Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam
Sometimes called HCMC for short, this city at the foot of the Mekong Delta was a strategic point during the Vietnam War, and today it’s the country's economic and commercial heart. It's also a modern metropolis with a vibrant bar and restaurant scene. Smaller and midsize ships call at the Port of Saigon, which is still a drive from the city center. Larger ships dock at Phu My.
What We Love
Cyclos: These bicycle rickshaws are a great way to see the city without having to navigate the streets on your own. Sign up for a tour or flag one down —and agree on a price before getting in.
Lacquerware: Vietnamese lacquerware items can be purchased in many shops, especially around District 1. Most offer a demonstration of how lacquer is made from tree resin and applied in more than a dozen coats.
Best Known For
Independence Palace: Also known as Reunification Hall, it was here at the presidential palace that Saigon fell to the communists in 1975, when a North Vietnamese army tank rolled through the gates. The war was over.
Rex Hotel: One of the city’s classic 1920s hotels, with a roof bar that became a popular place during the Vietnam War for GIs and journalists to unwind and trade stories. It’s still a great place to have a drink and savor views of the city.
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Who It's Best For
War Buffs: The bustling city was an important location during the Vietnam War. The War Remnants Museum displays vehicles, weapons, and graphic photographs that bring home the atrocities of the conflict.
Architecture Lovers: The diverse structures here exemplify the city's long and varied history, including Hindu temples, Chinese pagodas, and French cathedrals as well as stark Soviet buildings and modern skyscrapers.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Traffic: There are few traffic lights or stop signs, and thousands of speeding motorcycles, cars, and bicycles. Crossing the main roads can seem impossible.
Long Drive: It can take hours to get between the city and your ship on the jam-packed roads, and the view is mostly industrial.
Heidi Sarna is a Singapore-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Condé Nast Traveler and USA Today.