Though Hanoi is more recognizable internationally, being that it’s the capital of the country, Ho Chi Minh City or, as it is locally known, Saigon, is the pulse and heart of Vietnam. This dazzling city, can be raucous, fast, and breathtaking, and often times quiet exhilarating. Nothing exemplifies the growth the country has seen more so than Saigon. This vibrant city has been the engine and the driving force behind the Vietnamese economic resurgence.
The city’s sky is teeming with newly built skyscrapers, traffic is bumper to bumper, two wheelers rule the road and the best food is always available around the corner, not to mention the golf courses are fantastic and economical.
When in Saigon you must:
Appreciate the French architecture, France began peddling into Vietnam’s politics in the early 19th century, colonialism was rife at the time, and the French by the late 1880’s had taken complete control of state, known to the French as Indo-China, Saigon was soon given the spotlight and was given capital status. This move saw the city go through a face-lift, with the French influence on architecture and cuisine quiet visible till this day. District 1’s sidewalks have seen many a tourist and photographers walk through the district and gaze at the Opera House, the City Hall, the Hotel Continental or the countless private French villas.
Visit Cu Chi tunnels, hours commute from the city outskirts, these tunnels are a relic of the recent past. The tight snaking tunnels are the symbol of the Vietnam, America war. These tunnels were used by the Viet Cong to evade and seek shelter from the American and Southern Vietnamese forces. Although Cu Chi section of the tunnel is only a few hundred meters in length, crawling through these tunnels for a prolonged time really does provide a perspective on how tough life must have been for those who were forced to spend weeks and days in these tunnels on end. Experience the chilling stories of booby traps and ambushes, or examine the store rooms and schools that were dug up, each story will fascinate you.
Experience the Nightlife: Pasteur street and Tai Van Lung are the best ways to sample the local night life, these are streets famous for their ‘temporary bars’, locally brewed beers, and rich street food. The locals are friendly are in large numbers here, it’s a great way to get to know the local culture and traditions. For the more impactful and high end experience, try visiting the 23rd floor bar of the Sheraton Saigon, over looking the night time city skyscrapers.
Play Golf: coming to this wonderful city and not playing a round of golf is complete sacrilege. The city and country it self shares a deep love for the sport, and its world class facilities over booked golf courses and clubhouses are a testament to its fledgling reputation. Dong Nai Golf resort is located 50 Km from Saigon, was the country’s first ever 27 hole golf course. This beautiful course is scenic view as it is tranquil with a lake backdrop, it is a pleasure to play on. Other golfing options are Long Thanh Golf Club which incorporates local rice paddies and the Saigon countryside, and the coastal Paradise golf club which offers just the right amount of fun and difficulty.
There are a number of new Saigon golf courses that have sprung up around the capital that you should try.