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SAIGON On the go

Named after the late President Ho Chi Minh after the nation was reunified in 1975, this city is the locomotive of national development. Its 300-year history is dwarfed by the more stately 1000 years of the capital Ha Noi, but this youthfulness perhaps is manifest in the fact that the city seems perennially on the fast track. Busy and noisy both day and night, HCM City nevertheless still shows why it was once known as The Pearl of the Orient.

FAST FACTS

  • Area: 2090 sq km
  • Population: 5.1 million
  • Tel.code: 08
  • Geography: 1730 km south of Vietnam’s capital Hanoi, and 50 km from the Eastern sea, Saigon, or Ho Chi Minh City as it is more popularly known, is Vietnam’s largest city with 17 urban and five suburban districts. The Saigon river flows through the city centre and is an important trade route.
  • Climate: Saigon basically has two seasons – web and dry. The rainy season lasts from May through to November, and the dry season last from December to April. With an average temperature of 27oC, the city is a great destination for tourists all year round.
  • Lifestyle: The Saigonese are a particularly friendly people. They are considered more broad-minded than their northern counterparts, more modern but yet not quite as sophisticated as those in Hanoi.
  • Budget: Saigon has many tourist attractions, fine dining, clubs, but shopping is considered more expensive than other parts of Vietnam. A good time can be had for about $30 per day.
  • Streets: Saigon ‘s streets are either wide and long, or a maze of narrow alleys. Traffic jams are legendary. Peak hours are between 7 and 9 am and 4 and 6 pm. Shops in the city centre open at bout 9 am, but close late, after 7pm. Saigon has a more modern look with it’ s high-rise buildings and bright neon signs. Its multicultural character is also reflected in its architecture influenced by Chinese and American designs.
  • Transport: Motorbike taxi (xe om) is the best way to get about. Taxis are also very reliable and flagfall is VND 6000/km, cheaper than in the north.
  • Cuisine: Saigon benefits from the influence of other Asian cuisines including Chinese, Indian and Thai. Vegetables and fruits are cheap and easily found. Durians, mangoes, rambutan, avocado and the milk fruit are southern specialties. The southerners have a sweet tooth too so you’ re likely to find street food more deverse than in other parts of Vietnam. Hu Tieu or beef noodles can be found at 199 Cach Mang Thang Tam Street; A Phu rice pancakes can be found in Thanh Da district; Trang Bang spaghetti can be found at 52 Bui Vien, D.1. Crocodile meat is a specialty at Le Van Tam park.
  • Shopping: As the commercial hub of Vietnam, Saigon offers a great variety including textiles, garments, leather, footwear, processed food and handicrafts to industrial products. Saigon has a number of large trading centres, western-style malls and supermakets. Like other big cities in the world Saigon has it’s problem with petty crime. Visitors need to be alert and cautious.
  • Services: As a commercial, trade and business centre, Saigon’ s service industry is quite modern and quite deverse. Tourists are particularly well catered for.
  • Hideaway: The Saigonese are an open people who like to let their hair down more than once in a while. The city is noisy, the pace of life is quick and flow of motorbikes is ceaseless. It seems that the best way to overcome this is to go to even noisier bars and discos at night. Inevitably, the city draws frequent comparisions to Bangkok.

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