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Ho Chi Minh City – Saigon

Ho Chi Minh City – Saigon
Attractions
Ho Chi Minh City has many attractions such as Ho Chi Minh Museum, Cu Chi Tunnels, Dam Sen Park. You can also find many ancient sights and architecture dating back to 300 years of its history combining Vietnamese, Chinese, and European influence.

One of the most historical and prominent as it relates to European influenced structures is the Reunification Palace. It was formerly known as Independence Palace and was built as the home and workplace for the President of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. When the Fall of Saigon occurred on April 30, 1975, it was the official place of a power handover.

A historic hotel of note is the Hotel Majestic which dates from the French colonial era. In 1925, this historic hotel was originally built of local Chinese businessman Hui Bon Hoa. Over the years the hotel changed many names so that it could remove any American or French influences that tainted Vietnam for its time. This was especially true during the infamous Fall of Saigon when it suddenly became a governmental guest house. Today it is one of the best 5-star hotels in Ho Chi Minh City that overlooks the Saigon River.

Ho Chi Minh City is one of the many cities in Southeast Asia to have an active nightlife. In fact, it has recently become one of the hippest towns in the area. Besides its numerous cinemas and theaters, you can also find an array of bars and nightclubs to party the night away. In addition, there is the bia hoi stands or street-side beer stalls that are not only cheap and affordable but also offer a chance to rub elbows with the locals as well as sample local cuisine.

Transportation
Ho Chi Minh City is the main artery for basically all forms of transportation systems for both domestic and foreign travel. You can take city buses around Ho Chi Minh City. In addition, it is also possible to take open-tour buses that sell tickets costing $5 - $10 around the city, depending on the bus company you use.

If you plan on traveling around by car or motorbike, you can arrange for a car rental at any tourist café, travel agent or hotel in which you will be driven around as if you were in a taxi. For motorbikes, you can rent them for at least $10 per day, especially if you plan to take one out of the city limits.

The Thong Nhat express train goes from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi. Some trains also serve coastal cities north of Ho Chi Minh City. As for boats, you can take one called a Hydrofoil which departs almost hourly from the area Bach Dang to Vung Tau.

The Tan Son Nhat International Airport is at least 7km from the center of the city and is one of the biggest airports for air travel. If you want to take some domestic flights, you can take Vietnam Airlines or the cheaper Vietjet Air or Bamboo Air.

Climate
The weather in Ho Chi Minh City is usually hot and humid (tropical climate of 75% humidity) with a rainy season from May to November and a dry season from December to April. During the rainy season, the city can get an average rainfall of up to 71 inches annually. The average temperature for this city is at least 28°C or 82°F with the highest temperature reaching at least 39°C or 102°F.

Named after the legendary Ho Chi Minh City who was born in 1890, Ho Chi Minh City is one of the cosmopolitan cities of Vietnam. Also known as Thanh Pho Ho Chi Minh by the locals, Ho Chi Minh City formerly known, as Saigon is really Vietnam 's largest city in terms of size. Ho Chi Minh City is located in the Mekong Delta and is inhabited by more than 9 Million people.

You quite don't need a reason to visit Ho Chi Minh City, do you? Its date with history and active participation during the French invasion and; of course, the Vietnam War is more than enough to get you here. Below mentioned are places you should see when you visit Ho Chi Minh City.

Reunification place, also known as Dinh Thong Nhat is one big attraction in Ho Chi Minh City. This was the place where the South Vietnamese used to plot the downfall of the North Vietnamese guerillas. Locals say that huge and powerful North Vietnamese tanks broke open the gates of this monument when Saigon fell in 1976.

Notre Dame Cathedral – This is one of the French masterpieces, constructed by the French in the 19 th century. This cathedral was granted the status of a basilica in 1962. Recently in 2005, a lot of people reported that Virgin Mary cried and tears were seen rolling down her eyes from the statue. Authorities though refuted these claims quickly.

Museums, Museums and more – One thing you would surely find in Ho Chi Minh City are museums. The Ho Chi Minh City Museum, the War Remnants Museum, and the Museum of Vietnamese History are some of the popular ones here in Ho Chi Minh City.

The average humidity reported in Ho Chi Minh City is about 75%. Known for its tropical climate, Ho Chi Minh City averages a high of about 32 degree Celsius throughout the year. The equanimity in temperature is due to its proximity to the South China Sea. Winds blowing from the South China Sea moderate the temperature of Ho Chi Minh City.

It rains quite a bit here. In fact, locals say it rains for about 150 days in a year with an average of 12 mm rain recorded daily. The reason for you to cheer is that it rains between May and November, so you could have a rain-free trip, should you plan one between December and April.

