HO CHI MINH CITY
A chaotic, enchanting swirl of sensory stimulation - Ho Chi Minh City is a place of incense-infused temples, colonial architecture, warm people and delicious street food. Formerly known as Saigon, the city was affectionately-labelled the Pearl of the Orient by the French. Afternoons here drift by lazily on the gentle chaos of the River Saigon, as taxi boats and motor canoes flit up and down, and parks fill out with locals playing jianzi, kicking shuttlecocks back and forth.
The French colonial imprint is evidenced in the Saigon Notre Dame Basilica, which stands out with its grand double bell towers and red brick hue. Just across the road, you'll also find the celebrated Ho Chi Minh Post office, which was erroneously credited as a Gustav Eifel creation. In reality, the architect was another Frenchman, Alfred Foulhoux. The French also caffeinated this city with coffee culture, and a refreshing iced coffee, from the innumerable coffee shops, will perk you up instantly. Taste the street food to get under Ho Chi Minh City's skin, with humble restaurants serving up rich flavours - from the Vietnamese take on the baguette, a banh mi sandwich - to the local staple of pho, a delicious noodle soup.
The Tortoise pagoda is a tranquil escape and a serene place of worship for Vietnamese who practice Buddhism and Taoism, while the Vietnamese medical museum has a fascinating collection of remedies and potions - some dating back to Stone Age. Journey out to learn more of the Vietnam War at the Remnants Museum and Cu Chi tunnels. Offering a vivid glimpse of conditions, and the ingenuity and resilience of the soldiers, you'll learn of the guerrilla war campaign raged from within this claustrophobic, 70-mile network of war tunnels.