So, honestly, I'm not sure if to use Saigon, or Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Who you ask, and how you beseech the answer, is likely to yield varying advice - and even then it may totally depend on where you are when you ask.
Truthfully, I prefer Saigon - and apparently the roots to that name run slightly deeper than those of Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC). Regardless, the respect for the man who is the inspiration for the contemporary nomenclature remains great, and I am inclined to conclude it is rightfully deserved. He and others led the first post-industrial peasants revolution in Southeast Asia - in the context of a in increasingly interdependent and quickly modernizing, global capitalist economy, dominated by the West - and his reputation here and abroad stands rather sustained.
We spent nearly a week here, during the major national and cultural holiday of the year. We were graced with stern, local advice for foreigners that greatly enhanced our stay, and intensely enjoyed the esteemed company of all members of my very good friends' family (the invitation was extended from his grandmothers household!!!). I still feel like the surface was barely scratched, and it retained through my stay a lush, explosive sheen of celebratory cheer!
We were fortunate in Saigon at this time for another reason - we arrived during a major national holiday celebration in one of the capitol city's major parks. At Cong Vien Van Hoa park, in the center of the city, we found a massive, green public space converted into a showground for exhibits of Vietnam's plethora of natural and cultural treasures. Flowers, bonsai, gems, birds, fish, butterflies, handicrafts, art, sculptures, and more were on display across acres and acres, showcasing among the best of 2010's pieces.
The pace is far from breakneck. Food must be approached with caution. And learning the local driving etiquette is more like taking instructions to etch-a-sketch a Hieronomys Bosch painting with your hands behind your back - to quote Jim Bruer's Brian, in Half Baked (1998), it's "fuckin' impossible, man". Which is all exactly what contributes to its all-pervasive sensation of being at all times both a beautifully gritty and harshly serene, while remaining a consistently dynamic city of world-class cultural richness and depth.