In the heart of the Mekong Delta, Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Saigon) is the second most important city, following Hanoi. It is not only a commercial centre but also a scientific, technological, industrial and tourist centre. The city is blessed with many rivers, arroyos and canals, the largest river being the Saigon River.
Saigon has been a commercial centre for many centuries. Merchants from China, Japan and European countries would sail upstream of the Saigon River to reach the islet of Pho, a trading centre. In the year of 1874, Cho Lon merged with Saigon, forming the largest city in the Indochina. It was celebrated as the Pearl of the Far East. After the reunification of the country, Saigon was officially renamed Ho Chi Minh City.
Today, Ho Chi Minh City attracts a large of visitors to Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh City has various sites including the Ho Chi Minh Museum, formerly known as Dragon House Wharf and Cu Chi Tunnels. Despite its turbulent past, Ho Chi Minh City possesses various beautiful buildings representing Vietnamese, Chinese and European cultures. These include Nha Rong (Dragon House Wharf), Quoc To Temple (National Ancestors Temple), Xa Tay (Municipal Office), Ho Chi Minh Municipal Theatre as well as many pagodas and churches (Vinh Nghiem, Giac Vien, Giac Lam, Phung Son pagodas...).
Average daily maximum temperature in
With temperatures remaining constant year round the climate of the south is split into two simple seasons, wet and dry. The dry season begins in November and ends in April/early May with late February to May being slightly hotter and with higher humidity. The wet season lasts from May to early November with the months from June to August receiving the highest rainfall of the year. Throughout much of the wet season rainfall is generally heavy but short lasting, often occurring in a mid-afternoon heavy downpour.
The average temperatures in the south range between 25 - 35°C year round.
Located a one-hour drive northwest of Ho Chi Minh City are the extraordinary Cu Chi tunnels. During the war Vietnamese guerillas built this labyrinth of narrow tunnels using them to hide during bombing raids and stage surprise attacks. The entire area of Cu Chi was designated a free fire zone and was heavily bombarded: you can still see numerous craters caused by 500 pound B52 bombs. There are over 200 kilometers of tunnels in the area, all of which were dug using only hand tools. Two sections of tunnel are open to the public and ex-Vietnamese fighters lead tours through the underground hospitals, kitchens and sleeping quarters. Visitors to Cu Chi can also fire AK47s and M16 rifles on a specially designed firing range.
The Cao Dai Sect was founded in the 1920's by Ngo Van Chieu, a Saigon civil servant and its followers believe in a combination of the Islamic, Christian, Buddhist, Taoist and Confucian faiths. The symbol of the religion is an "all-seeing eye", which dominates the altar at the Cao Dai Holy See, a colorful temple described by Graham Greene in The Quiet American as "The Walt Disney Fantasia of the East". Monks dressed in bright colors represent different branches of the sect and the noon mass (one of four each day) is an amazing spectacle.
An opera house in Ho Chi Minh City,Vietnam, is an example of French Colonial architecture in Vietnam.
Built in 1897 by French architect Ferret Eugene, the 800 seat building was used as the home of the Lower House assembly of South Vietnam after 1956. It was not until 1975 that it was again used as a theatre, and restored in 1995.
Saigon Opera House is a smaller counterpart of the Hanoi Opera House (built from 1901 to 1911, and shaped like theOpéra Garnier in Paris). The Saigon Opera House owes its specific characteristics to the work of architect Félix Olivier, while construction was under supervision of architects Ernest Guichard and Eugène Ferret in 1900.
Its architectural style is influenced by the flamboyant style of the French Third Republic with the façade shaped like the Petit Palais which was built in the same year in France. The house had a main seating floor plus two levels of seating above, and was capable of accommodating 1,800 people. The design of all the inscriptions, décor, and furnishings were drawn by a French artist and sent from France.
However, the décor of the façade faced some criticisms. In accordance with Gothic style, the house facade was decorated with inscription and reliefs (like City Hall), but it was criticized as being too complicated. In 1943, some of the complicated decoration was removed. On the occasion of 300th anniversary of Saigon in 1998, the city government had some façade decor restored.