Formerly known as Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City was renamed for the revolutionary leader who oversaw a communist victory during the Vietnam War. The country’s largest city, Ho Chi Minh City is a thoroughly unique city, steeped in years of history. Having played a particularly prominent role in the Vietnam War, the shadow of the conflict is clear in the city’s character.
Ben Thanh Market
Dating back to French rule, Ben Thanh Market was a major part of life in the city under French Colonial rule. Dating back to the early 17th Century, the market is one of the oldest surviving complexes from Saigon. Its resilience and cultural importance has seen it develop into an enduring icon of modern-day Ho Chi Minh City. The market has become one of the city’s most popular tourist destinations, both as one of the best places to experience authentic Vietnamese cuisine but also as a retailing outlet for a local goods such as textiles and traditional garments.
Arguably the city’s most famous landmark, the Reunification Palace is a major historical and cultural site in Vietnamese history. The former headquarters of the capitalist South Vietnamese government, it played a pivotal role in the Fall of Saigon in 1975 as North Vietnamese forces seized control, crashing a tank through the gates and signifying a Communist victory in the war. In the years since, the Palace has been converted into a museum which celebrates the country’s recent history.
Cu Chi Tunnels
One of the country’s most prominent and eerie tourist sites, the Cu Chi Tunnels are a vast tunnel network, which were instrumental to the Viet Cong’s victory in the Vietnam War. Serving as the army’s main base of operations, these tunnels were used as hiding spots, supply routes, weapons depots and even living quarters for soldiers who resisted and eventually repelled the much better funded American military. The tunnels have been preserved in the decades following the conflict and remain a popular tourist site. For those interested, visitors can fire a number of military-grade weapons such as AK-47’s and M60’s.
War Remnants Museum
One of the most popular museums in the country, the War Remnants Museum is a virtually propagandist celebration of Vietnamese military heroics against colonial and American powers. In addition to the wealth of weaponry displays, the museum has a decidedly anti-American and anti-French narrative. Its collection is highly impressive and the museum gives an insight into the country’s military identity.
Notre Dame Cathedral
The city’s most enduring French colonial relic, the Notre Dame Cathedral dates back to the late 19th Century. Built from exclusively French materials imported by its designers, the Cathedral is one of the city’s most beautiful buildings, standing out from the city’s more modern buildings.
main image: courtesy of Falco Ermert, Flickr Creative Commons