Set back from the delta formed by the Mekong River, Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) is the main commercial center of the southern part of Vietnam. It is a modern city by Asian standards. The city's character remains essentially French -- with wide boulevards, colonial villas, and a lively café society -- but also resolutely Asian.

Although overshadowed by modern and Asiatic influences, a little of Ho Chi Minh City's French colonial charm still remains, evident in the graceful architecture, wide boulevards, and a sidewalk cafe society. It is not for the attractions that one visits Ho Chi Minh City however, but for the vibrancy of its street life, and its proximity to the Mekong Delta.

Why?  Most people choose to holiday in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) because it makes a perfect base for exploring the magical Mekong Delta, one of Vietnam's most popular tourist destinations. The city is, though, also legendary for its exuberant, muddled society, streets crammed with motorcycles and all sorts of entrepreneurial wonders. Travel to Ho Chi Minh City to discover the heart and soul of modern Vietnam.

When?  The best time to holiday in Ho Chi Minh City is during the dry season between December and March, when it is also slightly cooler than it is during the rest of the year in this tropical city.

Who for?  Anyone who is fascinated with Asian culture and history, and particularly stimulated by the energy of a major Asian metropolis, will enjoy a holiday in Ho Chi Minh City.

About climite in Hochiminh City: Ho Chi Minh City is in the tropics, and very close to the sea, so its climate is steadily warm to hot all year round. Temperatures are slightly cooler between December and April, which is also the dry season. Rains begin in May and become heavy from June to August, but the showers are sudden and short, with the sun usually reappearing fairly quickly.

An interesting excursion from Saigon is a visit to the Cu Chi Tunnels in which the South Vietnamese Communists concealed themselves and from which they launched attacks on US soldiers. The twin towers of Notre Dame Cathedral have been a familiar landmark in Ho Chi Minh City since the 1880s. The hustle and bustle of trading is best observed in the markets of Cholon, the ancient Chinese quarter. Located 3km (2 miles) from Cholon, the Giac Lam Pagoda is believed to be the oldest pagoda in the city and is a calm place to visit. Families of the old and sick regularly go to the pagoda to pin supplications to the large bronze bell, in the belief that when it is rung, the messages will be sent to the heavens above.

Housed in the former building of the Government of Cochinchina, the Ho Chi Minh City Museum (formerly the Revolutionary Museum) contains artifacts, such as weapons, uniforms, medals and old photos, from the period of Communist struggle against the French and the Americans. Unfortunately, the exhibits are only labelled in Vietnamese but some are self-explanatory. Outside the museum is a collection of military hardware including a tank and a helicopter…