While it may not be the capital of Vietnam politically, you only need to spend a short time in Saigon to see how it the pace of change in the south is shaping the country. The largest city in the country, with over 6 million inhabitants (and over 8 if you count temporary residents), Saigon is a crowded, fast, noisy, and overwhelming place at first. Dig a little deeper, though, and you'll find there is an energy and vibrancy to the city that can be very infectious.

    Brimming with life, Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC or Saigon as the majority of its residents still call it) offers a great deal for travellers and expatriates alike. There's a great deal to see and do, and no shortage of delicious treats to eat, whether at top restaurants or equally delicious street stalls for a couple of dollars.

    The pace of change in the city is staggering - on a daily basis buildings are pulled down so newer, shinier ones can be erected in their place. In around ten years the city went from a city of 3,000,000 bicycles to 5,000,000 motorbikes, leading the Saigon's very unique brand of traffic. Now car use is on the rise gridlock threatens to set in, but it is yet another reminder of how fast lives are changing in HCMC, and how more and more people are working their way out of poverty.

    Yet with a closer look you can find beautiful old buildings as well as striking new ones, cool, calm cafes with gardens that are set back from the road to give you a moments rest from the madness outside, relaxing spas and cool pools to swim in.

    There's also a number of great day trips that can be done from the site, whether to Tay Ninh mountain and the Cao Dai temples in the North West, the famous Cu Chi Tunnels where the resistance launched sneak attacks on the US forces based in Saigon, boat trips to Vung Tau, the Mekong Delta or to Can Gio, the huge area of mangrove swamps to the south, known as 'the lungs of the city'.

    Related Links

    Asia Life - Magazine with places to eat drink and more
    The Word HCMC - Competing magazine with a good website
    Saigon Childrens Charity - Great charity working to help the children of South Vietnam. Run the annual Saigon Cyclo Challenge event
    People's Committee of HCMC
    Chefmoz: HCMC More reviews of HCMC restaurants