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Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Formerly known as Saigon, the 'Pearl of Vietnam' is still popularly referred to by its old name, especially in the city centre. The official name change took place in 1976 following the country's reunification. Located in the south of Vietnam on a giant bend of the Saigon River, Ho Chi Minh City is the country's largest city, with a population of nearly seven million people and over one million motorbikes. Whilst Hanoi is the centre of government, Ho Chi Minh City is the nation's economic heart and most exciting city.
Long before traffic choked the city centre, Saigon had already been christened the 'Paris of Asia' for its wide boulevards graced by beautiful French Colonial villas; a distant reminder of an era under French rule.
The city is divided into two major sections: the municipal district of Saigon, and Chinatown, or 'Cholon', where the entrepreneurial talent and private funds are concentrated. 'Cholon' is Ho Chi Minh City's liveliest and most populated section. Visitors are fascinated by its bustle of activity and numerous pagodas, reputed to be the finest in the city.
Caution: Beware of pickpockets at major tourist sites.
The ship is scheduled to dock at the Saigon Port, about a half-mile (800 metres) from the city centre. Pedicabs, or 'rickshaws', and taxis are available for hire outside the port gate; be sure to agree on the fare in writing before setting out. Drivers tend to aggressively vie for your business. Yellow Cabs are metered, paid for in U.S. dollars, and the most reliable.
Most shops are centred in the area surrounding the Rex Hotel. Available handicrafts include lacquer ware, items with mother-of-pearl inlay, ceramics, embroidered articles, and local artwork. At the enormous Ben Thanh Market, everything imaginable can be found under one roof. Shopping here is truly a mind-boggling experience. The local currency is the Dong; most purchases can be paid for in U.S. dollars.
There are nearly 500 different traditional dishes. Many menus feature seafood, chicken, pork, and vegetable dishes enhanced by a unique blend of condiments and exotic sauces. All meals are served with white rice. Crisp spring rolls make for delicious appetisers. Pho is a noodle soup that is popular at all hours of the day, even breakfast. Saigon offers numerous fine dining establishments, including such restaurants as Vietnam House, Blue Ginger and Lemon Grass. Hotel restaurants serve traditional specialities as well as excellent Western-style cuisine.
The Rex Hotel, a famous hangout for American officers and journalists during the war, has regained some of its previous glory and is the central hub of the city once again. Nearby is the impressive French-era Municipal Theatre, which offers a varied programme of events, and the magnificent pastel-yellow Saigon City Hall, now the People's Committee Building.
Located at the end of Le Duan Boulevard, these 130-year-old gardens boast a lovely collection of orchids and other flowers. The small onsite zoo features a number of endangered indigenous animals, as well as other exotic exhibits from overseas.
War Crimes Museum
Photographic exhibits depict events of the Vietnam War, and the courtyard features a collection of war material that includes tanks, U.S. choppers and bombs.
For those guests interested in touring at your leisure, we are pleased to offer Silver Shore Privato - both half-day and full-day private arrangements by private car or van. You may book this in advance at Silversea.com or it may be purchased on board, subject to availability. Other private arrangements for independent sightseeing may be arranged by emailing ShoreConcierge@silversea.com.
||© 2013 by Fodor's Travel, a division of Random House, LLC.