Ho Chi Minh city, otherwise locally known as Saigon, is the largest city in Vietnam by population. There is a constant buzz of construction, people, and cars humming throughout the city. Some of the most popular sites in Saigon are remnants of Vietnam’s history.
While in Saigon, I opted for a cyclotour in which I rode in the back of a rickshaw around the city. The Vietnam war museum was our first stop. It is extremely humbling to be faced with the horrors that took place during the Vietnam War. Vietnam is just getting back on its feet, but many cannot forget the war torn past. As a US citizen, I found it particularly important to learn about.
Next stop was the Saigon Notre Dame Basilica. This church was built by the French when they occupied Vietnam. The design is based off the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France. Although most Vietnamese people are Buddhist, around 1% of the population is Christian.
Right across the street of the Notre Dame Basilica is the post office. This beautiful structure was also made by the French in the namesake style. As the tour guide explained, the invasion of the French was terrible but they did leave behind beautiful things.
We also made a few stops at government buildings. City hall was also made in a similar style to the post office. The independence hall represents the final surrender of south Vietnam to north Vietnam in order to become a unified country.
The final stop on the cyclotour was the Opera House. Conveniently, a woman was having a photo shoot in front of it, in the middle of the street. She looks beautiful but she was risking getting hit by a car. Not the most practical thing to be doing on a weekday.
My food experience in Saigon was excellent. We were taken to Pho 2000, where Obama and Bill Clinton ate pho (on separate occasions). I ordered Obama’s exact order, beef pho and was not disappointed.
But that was only lunch. For dinner, we went to the international food market. Vendors sold all different genres of food including Korean, American, Japanese, Italian, Vietnamese, Chinese, and Mediterranean. I went for Korean/Japanese inspired fare.
Slightly outside of Saigon is an important slice of Vietnamese history. The Củ Chi tunnels have been preserved from the Vietnam War. These intricate tunnel system was used the Viet Cong. These soldiers built whole villages underneath the ground including kitchens, bathrooms, and planning rooms. Most entrances have been expanded for tourists to enter and crawl in. While sitting at one of the tables to rest, you can enjoy a bit of what the Viet Cong would eat: green tea and tapioca root with peanuts and salt. The tour explains all the tactics the Viet Cong would use in war times. It is incredible how advanced their techniques were with little resources at their disposal.
Saigon had a lot to offer for history buffs and foodies alike. This southern Vietnamese city should be a definite stop if in the area.