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Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh City is a metropolis that is going places. It’s the flourishing fast-mover that’s somehow secured old Saigon onto the seat of its shiny, new motorbike as it roars off into the future.

It’s the mesmerising gateway to Vietnam where traditional and modern influences live side by side. High-rises loom over shabby French colonial villas; conical-hatted street vendors plod past karaoke bars and glitzy shops.

Like the bamboo, shoulder-pole baskets you’ll see on the streets, Ho Chi Minh City is a balancing act of two parts: classical incense-filled pagodas are off-set by shopping malls and skyscrapers that wouldn't look out of place in the West.

It's a forward-looking city but still locals refer to it as Saigon, a name evocative of the past. One of the city's most poignant symbols is the Reunification Palace, where the last days of the Vietnam War were played out.

Saigon's story, however, was penned long before the American army waded in. Just wander around the beautiful Jade Emperor Pagoda, built by the Chinese in 1909, or search out Saigon Central Post Office for some grandiose French architecture.

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