Saigon, A City Of Mystery and Excitement

We often think of Saigon based on old movies we've seen "Good Morning Vietnam!" or other TV shows. But modern day Saigon, or Ho Chi Mihn City, as it is now called, is really a giant megatropolis.

The metropolitan area, which consists of the Hồ Chí Minh City metropolitan area, Thủ Dầu Một, Dĩ An, Biên Hòa and surrounding towns, is populated by more than 9 million people,   making it the most populous metropolitan area in Vietnam and the countries of the former French Indochina.

Saigon is made up of a hodgepodge of old decaying French Colonial building, crudely constructed cement block homes and modern day skyscrapers, as illustrated in this picture.  Crowded (I use that term lightly) to the max with every spare inch turned into living, or work space, it is as much despotic as it is exotic.

The Greater Ho Chi Minh City Metropolitan Area, a metropolitan area covering most parts of Đông Nam Bộ plus Tiền Giang and Long An provinces under planning will have an area of 30,000 square kilometers with a population of 20 million inhabitants by 2020.

According to the Mercer Human Resource Consulting, Economist Intelligence Unit and ECA International, Ho Chi Minh City is ranked 132 on the list of world's most expensive cities. (

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Hung Kings Festival

DSC_4902Every year, on the The Hung King Temple Festival is held from 8th to the 11th days of the third lunar month. Vietnam celebrates the Hung Kings in a National Festival which is also a legal holiday. Many businesses and schools are closed on this day.

This festival is the most importatnt celebration as it symbolizes the birth of the Vietnamese nation and people. ( MORE )



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I’ll Be Back

I just couldn't resist it! After several trip to Ho Chi Minh City I decided to make just one more trip. Except this one is permanent! I am now living in Ho Chi Minh City and lovin every hot humid day of it.
But even as much as I love it, you just have to take a break from the heat and bustle of the city and it's 8 million motobikes. So off we went to a trip to Dat Lac province, one of the largest areas of coffee growing in Vietnam. The air is definitely cooler and less humid during the dry season, but from what I've been told the rainy season is nothing but rain, rain and more rain,

It just happens to be Tet, the Lunar New Year and it is celebrated throughout the country for 3 days. People take several weeks off from work and leave the city, as we did to visit their hometown

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Hero of Gia Dinh

On the corner of the busy intersection of Dinh Tien Hoang and Phan Dang Luu in Binh Thanh district, sits an unassuming park and small pagoda. The one thing that set this one apart from the others was the two sarcophagus placed before the entrance to the pagoda. They were the sarcophagus of General LeVan Duyet who was instrumental in putting down the Tay Son rebellion in 1801.


This was no mere rebellion, but a complete takeover of Vietnam by a group of rebels, who had originally rebelled against the Nguyen lords because of being dissatisfied with the way they were treated. Ironically, their defeat was brought on partly because of the way they treated the people under their rule. Gen. Duyet was promoted to the position on Viceroy of the southern lower third of Vietnam. He was cionsidered a strict, authoritorian ruler, however the people felt he was also a fair ruler. Under his guidance, he brought about a great deal of prosperity to Gia Dinh (Saigon) and,  also protecting religious minorities at the time. This conflicted with the Emperors own Confucious upbringing and that along with the fact that Duyet often opposed the Emperor in other areas brought disfavor to his position. After Duyet died, the Emperor defiled his tomb by ordering that it be given 30 lashes. This so enraged his adopted son, that he started a rebellion. After the Emperor was overthrown, the new Emperor restored the position of Duyet. His tomb remained a shrine but suffered decline during the first part of the Communist rule because of his support for the French in Vietnam's early years. However, the Communist Government decided to begin restoration of the tomb and it is now open to the public for daily prayers.

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Citadel of Gia Dinh

Last remaining section of the Citadel of Gia Dinh (Saigon)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       


The French had decided to mercilessly shell the citadel of Gia Dinh. After easily destroying the river barricades and shelling the southeast corner of the Citadel, where most of the Imperial Army’s

cannons had been set up, 500 french troops stormed the Citadel which was protected by just 1,000 Vietnamese soldiers from the Nguyen Empire.

Unfortunately, due to the superiority of the French bombardment, reinforcements could not make it to the citadel to help defend Gia Dinh, now known as Sai Gon. The French, however, did not have the manpower or resources to defend the Citadel for a long period of time, so they decided to blow the Citadel into as many pieces as possible with over 33 kegs of gunpowder. It was said that the fire was so fierce that it smoldered for three years.

This was the second time that the Citadel had been destroyed. The first, which was built in 1790, was dismantled by the Emperor Minh Mang.  The adopted son of Le Van Duyet, had rebelled against the Emperor and had captured the Citadel along with much of the southern provinces in 1833. The emperor had decided to dismantle the Citadel as retribution for the rebellion. He then rebuilt the Citadel but with less fortifications so that it could be easily defeated in the case of another rebellion. Unfortunately, this was to be the death knell of the Citadel, as it was easily destroyed by the French in 1859.

Only a small section of the gate still exists today and can be found not far from the tomb of Saigon’s most revered Governor, Le Van Duyet.

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Home Stay in Ho Chi Mihn City

When you go on vacation, you don’t want to look forward to living out of a suitcase especially if you are staying in one place for more than a couple of days. The thought of having to get ready to go out, just to get coffee and breakfast is a disruption to many persons daily routine.  Wouldn’t it be better to just roll out of bed in the morning and find a hot cup of coffee and breakfast waiting for you, while you’re still in your PJ’s or bath robe?

The way to do this is to arrange a Home Stay in the city you are visiting. There are many different types of accommodations calling themselves home stays, but a true home stay is one in which you stay in an actual home with the family that lives there.

