Located near the Mekong River, Ho Chi Minh City is the largest and most exciting city in Vietnam. With a population now almost 8 million people, it’s one of the densest urban areas in the world and it’s common to see houses where several families share the same living space. For a foreigner, visiting Ho Chi Minh is a real experience! It’s a vibrant and an in transition city. Unlike other cities in Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh is also very active at night, with many bars and restaurants to entertain you!
Saigon or Ho Chi Minh City ? The first used to be the capital of the French colony and the latter – the former state of South Vietnam until the end of the war in 1975. Yet the locals still lovingly call it Saigon. Upon arrival, you’ll immediately be plunged into a lively street atmosphere, cadenced by over 3 million motorcycles, racing along sidewalks dotted with colourful fruit stalls.
Ho Chi Minh did not escape the war but it’s now a rapidly growing city. The nation’s economic heart has embarked onto important urban and education developments. Some 50 universities and colleges attract over 300,000 students! You will also find dozens of supermarket chains, luxury shopping malls and modern fashion centres. But Ho Chi Minh is also a city with a rich past! Heavily influenced by the French in terms of culture and style in the past, there are still elegant boulevards and historic colonial buildings. Commander-in-chief Bonard decided to build a wooden church in 1863 which was shortly attacked by termites.
In 1876, South Vietnam Admiral Duperré organized a design competition for the new church which is today’s Saigon Notre Dame Basilica and architecture J. Bourad won the competition and then was responsible for the construction of the church as well. In 11th April 1880, the official inaugural ceremony took place. 15 years after, the very most unique features of the Church – the two 60-meter high bronze bell towers were then added in to magnify the Church’s beauty. As one may not know, the Notre Dame was the harmonious combination of Roman architecture and the late medieval Gothic features. Until now, the Church still remains its untouched state due to special bricks which were designed and created originally in French and directly transported to Vietnam. Notre Dame Cathedral Saigon is now becoming a popular gathering spot for young generations in Ho Chi Minh and it is considered the idiosyncratic symbol when people first think of Saigon.