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Travel, Teach, Live in Asia

How to Visit Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
By:Edwin Thomas

Formerly known as Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City is arguably Vietnam's main tourist attraction. It rivals and perhaps eclipses the capital of Hanoi. Combining a mixture of the delights of Vietnam, the history of the war with the United States and French colonial charms all into one, it is a must-see location in Vietnam.

Go see the War Remnants Museum, formerly known as the Museum of American and Chinese War Crimes. It offers a mixture of legitimate exhibits about the American phase of the Vietnam War, and also some obviously phony propaganda.

Take in the French colonial architecture. The current City Hall is the former Hotel de Ville, a beautiful yellow-and-cream 19th-century building. There is no admittance for members of the public, but the statue of Ho Chi Minh out front is very popular for tourists, and the whole area is gorgeous when lit up by the floodlights at night.

Tour the Pagodas. The city hosts several nice examples of Chinese Buddhist/Taoist temples, such as the Thien Hau, Quan Am and Phung Son Tu Pagodas.

Take a day trip out to the Cao Dai Cathedral. Cao Dai is a peculiar Vietnamese religion that combines elements of Taoism, Buddhism, and Catholicism into one. Get ready for the truly bizarre technicolor display of the Cathedral, complete with the arrangement of the Buddha, Jesus Christ and a Taoist god.

Visit the Vietnam War historic site, the Tunnels of Chu Chi. Now converted into something of a theme park, these tunnels served as an underground headquarters for guerrillas during the war, and are now a museum on how the Viet Cong went about their business. Bring extra cash, as the Vietnamese Army operates a shooting gallery there. If you have ever wanted to fire an AK-47 or belt-fed machine gun, Chu Chi will give you the chance.

Eat the Vietnamese food. Have breakfast on a bowl of pho (noodle soup) and lunch on luc lac with plenty of chili and fish sauce--and wash it down with some of the fresh, locally brewed, no preservatives beer that is made on just about every block in town.

Go out to a French restaurant for dinner. French culinary traditions are alive and well in old Saigon, and should not be missed. This is perhaps the only place in the world where you can have a really good French meal with a nice bottle of wine for less than $30, so don't let the chance pass you by.

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