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Saigon and surrounds

Vibrant Saigon, Southern Vietnam's best town

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Long considered the commercial engine room of Vietnam and never more so than today, Ho Chi Minh City (better known as Saigon) sums up perfectly the dynamics of modern-day Vietnam. As the paddy is concreted over and the factories dropped in, this region of Vietnam has and continues to go through incredible degrees of change. Nowhere in the country is the division between the have and have nots as stark as here.

Yet these changes have created an atmosphere that appeals to many foreigners, particularly those who find Hanoi a little on the staid side. Saigon has a certain Bangkokian flavour to it -- both in its risque nightlife, and growing number of highrise -- but it remains a unique destination, with a wealth of attractions from war-era museums and palaces to ancient smokey pagodas to keep even the most avid sight-seer well and truly satisfied.

Further afield, there's the Cao Dai temple and the tunnels of Cu Chi (widened for chunky westerners) out to the west towards the Cambodian frontier, while out towards the sea, sits the R&R destination of Vung Tau -- today it's a shadow of itself, but if you're after a quick dollop of sun and sea, you could do a lot worse.

Further afield, a couple of hundred kilometres offshore in fact, sits the Con Dao Island group -- one of Vietnam's best kept secrets. You'll need to fly to get there, but we'd say it's worth the splurge.

Regardless of your interest -- be it exploring the many museums and pagodas, crawling through Viet Cong tunnels or just savouring the pavement life, this area of Vietnam has a touch of something for everyone.

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Saigon and surrounds

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