Acknowledged as one of the important cities of Vietnam from the economic standpoint, Ho Chi Minh City lives up to its reputation with an excellent Gross Domestic Product performance. As per statistics, the GDP contribution of Ho Chi Minh City was $14.3 Billion, 20% of the country's GDP. Tourism statistics are pretty encouraging as well, with about 3 Million visitors visiting the city. Don't be surprised to know that 70% of the visitors, who came to Vietnam, visited Ho Chi Minh City.

Travel about 4 miles north from the city center, and you would reach the Tan Son Nhat International Airport. This airport is well connected to all major cities of the world with daily flights and tourists can use Vietnam e-visa or visa on arrival at the airport easily.

The roads of Ho Chi Minh City, especially the streets of this city are completely inhospitable. Full with potholes, be sure to get a definite backache when you ride through them. The main roads though are in a much better condition. Any rules and regulations followed while driving! No way, as you would find motorbikes zipping around from any direction you could imagine. By the way, Ho Chi Minh City is also known as the City of Motorbikes!

You could ride on the city buses, a much safer option if you wish to get around Ho Chi Minh City. The average fare of these buses would be approximately 3000 VND, and would take you to your destination rather safely, unlike motorbikes.

Ho Chi Minh City though is one place from where you could go to almost anywhere in Vietnam. Being the main stop of the North South rail link, it will get you connected with Hanoi if you wish. Ho Chi Minh City is definitely one place you would not wish to miss visiting when you are in Vietnam. This place offers you a classic combination of a date with history along with modern entertainment!

Ho Chi Minh City is located in the center of the Mekong Delta and is the largest city in Vietnam. It is a scientific, technological, industrial, and tourist center. It was also known as the city of Saigon and became the capital of the French colony and then later merged with the province of Gia Dinh. It is situated on the banks of the Saigon River with a population of at least 9 million people or more in the surrounding metropolitan areas as well as inside the city.

Transportation to Vietnam

Transportation to Vietnam
Transportation in Vietnam is very convenience. The main mode of transportation is that of the motorbike, motorbikes are also popular and are used for transport to and from work for most Vietnamese. Besides, the main source of transportation in Vietnam for goods is by boat, by train, by bus, and by plane.

By Plane
Let’s talk about transportation in Vietnam, there are four international airports in total. If you want a direct flight, e. g. from the U.S. or Europe to Vietnam, you can either fly to Ho Chi Minh City (with the biggest airport, the Tan Son Nhat International Airport) or to Hanoi (with the second biggest one, the Nội Bài International Airport)and you can use Vietnam visa on arrival online without applying Vietnam visa in-advance at embassy or consulate. Alternatively, you can take a flight to China, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, South Korea, Japan or Singapore, and get a connecting flight to Vietnam. Da Nang has an International Airport (flights from/to Seoul/South Korea, Bangkok/Thailand, Singapore).

From 2010, the Can Tho Airport in South Vietnam will provide international service, too (flights from/to Bangkok/Thailand, Tokyo/Japan, Phnom Penh/Cambodia).

If you buy a ticket for a flight to Vietnam in a nearby country, you might get it for half the price of a Vietnam Airlines’ flight. However, during holidays it will be hard to get a reservation. Especially during “Tet” you should make reservations in advance. You can also travel into Vietnam overland or on the waterway from one of the adjacent countries.

By Boat
boat from Cambodia:
On the banks of the Mekong, there is a river border crossing between Cambodia and Vietnam. Regular fast boats shuttle between Phnom Penh, Cambodia and Chau Doc, Vietnam, with a change at the Cambodian-Vietnamese border.

You can also cross the Cambodian-Vietnamese border on the waterway at Vinh Xuong – Kaam Samnor, which is next to Chau Doc. Boat cruises between HCMC and Siem Reap are offered by the more expensive Pandaw Cruises (www.pandaw.com) and the smaller Cambodian company Toum Teav Cruises (www.cfmekong.com).

By Bus
From Laos:
If you like to travel from Hanoi to Vientiane, be aware that the trip might take 24 hours – due to shady bus drivers who stop in the middle of nowhere, trying to renegotiate the price.
Laos has six border crossings in total:

  • The most popular crossing between Laos and Vietnam is the Lao Bao – Dansavanh, 80 km west of Dong Ha. Across the border, there’s the southern Lao province of Savannakhet, where a bus runs to from Hue every other day at 6 a.m. (9 hours, US $15), passes Dong Ha (7.5 hours, US $12). The bus from Savannakhet to Vietnam leaves at 10 p.m.
  • Cau Treo – Nam Phao: If you choose this border crossing, expect the bus to be overcrowded and the journey to take 24 hours, also because the driver might stop for taking a nap.
  • Nam Can – Nong Haet: links Vinh with Phonsovan and the Plain of Jars. Buses run three times a week, on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Sundays at 6 a.m. (US$12, 11 hours).
  • Cha Lo – Na Phao: This rarely used border links Dong Hoi and Tha Khaek. Buses run twice a week between these cities.
  • Na Meo–Nam Xoi: This border connects Thanh Hoa, 153 km south of Hanoi, with Sam Neua and the popular Pathet Lao caves of Vieng Xai. You have to change several times on this trip and, on top of that, you are likely to be overcharged.
  • Boy - Attapeu: Buses from Attapeu to Pleiku depart every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 9 a.m., buses from Quy Nhon to Pakse leave four times a week (250,000 VND).

