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With colourful buildings, wooden houses on stilts and busy rivers filled with fishing boats, Ho Chi Minh City is an interesting destination that’s often still known by its previous name – Saigon. Here, you’ll see cyclists darting from place to place, as ships laden with rice and coffee pass by. There are towering skyscrapers within the city centre that offer complete contrast to the rickety buildings by the water’s edge, and to the historic houses and the Presidential Palace which demonstrate 19th Century French architecture at its best. Where you dock will depend on the size of your cruise ship, and whether or not it can navigate the river. All but the largest ships travel along the Saigon River and dock close to the city centre, whilst the very largest will stop at Phu My and require a 2.5-hour shuttle into the city.
Though it’s possible to travel around Ho Chi Minh on foot, you’ll be able to explore more of the city by making use of public transport. Tourists often feel safer making use of vehicles, as Ho Chi Minh’s roads are something of a free-for-all with very few people following rules and regulations. Most people travel by bus or taxi, with cars and motorbikes both being used to get tourists and locals from A to B. Along the river, taxi boats and speedboats offer an alternative way to travel, whilst on land a more unique experience can be enjoyed aboard a cyclo, which is a tricycle where an individual passenger sits at the front. As well as travelling by motorbike taxi, you can choose to see the city on an organised motorbike tour that stops at some of the most popular tourist destinations. However you choose to travel, you’ll have dozens of attractions to choose from.
Dai Nam Tourist Park
This venue was built specifically for tourists, and consists of a wide range of attractions from a safari and open zoo to a shopping centre, cinema, theme park and water park all in one place.
The A O Show
Regularly performed at the Opera House, the A O Show is a contemporary circus show with dance, acrobatics and aerobatics. It’s set to traditional Vietnamese music, and is an hour long. Watch and you’ll learn about Ho Chi Minh’s history, as well as the hopes and dreams of the locals.
Dam Sen Water Park
As fun for adults as it is for children, this water park has a range of attractions including a space bowl, flumes and a lazy river. A giant, heated Jacuzzi is ideal for visitors that want to relax and unwind before returning to their cruise ship.
Vietnamese arts and crafts include wood carvings, silk textiles and painted ceramics, all of which are intricately detailed and very colourful. They’re the best choice for a unique and authentic souvenir. If you’re spending your time shopping, then you’ll definitely want to visit Ben Thanh Market which is a sheltered market where you’re likely to find all sorts of locally produced items alongside watches, items of jewellery and beautiful paintings.
Since the Vietnam War, propaganda posters have been sold as souvenirs. The city’s War Surplus Market stocks genuine and replica military items including clothing, Zippo lighters and collectables. Art galleries and book shops are a common find, and are usually well stocked with contemporary and antique items.
Though you’ll have no trouble finding fast food outlets in Ho Chi Minh, you will find that the city is free from the typical global chains. You’ll find a variety of international foods at restaurants, and sold from the city’s many street stands, with authentic favourites including baguette sandwiches that clearly demonstrate a strong historic French influence. Vietnamese dishes include beef soup, and omelettes filled with seafood, meat or mushrooms. Grilled pork is served with rice and vegetables is another common find.
You’ll likely want to try stews or noodles served with sweet and spicy sauces. These are sold from market stalls and in the city’s most luxurious restaurants, with the price you pay indicating the quality of food you’ll receive. It’s typical for kitchens to be open and in view of diners, ensuring that a visit to a restaurant is an experience in its own right.
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