I had one such experience with Xuan Binh Ngo of Ho Chi Mihn City, Vietnam. She has a 5 bedroom home located half way between the airport and the city center (what was once calledHome stay in Saigon

Saigon) in the Binh Thanh District. The rooms were twice the size of a hotel room as were the bathrooms, which included a huge Jacuzzi, and by huge I mean that I can sit in and I am 6’4″ tall! There is also room for your partner. The bed was a comfortable king sized bed which can easily accommodate 2 large sized westerners. There is also a small office area, with ample lighting from large bay windows just above the desk area, adjoining the bedroom separated by a bookshelf divider. This is where I am writing this article from. Most hotels would classify these conditions as a 3-5 star stay. I would classify it much higher, with the added benefit of it being much cheaper!

One of several features of staying in someone’s home instead of a hotel is eating with the host family. The food is fresh and home cooked. It is also cooked in the traditional Vietnamese style. If eating traditional Vietnamese food is not to your liking, she can recommend and even take you to one of several restaurants that serve a more western style menu.

The families will sometimes arrange tours for you, or take you themselves.  In the case of staying with Binh, there was the added advantage of her speaking English fluently and being acutely aware of the local culture.  Having a native speaker with you has the advantage when trying to haggle for items in the local markets as there are 2 different prices, one for locals and one for tourists.

Most hotels which offer the same type of room as a home stay are usually on busy streets; hence if you are located in the front of the hotel on a lower floor, the noise from the streets below will be a constant irritant. Most homes are located in one of Saigon’s numerous allies. It may seem strange to us to go down a long alley and come to a home, or even to see a small café tucked into the back of an alley, but there is a whole other world living back there, the real Saigon.

Binh’s home stay rooms are available for short weekends to longer stay up to a month or more. To reserve a room, send an email to or give her a call at  +84908996996

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Vietnam’s new logo a Timeless Charm

Vietnam, Timeless Charm Logo

“Vietnam-Timeless Charm” and the five colourful petal lotus have been approved to be the country’s new tagline and logo of National Tourism Promotion program for this year until 2020.

The slogan “Vietnam-Timeless Charm” was given the go ahead by the Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism, stating that the slogan resembles the diversity of tourist products in Vietnam.

Designed by Artist Tran Hoai Duc, the inspiration of using the lotus was to symbolize the beauty of Vietnam and its people.

The five petals, each a different color, symbolize the charm and development of Viet Nam tourism.

The colors of the lotus symbolize diversity of tourist products, blue for the sea and island tourism, green for eco and natural tourism and pink for its hospitality.
The Vietnam National Administration for Tourism is hoping the new image and logo will add to promoting the country’s appeal to international tourists.


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Saigon, an unusual arrival

As you enter the terminal in Ho Chi Mihn City (formally Saigon) you are greeted by the plain, cold furnishings, decorations, and the drab layout of a few state run retail stores. The presence of the Vietnamese Red Star and a few Hammer and Sickles give you the distinct impression that you are in a Communist country.

Then you step outside……………

Into a whole different world, a world where there are shops and street vendors on every corner. There seemed to be more sellers than buyers. Saigon is definitely a Capitalistic society.


I arrived late at night and was greeted by Quyen friend of a friend. She and her uncle, who conveniently owned a cab, whisked me away to my hotel suite where I got some much needed rest after a grueling 28 hour trip.

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Motorbikes are company, cars a crowd


 Cars with five to seven seat are the main instigators of traffic jams and accidents in Vietnam, according to Khuat Viet Hung, head of the Department of Transport Planning and Management at the University of Transport, who tells Thanh Nien Weekly that reducing the number of large vehicles is just a first – albeit important – step in the war against traffic problems.

Thanh Nien Weekly: The government plans to limit the use of motorbikes on some streets in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. What are your opinions on the issue?

Khuat Viet Hung: I advocate the plan to monitor the use of individual vehicles, including motorbikes. The cause of all the traffic jams and traffic accidents is the saturation and incorrect usage of individual means of transport.

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New show brings Vietnam history to life for tourists


New show brings Vietnam history to life for tourists Culture Club | Viet



Vietnam’s rich and fascinating history takes centre stage at Ho Chi Minh City’s Opera House this month as a new cultural show for tourists makes its debut. ‘The Soul of Vietnam’ aims to avoid the pitfalls of many shows of its type by presenting the history of the country in a way that educates and entertains foreign visitors to the country while steering clear of cliché. The 60-minute show, produces by Me Kong Artists Company, is divided into three distinct parts. The first is a depiction of Hai Ba Trung (the Trung sisters) riding their two elephants to fight against Chinese rule; the second is a guided musical tour of the country by an actor playing ‘Moon Boy’, a popular character in Vietnamese folk literature; the third and final part will celebrate Saigonese culture.

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Luxury Travel Vietnam Offers Day Trip “Exciting Mekong Delta Gateway” to Travelers from Saigon.

Ba Dinh Dist, Hanoi — (SBWIRE) — 09/19/2011 — The Mekong Delta or Cuu Long in Vietnamese, with it rich agricultural soil, is one of the nation’s rice baskets. The surrounding area is comprised of low lying rice paddies and the rivers are bordered by dense mangroves and palms.

The tributaries of Mekong River provide a comprehensive network of canals and channels. Travel by river is the best method to explore the region at a leisurely pace as it offers opportunities to experience the truly unique Mekong River lifestyle. Cruising on the roof of a boat as the sun sets over distant coconut trees is truly remarkable experience.

Mekong Delta Gateway Day Trip starts at 8:00 am from the lobby of guests hotel in Saigon with a drive to My Tho, the capital of Tien Giang Province, 72 kms from Ho Chi Minh City (Former Saigon). Guests will take time to visit Vinh Trang pagoda, the most beautiful pagoda of the province with mixture structure of many styles.

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