Chaotic, lively Ho Chi Minh City, also known as Saigon, bustles with life 24 hours a day. It is Vietnam’s largest and most populated city and was the capital of South Vietnam, until it fell to the North Vietnamese on April 30, 1975, marking the end of the Vietnam War. The images of the helicopters evacuating Americans from Saigon remain vivid in Americans’ memories.
Visitors won’t want to miss the Reunification Palace (Independence Palace), which is the former presidential palace. The highly controversial War Remnants Museum features graphic exhibits and photography slanted toward the alleged atrocities committed by U.S. troops during the Vietnam War. Also of note is Notre Dame Cathedral, built by the French, and the Hotel de Ville or City Hall, a French colonial building particularly spectacular at night, when it is illuminated. The Museum of Vietnamese History contains many of the country’s antiquities, and is surrounded by beautiful botanical gardens. The Ho Chi Minh Museum, located near the docks of Saigon, depicts the life of the President of the Democratic Republic of North Vietnam. The Thien Hau Pagoda in Cholon, Ho Chi Minh City’s Chinese neighborhood, features exquisite sculptures on the courtyard walls that surround the temple. Other lovely pagodas include Quan Am (the oldest in the city) and the Emperor Jade (Tortoise) Pagoda.
Visitor attractions in Ho Chi Minh City include motorbike tours, water park visits and Dai Nam Tourist Park located 40km (24 miles) outside of the city. The Dai Nam Tourist Park, opened in November of 2008, features the Dai Nam Van Hien Temple, a zoo, shops that sell Vietnamese arts and crafts, and both Vietnamese and Western-style restaurants. There is also a rather extraordinary man- made mountain range.