By Lauren Kmec
Ho Chi Minh City
Vietnam
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Ho Chi Minh City (or Saigon, as it is often called), is a bustling metropolis located on the Saigon River in southern Vietnam, about 60 kilometers from the South China Sea. Ho Chi Minh City is the largest city in Vietnam, and visitors are sure to be captivated by its energy and verve.  This city features a fascinating mix of ancient and modern characteristics, ranging from historic pagodas and temples to sleek skyscrapers and trendy restaurants.

EscapeWizard.com invites you to visit Ho Chi Minh City on your next vacation. Flights will arrive at Tan Son Nhat International Airport (SGN), the largest airport in the country and a major hub for Vietnam Airlines. Follow this link (www.escapewizard.com/flight.php) to book your flight with EscapeWizard.com. We can also assist with finding hotel accommodations; click here (www.escapewizard.com/hotels.php?flag=htl) to review our selections.

For an authentic taste of Vietnamese religion and culture, EscapeWizard.com recommends visiting a few of the many temples scattered throughout the city and countryside. Chua Ngtoc Hoang (aka the Jade Emperor Pagoda), one of the most beautiful pagodas in the city, is an excellent place to start. Constructed in 1909 by Ho Chi Minh City’s Cantonese population, the pagoda displays an appealing blend of Buddhist and Taoist design styles, featuring a number of impressive statues, delicate wood carvings, and magnificently decorated altars. Outside the pagoda is a serene courtyard and turtle pond. We also suggest visiting the Vinh Nghiem Pagoda, notable for its stone tower, which, at 14 meters high, is the tallest of its kind in Vietnam. The seven-story, square-shaped tower was built to honor Thich Thanh Kiem, one of the monks who founded the pagoda. Constructed by a Vietnamese architect, this pagoda is elaborately embellished with images of dragons, phoenixes, and lotuses, as well as religious mantras.

EscapeWizard.com encourages visitors to spend some time at the Zoo and Botanical Gardens, located in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City. The gardens were established in 1864; at the time, they were considered the finest gardens in Asia. Today, the gardens are still a lovely place for a relaxing stroll among the many tall trees and tropical plants, most notably the rare orchid display. Although the zoo is considered small by Western standards, it remains a fun place to observe more than 100 species of birds, reptiles, and mammals. Also inside the garden grounds is the Annam People’s Memorial Temple, dedicated to the Vietnamese citizens who died while fighting for the French in World War I.

Ho Chi Minh City has a plethora of fascinating museums that are well worth your time, especially if you are interested in learning more about the history of the Vietnamese people. EscapeWizard.com recommends the War Remnants Museum, though it is not for the faint of heart—its exhibits detail the horrors of the Vietnam War and other wars that have deeply affected the Vietnamese people. The museum collection features devices of torture, military hardware, and a heart-wrenching display on the tragic effects of Agent Orange. For something a bit lighter, we suggest the Historical Museum, which is located just inside the entrance to the Zoo and Botanical Gardens. This museum covers ~2000 years of Vietnamese history and boasts artifacts from a variety of ancient indigenous cultures. The collections of weapons, ceramics, and sculpture are quite striking, as is the entire wing dedicated to Vietnamese ethnic minorities.

Finally, EscapeWizard.com suggests an excursion to the Cu Chi Tunnels, about an hour’s drive from Ho Chi Minh City. The Cu Chi Tunnels are a below-ground network of passageways used by the Viet Cong during the French-Indochina War and also during the Vietnam War. The entire system of tunnels is more than 200 kilometers long; at one time, it stretched all the way to the Cambodian border. Today, visitors can crawl through a portion of the tunnels that has been enlarged to fit a Western-size body. Tourists who visit the Cu Chi Tunnels may also like to see the nearby Cao Dai Temple, an ornate, colorful house of worship for adherents of the Cao Dai religion.

So if you are craving an exotic experience for your next vacation, look no further than Ho Chi Minh City. Let EscapeWizard.com assist in making your travel plans; the wonders of South Asia await!
Hotels in Ho Chi Minh City
By Keleigh M. Quinn
Sheraton Saigon Hotel & Towers
88 Dong Khoi Street, District 1 Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
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The Sheraton Saigon Hotel & Towers is the ideal hotel choice for business travelers, or those who are looking for a convenient place to stay while exploring the area. This hotel is located right in the middle of Ho Chi Minh City, and allows easy access to the business and entertainment districts. Many of the major corporate offices and government buildings are located within a mile of the hotel. Also nearby are Saigon Centre, the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Ho Chi Minh Municipal Theatre and the War Remnants Museum. You will also find several exciting shopping areas and the Thu Duc Golf Course close by.

The guest rooms and suites are divided between the Grand Tower and the Main Tower. Both towers offer beautiful views of the pool or city, and all rooms feature the Sheraton Sweet Sleeper™ Bed. The Main Tower includes regular guest rooms, executive rooms and suites with massage-style showers, flat screen televisions and 24 hour room service. The Grand Tower has been recently renovated and offers the most modern amenities. You can choose from a studio, junior suite, or suite and experience true luxury with 24 hour butler service. All rooms in this tower have 42-inch wall mounted flat screen televisions, iPod docking stations, and access to the Grand Tower Lounge, complete with a personal chef.

This hotel also offers many dining options outside of your room, with eight restaurants and bars to choose from. Head to Li Bai for dim sum and other Chinese favorites, or enjoy the view from Level 23 while sampling seafood specialties. The Level 23 Wine bar is a rooftop, open air bar, while the Lifestyle Bar serves up cocktails poolside. The Level 23 night club features live music and exciting entertainment.

This hotel offers a swimming pool, a full health and fitness center and the Aqua Day Spa. There are also luxury boutiques in the lobby, and a business center.

EscapeWizard.com can help you find the best deal while experiencing true luxury when you click here (www.escapewizard.com/hotels.php?flag=htl).