More modern than other Vietnamese cities, Ho Chi Minh City has also retained its French colonial influences. Its vibrancy is maintained by the ever-entrepreneurial Saigonese who have taken the Government reforms to heart and re-embraced the capitalist ethic with unrestrained enthusiasm. The streets are jam-packed with mopeds and scooters, often carrying whole families. The markets are chaotically busy. There is a lot to see in Ho Chi Minh City. The colorful Emperor of Jade Pagoda is an excellent example of a Chinese temple. Inside, there are elaborate woodcarvings decorated with gilded characters and sculptures depicting local deities. The hustle and bustle of trading is best observed in the markets of Cholon, the ancient Chinese quarter. The Hôtel de Ville is a wonderful example of French colonial architecture. The twin towers of Notre Dame Cathedral have been a familiar landmark in Ho Chi Minh City since the 1880s. The War Remnants Museum bears witness to the suffering inflicted on the Vietnamese people during the Vietnam War in the 1960s and 1970s. Other sites relevant to that era are Re-Unification Hall and the former US Embassy. An interesting excursion from Saigon is a visit to the Cu Chi Tunnels in which the South Vietnamese Communists concealed themselves and from which they launched attacks on US soldiers.
Northwest of Ho Chi Minh City, Tay Ninh is an interesting destination as it is the home of the Caodai religion. This is a purely Vietnamese sect formed this century which takes teachings and precepts from most of the world’s major religions. Tay Ninh is the site of the largest Caodaist temple in Vietnam. This structure is colorful and unique.
South of Ho Chi Minh city are the flat, verdant planes of the Mekong Delta where much of Vietnam’s rice crop is grown. There are several towns in this region from which the visitor can take boat trips on the many tributaries of the Mekong.