Most travellers head from north to south in Vietnam, which can feel like the more natural path, as historic Hanoi is often more memorable than Ho Chi Minh City. However, don't discount the latter metropolis if you're looking to mix things up in modern day Vietnam. This is where you'll find some of Asia's finest hotels and swankiest shopping districts sitting alongside poignant American War memorials. There's still a slice of old Saigon in the heart of modern Ho Chi Minh, so if you're looking for a bit of classic splendour to round off your travels, head there last.
Obviously there's a lot more, this is just to get you started...
Escape into the grandeur of Ho Chi Minh City and you'll be taken back in time to 19th-century Saigon, when many European-style hotels, such as the famous Continental, were constructed. A copy of Graham Greene's Quiet American still makes an ideal accompaniment to croissants and cà phê on the Rue Catinat (Dong Khoi). The City Hall, Archbishops Palace and the huge General Post Office building, adjacent to the Notre Dame Basilica, are evocative examples of HCMC’s intricate architectural story. But the times they are a-changing, and these days you're just as likely to find yourself staring at shimmering glass shopping centres as art deco and neoclassical designs. It’s not a city that gets too sentimental when it comes to modernising!
Get up at the crack of dawn and make the most of HCMC’s cooler mornings. This is somewhat essential in southern Vietnam, where the heat and humidity intensify throughout the day. These quieter early hours are also an opportunity to acclimatise to HCMC’s famously chaotic traffic and bustle. Grab a bowl of steaming pho from a street stall and jump start your engine with a cup of sweet ca phe (Vietnamese coffee) at a hip coffee shop. If a walking breakfast isn’t your thing, tuck yourself away in one of the many cafés and restaurants that pepper this foodie-culture capital to try ‘twisted’ banh mi buns, European classics or a lavish Sunday brunch.
Once the sun sets, Ho Chi Minh City really comes alive, and there’s only one way to see, and taste, it: riding pillion on a scooter like a local. Pop on a retro helmet and hop aboard the back of the city’s most iconic form of transport - a vintage Vespa - to zip through the backstreets on an after-hours adventure through Ho Chi Minh’s hidden hotspots. Ride past bright neon lights and lively sidewalk scenes, weave through hectic traffic, and stop to sample the best local streetfood treats in the city. You’ll feel truly Saigonese for a few thrilling hours!
Embark on a journey through Vietnam’s less-visited north - lush rolling hills, remote villages and friendly locals, with a side of morning noodles in Hanoi.