Saigon City Hall by Brian Snelson
Often nicknamed as the Paris of the Orient or the Pearl of the Far East, Ho Chi Minh City is next on the list of sister cities of Toronto we would like to introduce. The largest city of Vietnam (the metropolis including nearby areas is said to have nine million dwellers) is one of the newest sister cities of Toronto — it was only awarded Friendship City status in 2006, together with Quito.
Formerly known as Saigon (the term is still used for the old city centre), Ho Chi Minh City is certainly the best developed place in Vietnam and the whole Indochina region, which has been dragging the country forward for decades. The Ho Chi Minh City GDP accounts for 20 per cent of the entire Vietnamese GDP. Modern skyscraper buildings and luxurious restaurants meet traditional pagodas and stalls with delicious Vietnamese food along the roads. Visitors certainly won’t regret their decision to spend a couple of days in this vibrant city.
The best way to explore the city is to take a walking tour. Taxis are generally very cheap (you can get around the city for about two or three dollars), but rather unnecessary, since you’ll probably stay within District 1. Make sure to check out the Reunification Palace after taking a walk on Le Duan Boulevard. You will encounter a huge flock of tourists in front of its main gate, but if you have a bit more time to spend, don’t hesitate to go inside and wander from floor to floor. After seeing all the private gambling rooms and movie theaters, you might begin to understand the historic victory of the Ho Chi Minh forces.
One Pillar Pagoda
by Dennis Jarvis
Make Ben Thanh Market your next destination. All kinds of goods can be found here, and hanging around the place for a while could give you a sense of modern Vietnam. Traditional food and merchandise is mixed with exported stacks of goods, which creates a unique atmosphere.
One of the most interesting parts of Saigon is definitely Cho Lon, the local Chinatown. It is one of the oldest districts of the city, and the Thai market that you can find among the overcrowded streets is a must-see. Bargaining here can easily save you up to 40 per cent!
The last tip concerns the numerous pagodas scattered around the city. They’re astoundingly beautiful and offer an outlook on traditional architecture. It’s difficult to choose which one to visit, but I can only recommend the Nghia An Hoi Pagoda on Nguyen Trai. Its lavish decoration sharply contrasts with the quiet prayers by visiting locals, and maybe you’ll even be able to steal a moment of contemplation within the rush of the city yourself.