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HOW Ho Chi Minh City is the commercial centre of Vietnam and is served by many long haul and short haul carriers, with good connections from Europe. The city is the southern terminus for Vietnam’s domestic railway.

WHAT Ho Chi Minh city (popularly still known as Saigon) is a mix of old and new, with uniquely Asian and international architectural styles. Tree-lined streets have a vaguely French atmosphere with some colonial buildings, while the high-rise buildings, glitzy showrooms and shopping malls show the city’s modern side. The city has a bewildering selection of Vietnamese and international restaurants, bars and clubs.

Highlights include Notre Dame Cathedral, built between 1877 and 1883, the Reunification Palace, the former Presidential Palace where North Vietnamese tanks crashed through the gate in 1975, the old colonial Post Office and museums such as the War Remnants Museum telling the story of the Vietnam/American War. Believed to be the oldest temple in the city, the tranquil Giac Lam pagoda dates from 1744.

The city has many gift shops as well as high-end international brands, but a favourite with visitors is Ben Thanh market which sells gifts, homeware, food, clothes etc. The bustling Binh Tay market in Chinatown is also very popular combined with a visit to the nearby incense-filled Thien Hau Pagoda.

WHEN Ho Chi Minh City has a tropical climate, so is very warm and humid year round with a rainy season from May/June to October/November with mainly short tropical downpours.

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