations with the US improved.

It contains heartbreaking accounts of the Vietnam War and displays of the horrific effects of some of the warfare, and when I say horrific, these images do stay with you so do some reading beforehand to make sure you want to see them.

Luxury Hotels in Saigon / Ho Chi Min

Ho Chi Min post office VietNam
A local business man checks his phone at the Ho Chi Min post office

Finally it’s hard to experience the Graham Greene version of Saigon, Vietnam, as so much has changed, but I think we made the right choice when exhausted after our few days exploring all the other sights the guides recommend, we relocated for a last night of luxury at the Hotel Continental, one of the first hotels built in the city and where Greene stayed and set much of his book: The Quiet American.

The rooms and service were wonderfully typical of grand Asian hotels, but the architecture and the marble halls of the reception areas really made the stay authentic, not to mention the pastries and coffee at Givrals, another Greene institution just across the road.

Like so many places with a reasonably recent turbulent history Ho Chi Minh City is an amazingly vibrant place to visit but its architecture and wide streets and hidden treasures do allow you to capture the magical essence of the old Saigon.”

About the Author: Nick is the founder of Selective Asia. He was lucky enough to turn his life’s biggest passion – travel, into a full time job and has never looked back. Nick uses every opportunity he gets to explore the world’s exotic wonders.

His travels took him from the deserts of Namibia to Canadian Arctic, but his real passion has always been Asia. He’s travelled through Laos, Burma, Borneo, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Cambodia. He returns from every journey with a heavy heart but full of memories and inspirations.

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