Once known as Saigon, the Vietnamese metropolis of Ho Chi Minh City is a major hub of activity, drawing on Asian and Western traditions alike to create its own unique culture. This exciting hub is a great place to visit during a shore excursion on an Asian cruise.
A great way to be introduced to the culture of Vietnam is to visit the National Museum of Vietnamese History. Housed in a building originally erected by French colonists, this facility is home to a wide array of artifacts from every era of the country's history. Whether you want to see prehistoric tools and art, relics from Ham tombs or statues from the nation's Buddhist traditions, this museum has something that will appeal to you.
As is befitting Ho Chi Minh City's status as a major trading center, some of its most popular attractions are markets and shopping districts. One of the most important bazaars is the Ben Thanh Market, a cluster of busy shops and narrow aisles where you can find everything from colorful scarves and wooden souvenirs to authentic cuisine and fruit vendors. If you want to shop in a more Western atmosphere, head to Dong Khoi Street, which is lined with stores selling jewelry, ceramics, antiques, silks and even furniture. This destination also has plenty of places to grab a bite to eat, making it a perfect place to spend an afternoon.
To experience the blend of cultures that make Ho Chi Minh City one of Southeast Asia's biggest melting pots, you can visit Notre Dame Cathedral, a soaring basilica built by the French in the 19th century. Alternatively, you can pay a visit to Cholon, the city's Chinatown. Here, you can sample ethnic cuisine, pray at a temple or buy jade and medicine at a traditional shop.
Vietnam is well-known around the world for the conflict that occurred there in the 1960s and 70s, and you can see one of the most important sites related to the war at the Reunification Palace. This building was the seat of power for the president of South Vietnam, and the war officially drew to a close when North Vietnamese soldiers drove a tank through its front gate. Meanwhile, you can also visit the Cu Chi Tunnels, an underground network of wartime passageways that have been converted into a museum.