What’s a major city without a landmark? The Eiffel Tower, The Coliseum, The Sydney Opera House – each are examples of how iconic structures play a major role to a city’s tourism industry. Each of these buildings are postcard-friendly. You recognise them. You know them. You associate with them, bridging a link bewteen yourself and a faraway city. Tourists flood to landmarks because they recognise them. It makes you feel in control in a strange land. It’s something to look out for, to treasure hunt for, and bring back traces of in the form of souvenirs. You really feel you have traveled after seeing a landmark – and that’s why they are so important. The Bitexco Financial Tower is Ho Chi Minh City’s landmark. It stands at 262.5 meters tall, towering like a prized gem across its skyline. Distinct glass panels coat its exterior, reflecting the very different condition of the city surrounding it. This building is a beacon of economic growth. It represents the pristine, sleek, rich vision of Vietnam’s future, towering over Saigon’s citizens and echoing the sentiment that times in this country are changing. This is one of the first claws to spring up from a burgeoning toger economy. The Bitexco Tower is owned and named after the Bitexco Group, a Vietnamese Finacial Company. A corporate stamp branded on the communist country’s most significant Saigon landmark. Many representations of Ho Chi Minh City within Vietnam feature the Bitexco Tower. Its iconic silhouette, its sheer height, its helipad. “Bitexco, Bitexco, Bitexco” you hear many locals point and say. The ultimate PR tool. One of the tower’s architects, Carlos Zapatas, has been quoted stating that his inspiration for designing the shape of the tower was Vietnam’s national flower, the Lotus. It looks nothing like a Lotus. Built by French construction company AREP, the tower took 5 years to complete, opened to the public in October 2010. Since then it’s become a very popular spot for both tourists and locals. Inside are many shopping facilities, featuring big brands such as Topshop and Addidas. These stores are predictably more expensive than the stalls in Saigon Square, but nonetheless very very popular. If you can fork out 500k vnd for a leopard print snapback, you’d probably want to be seen doing it in a trendy store rather than haggling at a pop up stall next to Maximark. Big brands are huge in Vietnam, and if you can afford it and Instagram it, then you’re going to get a lot of likes. In total there are 68 floors to the Bitexco Financial Tower, with 3 underground for parking. Try driving your motorbike down the Bitexco’s spiralling parkling lot. It’s a little taste of the wild outside roads in the tower. Your skin will pale as you try to avoid hurtling into an oncoming Honda 4×4. Even the wealthiest Saigonese drive like madmen. Other than shopping, the Bitexco’s many floors contain office spaces (made evident by the continuous presence of sharp suited businessmen strutting in and out of the building), a cinema, food court and even a private (and overpriced) hospital. Two of the most notable of the tower’s features are the Saigon Skydeck and Helipad. The latter is prominent to the eye, being the pad the juts out of the side of the Bitexco like a an airplane tray table. Unfortunately the sight of a helicopter is rarely served (apart from the rumoured “use” of it by Vietnam’s government officials), making the helipad kind of a useless yet pretty feature. You can’t access the Helipad but you can visit the heights of the Saigon Skydeck on the 49th floor just 3 floors below. Here for 200k vnd you can see excellent views of Ho Chi Minh City’s sprawling districts, and take a breath of fresh air above the engine smog. On the top floor lies Icon68, a swanky cocktail bar. Accessing this place is like traversing the temple of doom. First you must go up and escalator. Then you are greeted by smiling staff who beep you through a futuristic security gate. They will escort you to an elevator up until the 49th floor. Then you must get out the elevator and enter another. By the time you reach the top you’ll be so light headed that a cocktail might not be necessary. The views from Icon68 are beautiful, and offer a panaromic sight of Saigon. District 3 one way, District 2 another, the Saigon River meandering across the landscape. From up here you are in the watchtower, gazing upon the life, vitality and brilliance of the city below. Neon signs, motorbikes, muffled honking. It looks startling at night. Enjoy with a cocktail during happy hour and watch the world go by. In their scaffolding landmarks hold traces of a city’s culture, identity, history and future. The Bitexco Financial Tower serves as a reminder of Vietnam’s ambition. A hub of fashion, economy and socialising – the ideal 21st Century lifestyle portrayed in a sleek glass microcosm. On the horizon a new tower is being built. Landmark81, due for public access in 2017, will soon surpass The Bitexco Tower as the tallest building in Saigon. In this new age, the scaffolds of Vietnamese growth are reaching new heights.