Saigon became Ho Chi Minh City in July 1976 – a year after armies from the North took over the South, drove the Americans out and remade Vietnam as one. Hundreds of thousands refugees perhaps millions fled communism by sea. Many were drown, robbed or raped by pirates trying to reach Hong Kong and Malaysia.
Today 40 years on, Vietnam is one of the few remaining communist countries in the world. However, red banners, logos and slogans and a grand post office that sells colorful postage stamps are the only signs of socialism overseas visitors will encounter in Vietnam’s largest city. The experience of Ho Chi Minh for many will surely be one of capitalism, near naked and on steroids.
Ho Chi Minh City is brash, animated and intensely money-minded.
As a tourist you can perhaps get better food, coffee and massages in neighbouring cities but you cannot afford to skip Saigon (as locals still call the city) if you want to understand the hunger and relentless energy that drives success and entrepreneurship in this part of Asia.
There is really no season to avoid when you plan to visit Ho Chi Minh City. The weather reports say June to September is rainy season but I find Ho Chi Minh City pleasant at this time of the year with slightly reduced heat and fresh balmy breeze at night, conducive for roof top club music and a cocktail.