HCMC: Bright Lights, Big City

Ho Chi Minh City never sleeps. Everywhere you look there is colour and movement. Vendors engulfed in bright bubbles of balloons or pushing carts heaped with wares; flocks of schoolgirls on bicycles. their traditional white ao dai tunics fluttering in the breeze; cranes spinning high overhead as workers put the finishing touches on newly-risen office towers...

It seems that everyone is busy: buying,  selling, studying, building... you'll find yourself swept up by the city's enthusiasm, charmed by its youthful exuberance : being back in the business of making money. Not surprisingly, Ho Chi Minh City is a shopper's paradise, with trendy new boutiques and modern shopping centres just steps away from traditional open-air markets.

The juxtaposition of past and present is more visible here than anywhere else in Vietnam. Gleaming new skyscrapers tower above lavish French colonial villas. Imposing Soviet-style facades stand beside ancient pagodas. Women in traditional dress chat on mobile phones, while old cyclos jostle for space with brand new BMWs.