Ho Chi Minh City, formerly named and also referred to by some Vietnamese as Saigon, is the largest city in Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh City is a city in southern Vietnam famous for the pivotal role it played in the Vietnam War. It's also known for its French colonial architecture, including Notre-Dame Basilica, made entirely of materials imported from France, and the neo-classical Saigon Central Post Office. Food stalls line the city’s streets, especially around bustling Ben Thanh Market. Modern office skyscrapers, amidst Oriental style pagodas, create a dynamic urban area in very special sense. Following the fall of Saigon in 1975, Saigon was "officially" renamed Ho Chi Minh City. However the old Saigon name is still used by both Vietnamese and foreigners, especially when referring to the most central part of the city. Ho Chi Minh City is the economic center of Vietnam and accounts for a large proportion of the economy of Vietnam. Conquered by French in 1859, the city was influenced by the French during their colonial occupation of Vietnam, and a number of classical Western-style buildings and French villas in the city reflect this.
- Today, the city's core is still adorned with wide elegant boulevards and historic French colonial buildings. The majorities of these tourist spots are located in District 1 and are a short leisurely distance from each other.
- Some of the historic hotels are the Hotel Majestic, dating from the French colonial era, and the Rex and Caravelle hotels are former hangouts for American officers and war correspondents in the 1960s/70s.
- With a tropical climate of 2 distinctive seasons: dry and wet, it's suggested that you should pay a visit to Ho Chi Minh City during the dry season, starting from December and lasting until April.
- This period of the year is known to be the hottest, with average temperature of 28 °C (82 °F). The peak is 39 °C (102 °F) around noon time in late April, while the lowest may fall below 16 °C (61 °F) in the early mornings of late December.
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Best time to visit the tropical Ho Chi Minh City is in the dry season, which runs from December through to April. During the wet season, May to November, there are frequent tropical storms, though these won’t disrupt your travels too much. Humidity is moderate in December and begins to decrease from January to April. Hence, if travelling during this period, foreign travellers can escape from the normal sticky weather of Saigon.
In term of activity, this is surely an attractive occasion as tourists can celebrate Christmas and New Year explosively with local people here (see How Vietnamese celebrate Christmas). From Christmas until New Year, streets and hotels in city center are filled with colorful decorations, people hanging out and grand sales happening at all kinds of shops (including those in upper ranges). During Lunar New Year (around late-January and mid-February), many stores will be closed and air tickets will be fully booked just before it, so plan your trip accordingly. Otherwise it is a great opportunity to see how Vietnamese enjoy their own “Tet” Festival.