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  • Writer's pictureDeb Smithers

Sights of Ho Chi Minh

A day in this big city.

As you could well imagine, there are so many things to see while visiting Ho Chi Minh City and being that my time to stay was only a few days here are just a few things to experience while visiting the largest city in Vietnam, this city of 3.4 million people.

Firstly, after arriving in the country late in the evening and navigating my way through customs, the visa process, and finding the accommodation, the next day I almost felt hesitant to even leave the hotel as it all just felt so daunting. There are many people and so much going on. It felt incredibly busy, fast, and chaotic, with so much happening in every direction I turned and my best initial description would be best summed up in two words, sensory overload.

My first decision was to take a walk around town and ease myself into the city. I had read that close by was a beautiful park with many significant things to see. After being offered a ride by motorbike at least 20 times in the first 10 minutes of walking the street I finally found the welcome relief of Tao Dan Cultural Park.

The park is characterized by its rich greenery and a display of spring flowers before the Chinese New Year. It is filled with so many things to see from cultural exhibits, statues, monuments, and old significant tombs throughout the park to a small, picturesque replica of Nha Trang's Cham tower which decorates its center.

It is an area within this busy city for children to play and also a place for people to come to exercise, meditate, dance, and practice their morning routines with designated areas filled with mobility and fitness equipment. It is well worth a visit for its beauty and peacefulness. I still found it hard to imagine such a quiet, still place of solitude in the middle of this fast, populated bustling city.

After a stop at the Notre Dame Cathedral, which unfortunately on this day it was under renovation, it was still magnificent to see this wonderful gothic building from the outside. Situated just across the street the Sai Gon central Post office and is a must-see destination for anyone visiting Ho Chi Minh. It is one of the oldest and yet most iconic buildings in the city, built around 1886-1891. It is a blend of neo-classical European architecture and Asian decorations. Inside the building, the ceilings resemble a large wine barrel paved with beautiful cream tiles and the main entry is dressed in a magnificent portrait of Uncle Ho.

The sides of the building are depicted with two meticulously hand-painted historical maps that are stunning and to add to the charm kept within are all the old mailboxes and telephone booths from that era. Arriving there is easy, catching a local bus from Ben Thanh bus station would cost you as little as $2 US. Entrance is free and is open 6 am to 10 pm.

So, why not send a handwritten letter or postcode home from one of Ho Chi Minh's oldest and most beautiful landmarks?

The next stop on this day's itinerary was the Ben Thou market which is located in the middle of the city and is just one of the earliest surviving structures of the city. The day market operates from 6 am to 6 pm where it then transitions into the night market till 10 pm

The market is huge, to say the least, and consists of over 2000 booths and small businesses selling everything you could imagine from consumables to luxury goods. The southern gate is designated to sell clothing, shoes, textiles, and clothing. The northern gate is for fruits, veg and fish, and meat. There is an abundance of food vendors that sell common traditional dishes like Pho, Bun bo hue, Broken rice, and Bahn Beo just to name a few. It's a foodie's wonderland and the most difficult part was trying to decide which dish to try first. My first choice of course had to be the Pho and sure enough, it was as good as I had been told. There is nothing I enjoy more than tasting the local food when visiting different places. The east side of the market offers edible packaged goods like roasted nuts, coffee, dried seafood, sauces, and spices that seem to stretch as far as the eye can see. The last is the west gate which is mainly designated for traditional arts and ceramics.

After 6 pm it becomes the night market the vendors set up their stalls down the two main streets with many lights, and little dining areas, which fondly enough consists of hundreds of little colored plastic tables and chairs lining the streets. I found the market to be a great experience both day and night with so much to learn and take in. The shopping and the variety are great and with an amazing array of local cuisine to experience.

On day two my Itinerary will be that of a visit to the Remembrance Palace, the War Remnant Museum and the Women of War Museum which I imagine will take a full day in itself. There is so much history in Vietnam and in Ho Chi Minh and I now imagine even with a week's visit it would be hard to tick off everything on my list of things to see. After starting the day hesitant to leave the hotel, by the end of the day, I already felt somewhat at ease with the locals being so helpful and fun. Navigating around the city from place to place by motorbike, bus, or walking was relatively easy and definitely very safe for the solo inexperienced traveler

Vietnam, it is the end of day one and you have me mesmerized already!


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