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Overview

Born as a trading post on the far perimeter of a great civilization, in many ways Saigon hasn't strayed from its roots. In this commercial hub of a land far away from any Anglophone culture, cash is king, though you don't need much of it. The humblest street sellers of $.25 sandwiches or tourist junk consider themselves independent entrepreneurs. Fittingly, this is the best city in the country for shopping. She is not so much a city of neighborhoods, but of streets, rivers of common commerce, such as Dong Khoi: bristling with high end shopping and dining. Bui Vien, with its intimate side streets is Backpacker Land. The short but elegant Ngo ...

Born as a trading post on the far perimeter of a great civilization, in many ways Saigon hasn't strayed from its roots. In this commercial hub of a land far away from any Anglophone culture, cash is king, though you don't need much of it. The humblest street sellers of $.25 sandwiches or tourist junk consider themselves independent entrepreneurs. Fittingly, this is the best city in the country for shopping. She is not so much a city of neighborhoods, but of streets, rivers of common commerce, such as Dong Khoi: bristling with high end shopping and dining. Bui Vien, with its intimate side streets is Backpacker Land. The short but elegant Ngo Van Nam is Gourmet Ghetto, while scruffy Nguyen Cong Tru is known for superior street food. Pagoda Alley and Whiskey Street need no explanation. Saigon is a lady with a past, and of a certain age, but when she puts on make-up and brushes her hair she bedazzles. French colonial buildings, wearing well their patina of age, face pagodas smoky with incense and resonant with chants and gongs. Passing by them is an endless parade of people, commerce, commerce and commerce. And yet for all its civilized charms and striving to modernity, it's still a long way from home. Feel the charm of distance with a drink on the roof of the Rex hotel or one of several other rooftops. Be in luxury at the art-deco Majestic hotel, yet still be off the beaten path. Be safe, secure, and walk the streets at night, yet be in the last frontier of tourism.

Richard Sterling
About the Expert

Richard Sterling is the author of Lonely Planet's World Food: Greece, Eyewitness Travel Guide Vietnam, and many other books.

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Richard Sterling for Triporati

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Now Happening in Saigon

Facts at a Glance

  • Location: Saigon, officially renamed Ho Chi Minh City, is located in South Vietnam and is the country's largest city.
  • Language: Vietnamese
  • Currency: Vietnam Dong
  • Research: Wikipedia | Wikitravel
  • Weather: Rainfall | Daylight
  • Current Time:

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    February through August