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Ho Chi Minh City, a former Khymer trading post in the far south of Vietnam originally known as ‘Saigon’, became the seat of the Nguyen Dynasty in the 18th century, before the French made it the capital of all Indochina. Its sweeping boulevards, elegant Neoclassical buildings, multi-storey hotels and glittering restaurants earned it the epithet “Paris of the Orient”.
But after the war of the 1970s, the communist regime clamped down on Saigon’s perceived decadence and bourgeois ways, and changed its name to that of Great Leader. Since then, however, the joie de vivre has manifestly returned, particularly in the lively Dong Khoi district, formerly the ‘Rue Catinat’. This was where Graham Greene set his novel, The Quiet American, and where today you’ll find the country’s hippest boutiques, swankiest hotels and finest dining, as well as a host of historic buildings.