City centre, the best area to stay in Ho Chi Minh
The vibrant and active city centre is found in District 1 and is where lots of people congregate and fill the pavements up to the rim. You will no doubt see many expats and tourists arriving and wandering aimlessly in the area, which is always a very good sign as you know it is a popular place with like-minded people to meet.
The city centre is the perfect place to stay in due to the majority of the city’s landmarks being located here, which includes the Reunification Palace, which has been left untouched since the city fell to the North back in the 70s and there are guided tours around the grounds and the building itself. The tour takes you around the recreation room, daunting basement and many other rooms, which display vintage radios, office equipment and other items as well as a photo gallery and propaganda film that depicts the failure of the South Vietnamese army along with the American forces. Another highly recommended tourist attraction is the War Remnants Museum, which is only a stone’s throw away from the Reunification Palace and the museum tells the story from the beginning of the war with many detailed exhibitions that certainly take the Communism side. However, most things are idolised on how cruel men can be to one another as you will be able to see torture techniques, gruesome photos of people that died a horrific death or have been deformed in some way. Other floors tell the story from various war journalists’ perspectives and there are many US military equipment and transportation on show including tanks, jets, helicopters, weapons and much more. For religious buildings the best to explore are the Notre Dame Cathedral, which was built in the late 19th century and is one of only a few handful remaining strongholds of Catholicism in this largely Buddhist country. The main highlights of the cathedral include the height of it at 60 metres tall as well as the red bricks that were sent over from France, which was built in a neo-Romanesque style. Other religious sites to note are the Central Mosque and the best day to see it is on Friday’s, when people from all around the city, country and other countries come to pray here. It is a huge building with stone floors and was built in 1935 and has excellent views from the balcony on the 2nd floor. There are also various pagodas dotted around the city centre, the best of which include the Thien Hau and Quan Am as they are some of the oldest and most respected in the city.
Another popular museum to check out is the Ho Ch Minh Museum, which showcases the life story of the ex-leader, Ho Chi Minh, with various items and objects that have been collected through his years. The best place to go shopping is the legendary Ben Thanh Market, which is a sprawling and busy area that is full of stalls that sell food, handicrafts, art and lots more. Another good place to shop is the Saigon Square, where you will find similar items and objects as Ben Thanh Market but has air conditioning, which is a godsend.
If you are looking for something cheap and tasty then there are plenty of places to eat at around the Ben Thanh Market, though for more upmarket restaurants try the area around the palace. The area around Pham Ngu Lao is the ideal area for drinks as there are hundreds of bars and clubs to pick from, which satisfy anyone’s preferences. The city centre is riddled with accommodation and therefore prices are reasonably cheap with hotels being some of the worst as well as some of the best in the country.