Wait, is it Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon? Ho Chi Minh is the official name, and the one that appears on maps. But the airport code is SGN, so is Saigon acceptable? Outdated? Indicative of political preference? Regional? Well, after four weeks in Vietnam, we wrapped up with five days and nights in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) aka Saigon, and noticed that in the North, this sizzling metropolis is more often referred to Ho Chi Minh City, whereas in the South (where it is located), the latter is more common.
As I mentioned, Saigon buzzes with a feeling of its own electricity. This city's energy makes Hanoi or Bangkok seem like sleepy suburbs. Mostly because of the constant buzzing and honking of scooters, and the swarms of traffic at all hours of the day...and night. Also, the city is HUGE - home to 8.2 million people just within the city limits. Fortunately for us, many of the sights, shops, museums and markets are clustered in the same inner-city districts, making them accessible either on foot, or by bus. (The latter, however, came after some serious trial and error, we got lost on the bus three times in one day!)
Anyway, while here we took one day to buy camping gear and get ready for New Zealand, which is right around the corner. After our "errands" we devoted our remaining days to museums and other sight-seeing and visited the gorgeous Reunification Palace, the brutally eye-opening yet fascinating War Remnants Museum, the bustling Ben Thanh Market, the Jade Emperor Palace (free!), and the informative and well-curated History Museum. We also took the time to explore the neighborhood around our hotel, which was removed from the tourist area and afforded us a much more authentic (and fairly-priced) look at daily life in HCMC. We particularly liked the food carts serving up bot chien, banh my and banana fritters, early-morning coffee and people watching, and wandering through the mews. This city is full of hidden gems! It also has creative and artful public space. A great city overall, and a perfect last-stop in Vietnam!