Formerly known as Saigon and still referred to as such by many, Ho Chi Minh City is the largest settlement in Vietnam. It was named after a revolutionary leader who was a key figure in the country’s fight for independence and is the starting point for many of our Mekong river cruises.
An important port in the past, it is a great place to explore before boarding your ship and will offer the perfect introduction to the interesting cultures of Southeast Asia. Here are just a few of things you could get up to before sailing off up the river.
Learn The History
In a city such as Ho Chi Minh, which has a war-torn past, there is no getting away from the atrocities of the past. Whilst it may not be the most upbeat way to spend your time here, these are stories that deserve to be told and you will come to understand the strength of the local people by hearing them. The best place to start is the Ho Chi Minh City Museum, which takes you on a sensitive but detailed journey through the appalling events that happened here.
To continue your education, head to Reunification Palace. Once known as Independence Palace, it was built by Ngo Dinh Diem when the French left in 1954 to show the world how resilient the people of Vietnam are. Sadly, the beautiful building was torn down when an attempt on his life was made, but the replacement palace now tells the story of the fall of Saigon. Lastly, you can also visit the War Remnants Museum, which displays objects and images from times of conflict.
See The City From Above
No matter where you are in the city, you will be able to see the shimmering Bitexco Financial Tower looming over you. Whilst it’s an interesting structure to look at, the views are much better from the top looking down. After taking some time to explore the shops on the bottom floor, make your way up the 49th level and step out on to the viewing platform. However, if you would rather combine your bird’s eye view with some food or coffee, go one further and check out the cafe on the 50th floor.
Speaking of coffee, Ho Chi Minh (and Vietnam in general) is coffee mad. There are street sellers all over the place offering their own caffeine-rich beverage for as little as 50p a cup.
Peruse The Pagodas
Ho Chi Minh is a religious city but one which demonstrates the religious freedom granted in Vietnam by the constitution. It is the many pagodas which showcase this most, some of which are definitely worth a visit. There’s Giac Lam Pagoda, the oldest temple in the city, worshiped by Buddhists. There’s Quan Am Pagoda, one of the most popular examples, dedicated to the goddess Thien Hau and the bodhisattva (someone who has chosen to attain Buddhahood) Manjusri.
However, perhaps the most impressive is the Taoist Jade Emperor Pagoda. You can feel the spiritualism as soon as you step foot inside, with incense burning and imposing statues of various deities lining the way. The Jade Emperor himself is located in a room known as the Chamber of 10 Hells, whilst the chief of hell and goddess of mercy can also be seen depicted inside.
If you would like to know more about our Mekong river cruises, contact our friendly team today. We have itineraries available from cruise lines such as AmaWaterways, Wendy Wu and Viking River Cruises.