HCMC: Overview & Getting There

Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) is the largest city in Vietnam, the economic capital and the cultural trendsetter. Yet within the teeming metropolis are the timeless traditions and beauty of an ancient culture. Located near the delta of the Mekong River. Under the name Prey Nokor, it was the main port of Cambodia, before being conquered by the Vietnamese in the 16th century. It was the capital of the French colony of Cochinchina, and later of the former state of South Vietnam from 1954 to 1975.

Ho Chi Minh City is still fondly referred to as Saigon by the locals. The city has two distinct seasons: the Rainy season which usually begins in May and ends in late November. The Dry season lasts from December to April.

Getting There:
We took one of the holiday packages of Philippine Airlines. Inclusions are roundtrip airfare, airport-hotel-airport transfers, hotel accommodation and daily buffet breakfast. We decided not to get the optional tours from PAL because we found a travel agency in Saigon with cheap tour packages.

First Day:
We arrived Saigon around 9:00 am (10:00 am Philippine time), a 2-hour and 45-minute flight away from Manila. A guide met us at the airport with our names on a sign. I was surprised because it was just the two of us, no other travelers.

The first thing that took my attention on a busy HCMC streets are the local traffic, the endless honking sounds from various vehicles and a horde of scooters and motorbikes called an "OM". If Beijing is known for "City of Bicycles", in HCMC - it's the "City of Motorbikes".

I'm also surprised to see most of the ladies wearing masks, gloves, long sleeved shirts and hats while riding their scooters. I believe that's to cover and protect their skin from the sun.

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