Aussies Flock to Ho Chi Minh

Andrew Leeson


Ho Chi Minh City
An article in todays SMH and Age newspapers talks about how Aussies are visiting Vietnams largest city in ever increasing numbers. Maybe its because there are improved air links between Australia and the city, maybe its the fact that Vietnam is Asia’s fastest growing economy (even faster than China), or maybe its simply because its an exciting, dynamic and remarkably interesting city. Whatever the reason, Ho Chi Minh (or Saigon as its still commonly known) has grabbed the attention of Aussies, and they’re captivated. And having visited this metropolis only a few weeks ago, we can see why.


Ho Chi Minh City is big, brash and not afraid to give its visitors a good shake upon arrival. It’s not a place where you go for relaxation (unless you happen to be knocking back a few drinks in the famous Saigon, Saigon Bar overlooking the hustle and bustle below). But if you’re in for a rollercoaster ride of buzz and excitement then this city ticks the boxes. Over 10 million people (each one with a motorbike) inhabit this metropolis spread over 30,000 square kilometres. And forecasts suggest this will grow to 14 million by 2025.

The city is broken up into ‘Districts’, each one with its own character. District 1 is where most visitors settle, as it hugs the Saigon River on one side and contains many of HCMC’s major attractions within its boundaries. Whilst we’d suggest most of these are within walking distance of each other, walking is far from easy, as you constantly battle against the endless stream of motorbikes that come from every angle.

Whereas Hanoi still retains a taste of ‘old’ Vietnam, especially when it comes to locally run shops and cafes, HCMC has embraced big chains from every corner of the World, which for some is convenient, and for others maybe a little disappointing. Generally we still found it fascinating and definitely ‘different’ from many other large Asian cities.

Things to do

The city is undergoing a construction boom, with new infrastructure creating some headaches as you try and navigate its major streets. As mentioned most major attractions can be found in District 1 and provide an insight into HCMC’s recent and distant past. From the French Colonial era you’ll enjoy the Notre Dame Cathedral, which sits right next to the glorious Ho Chi Minh City Post Office Building, designed by Gustav Eiffel (yes, the same guy who designed the Tower). A short distance is another wonderful building from the era, the Opera House. The most famous temple in the city is the Jade Emperor, and for those interested in finding out more about the Vietnam War, the Reunification Palace and War Remnants Museum are a must see.

Shoppers will find plenty of diverse high end malls, but for those interested in a ‘bit of haggle’ a good starting point would be Saigon 1 Mall, before tackling the ‘in your face’ Ben Thanh Market. Here you’ll find plenty of the usual tourist items, especially handbags, jewellery and of course shirts and shoes. 

Food & Entertainment

After a long day sightseeing, you’ll be wanting to grab a bite to eat and enjoy a beverage or two. And HCMC does not disappoint in this space. There are a vast range of local street food vendors, market stalls/food courts, all the way through to top class local and international cuisine. Quality is excellent and generally the prices are very attractive, especially if you’re talking street food.

Rooftop bars have become all the rage in HCMC, and whilst reviews of them can be mixed, they do offer unbelievable views and can certainly be a great place to enjoy a few drinks and a dance. Prices in these bars can be on the high side, so it pays to take advantage of happy hours, and perhaps use them only as a starting point before heading elsewhere. For more competitive pricing and a seriously good vibe, the place to go is in and around Bui Vien Street, which is in the heart of the backpacker zone. The music is loud, the crowds a little crazy, but there’s no denying its a feast for the senses and a lot of fun.

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Andrew Leeson

Andrew Leeson

Over 20 years of experience helping people live a better life in SE Asia. Having worked in financial services in Asia I understand the challenges when moving to and living in a new country. I have travelled extensively throughout the region and experienced what SE Asia has to offer to retirees.

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