From Cambodia:
To cross the Bavet – Moc Bai border, you can take the bus, a cab or a private car. Several buses run daily between Phnom Penh and Ho Chi Minh City, departing at 8 am. (US $8).

From Thailand:
There are trains from Bangkok to Vientiane, Laos, from where you can take the bus to Hanoi.
If you want to travel from Thailand to Cambodia, you can take the train or bus from Bangkok to Aranyaprathet. Then take a motorcycle, taxi or tuk-tuk to cross the border and travel by train (12 hours) or bus (5 hours) from Battambang to Phnom Penh. From there, buses leave for Saigon.

By Train
From Europe:
You can take a train/flight from Europe to Moscow, and then travel on the Trans-Siberian Railway to Beijing.

From China:
Between China and Vietnam, there are three border crossings:

  • Youyi Huu Nghi Quan (the Friendship Pass): located at Dong Dang, 164 km northeast of Hanoi, connects Hanoi with Nanning.
  • Lao Cai – Hekou: The border town on the Vietnamese side is Lao Cai, 294 km from Hanoi. The Vietnamese train only goes until the border. You have to cross it, and take a bus in Hekou, which is 468 km south of Kunming.
  • Mong Cai – Dongxing: Mong Cai is located in the northeast of Vietnam, near Halong Bay. Border-crossing hours are in general between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. (Vietnam time). Trains leave from Beijing and Nanning to Hanoi.

From Thailand:
There are trains from Bangkok to Vientiane, Laos, from where you can take the bus to Hanoi.
If you want to travel from Thailand to Cambodia, you can take the train or bus from Bangkok to Aranyaprathet. Then take a motorcycle, taxi or tuk-tuk to cross the border and travel by train (12 hours) or bus (5 hours) from Battambang to Phnom Penh. From there, buses leave for Saigon.

Inside Vietnam:
The Reunification Express between Saigon and Hanoi stops in Nha Trang, Dieu Tri, Quang Ngai, Da Nang, Hué, Dong Hoi, Vinh, Thanh Hoa and Ninh Binh.

By Car/Motorbike
You can travel by car or motorbike, too. Border crossing with these vehicles only works for Laos and Cambodia. Yet, the cumbrous bureaucracy will make you think twice whether you really want to do this to yourself. You need your driver’s license and an international driving permit, as well as the vehicle’s registration papers and a liability insurance. Last but not least, you will need the "carnet de passage en douane", a document for customs, serving as a duty waiver.

Travelling to Nha Trang in Vietnam

Travelling to Nha Trang in Vietnam - Nha Trang Flights
Nha Trang has its own airport (Cam Ranh Airport) which is located around 34kms from the city out in the Vietnamese countryside - it's a very quiet airport. Vietnam Airlines operate domestic shuttle flights from Nha Trang to Da Nang, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City - there are only a few flights each week to and from Da Nang so these flights can easily be booked up during the holiday season but flights are more frequent between Hanoi and Saigon. The only taxis around at the airport seemed to be pre-booked therefore if you have a booked hotel in Nha Trang it may be a good idea to get them to arrange a pick-up / transfer - which should cost around USD15. Nha Trang is also part of the Vietnamese Rail Network and is on the main line between Hanoi and Saigon and there are also long-distance buses serving the city.

Nha Trang Hotels - Restaurants - Beaches
Thebeach cityhas a very good variety of hotels in Nha Trang and many of which can be found and booked on the websiteonline- prices obviously vary according to facilities but a decent centrally located hotel double room with full breakfast should cost around USD50 to USD60. Nha Trang also has a wide range of restaurants, bars and cafes including quite a few along the main promenade.

Overlooking the South China Sea, Nha Trang is one of Vietnam's most popular beach resorts offering all types of water sports both above, under and in the sea including wind-surfing, scuba diving, sailing and water-skiing. One of the problems found on some Vietnamese beaches is that hotels have taken over areas of the beaches and these are private - Nha Trang is welcomingly different as it has a huge municipal beach along with beach-chairs, sun-umbrellas and a variety of cafes along it's 7-kilometer beach front.

