4 Books To Read When Travelling to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

photograph from above of fruit and veg markets on boats in ho chi minh city, vietnam

History

Ho Chi Minh City is the largest city in Vietnam. Originally Saigon, it was the capital of the French colony of Cochinchina and later of the independent republic of South Vietnam. The communist leadership renamed the city for the revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh in 1976.

The French were brutal occupiers for over 100 years. Their legacy is still evident in the city mostly through its charming colonial architecture and the exceptional quality of the food. From 155-75, it was the Vietnam War that inflicted scars on the city.

The books

Graham Greene’s The Quiet American is the most famous book about Saigon. The novel takes place in the 1950s during the Indochina war between the Viet Minh and the French. An idealistic American goes to Saigon to promote democracy. The novel cannily foreshadows the American involvement in Vietnam.

Michael Herr’s Dispatches is still one of the best works of war reportage ever written. Comparable to the writing of Orwell, Hemingway and Hart Crane, it doesn’t get better than this.

More recently, The Sympathizer by Viet Thank Nguyen tells the story of a communist double agent – half French, half Vietnamese – who plots his escape to America during the fall of Saigon. The 2016 Pulitzer Prize winner.

When Heaven and Earth Changed Places by Le Ly Haslip is a memoir. Haslip suffered near-starvation, imprisonment, torture, rape, and the deaths of family members before arriving in America. After reuniting with her family in Vietnam, she discovers the hardships they endured in her absence.

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Read More: Nomad curates a wide range of fiction and travel writing. Travel books, travel writing, fiction, memoir. Find books set in Ho Chi Minh City, Saigon, Vietnam. View the full list below…

Books Set in Ho Chi Minh City

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