At the southern end of the city is Cau Da Wharf where you can take boat trips to various nearby islands - these are easiest booked from your hotel or local travel agent. Also, from the quay at Phu Quy Pier you can take the cable car to Hon Tre Island. This cable car is the world's longest cross-sea cable-car as it travels the 3 kilometers to the island which takes around 10 minutes - there is a water/amusement park on Hon Tre Island and the cable-car ticket includes entry into this - ticket cost was USD15 for each person at the time of our visit.To the north of the city the bridge takes you over Cau Da River Estuary from where you can watch the fleets of brightly blue painted fishing boats going to and from.

The old Po Nagar Cham Temple Tower at Nha Trang - Vietnam
From the bridge looking over to the left there is also quite a nice view of the Po Nagar Towers - these are are perched on their own small hill and therefore easily reached on foot. Po Nagar Towers are open daily 06:00-18:00 and have a minimal entrance fee of around 12000 Dong. Overlooking the river, the area around the Cham Towers offers a really good view of the city and the estuary - there is a small drinks and ice-cream cafe and the area is very pleasant to sit around - however when the coach trips come in it does get very busy for a while.
Of the original towers built here by the Hindu Cham People only four towers remain - the largest and most impressive is the 25-meter-high Northern Tower (Thap Chinh) which was built in 817 by Harivarman I and dedicated to the goddess Yang Ino Po Nagar. The tower is one of Vietnam's most important Cham sites. Parts of the towers have been restored (hence the lighter color brickwork) but the lotus petals and spear-head motifs are original as is the lintel over the door. The central tower dates back to the 7th century and is dedicated to the goddess of fertility Cri Cambhu. The northwest tower is dedicated to Sandhakar and has a typical Cham boat shaped-roof with several half-formed statues in relief which can still be clearly seen.

Christ the King Cathedral at Nha Trang in Vietnam
This fairly large Roman Catholic cathedral is located a little way away from the beach and quite near to Nha Trang railway station. Since Nha Trang's interesting Long Son Pagoda is also nearby, you can visit both easily. The cathedral was built in the French gothic style during the 1930s. It has colonnaded cloisters lining each side and the cathedral is dominated by a tall square clock-tower which houses three bels - these bells were cast in France in 1786.

The Long Son Buddhist Pagoda at Nha Trang, Vietnam
When viewed from the road the entrance to Long Son Pagoda resembles a building site what with its scaffolding and also amazing series of phone and electricity cables all over the place looking like giant spiders’ webs - don't be put off though as once inside it's really good. This is a working Buddhist pagoda and still has resident monks so it can be partially closed to visitors at various times.

The main feature is the 150 steps climb to the top where you are greeted by a very large brilliant white Buddha (Kim Than Phat To) who is seated on a pedestal topped with lotus petals. Built in the 1960s the Gautama Buddha seems to be meditating - perhaps about the fact that he is 46 feet tall. Further down the steps you will find a reclining Buddha who is sound asleep and has a very happy smile on his face - he is overlooked by carvings of praying monks and devotees.

Long Son Pagoda is Sino - Vietnamese in style and the bell towers and shrines are set amongst trees and shrubs and along with the colorfully tiled roofs of the buildings the area is very beautifully set out. Perhaps the only nuisance at Long Son Pagoda was the rather incessant begging for money from several elderly women hanging around by the steps.

Po Klong Garai Cham Towers in Vietnam
If travelling either too or from Nha Trang and Dalat whilst on a touring holiday in Vietnam, a really enjoyable way to make the journey is by private car and driver for several reasons quite apart from pure convenience. For a start you can visit some beautiful Cham Temples on the way and then enjoy an excellent ride up into the Ngoan Muc mountains and over the Pass - fabulous scenery.

Located around 105 kilometers south of Nha Trang is the twin city of Prang Rang and Thap Cham - this is the main junction for travelers heading on the coastal north/south route in Vietnam and the main route inland to Dalat via the Pass. Close to the junction and easily reached are located the exquisite Cham Towers of Po Klong Garai - these three towers are really worth a diversion. The Towers - which are set in beautiful grounds - are open daily and are free to enter although a donation is appreciated / expected. There is a small cafe and several craft shops as well as toilet facilities at the car park.

Constructed in brick the three Cham temple towers are situated in a lovely setting on a low hill therefore getting to them involves a short climb. They were built by Champa King Jaya Simhavarman III in the 13th century. There are numerous carvings and relief's and the buildings and the engravings are in pretty good condition. There is also a statue of the Cham King Po Klong Garai whom the temples are named after and also a statue of Nandi (Shiva's Bull). In past years the bull would have been "fed" by local farmers in the hope of getting a good harvest. These days the poor bull just gets fed once a year at the time of the Cham New Year.

Source: getvietnamvisa.com

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