Known as Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City is a city of contrasts. The pace of life is frenetic, and yet the wide boulevards and parks help the city retain an air of calm. Classic French architecture competes for attention with brand new high-rise buildings. The eclectic mix of old and new in Saigon is the legacy of the many occupiers of the city since the Khmers used the area for hunting five hundred years ago. All the major attractions are in the center of the city and can be reached easily.
Ben Thanh Market
Shopkeepers sell a wide variety of local and imported products ranging from garments and textiles to handicrafts, flowers, and vegetables. The market was built in 1914. The French-style building has a distinctive clock tower at its entrance.
Ben Thanh is the largest market in Ho Chi Minh City.
China Town (Cho Lon)
The Chinese have played a major role in Vietnam’s emerging private sector as evidenced by the bustling streets and markets of Cholon.
The city is home of many ethnic Chinese who live in district 5 (called Cho Lon).
Cholon means ‘Big Market’, and today the area is home to 500,000 people. The streets of Cholon are a maze of narrow side streets, old temples, local Chinese restaurants and calligraphy shops.
Thien Hau Temple
The altar for the Goddess features three statues of the goddess Thien Hau. Votive paper offerings are burned in a large furnace at the entrance
Cantonese fishermen built this Chinese temple, dedicated to the Goddess of the Sea, at the end of the 18th century.
Notre Dame Cathedral
Notre Dame Cathedral, with her two 40 meter towers topped with iron spires, is one of Ho Chi Minh City’s major landmarks. It is built in a neo-Romanesque form.
Built between 1877 and 1883.
This was an important meeting place for Chinese secret societies that planned to overthrow the government in Peking during the Manchu Dynasty.
Built in 1892 the Jade Pagoda is dedicated to a pantheon of Taoist and Buddhist divinities.
It is one of the most colorful pagodas in Ho Chi Minh City, filled with incense, candles and statues of various divinities and heroes. A robed Taoist Jade Emperor surveys the main sanctuary, under a roof covered in elaborately patterned tiles.
The Reunification Palace
When the Government of South Vietnam was established in 1954, the palace became the residence of President Diem. In 1962, the palace was abandoned after a renegade pilot of the South Vietnamese army bombed the building.
Originally built for the French Governor-General of Indochina in 1868, the Norodom Palace was abandoned in 1880 when government services moved to Hanoi.
After four years of construction, it reopened. One of the most striking images of the War was the sight of North Vietnamese tank 843 crashing through the palace gates marking a symbolic end to the conflict in Indochina.
The War Remnants Museum
Some of the black and white photography in the Requiem exhibit is particularly touching; dedicated to both foreign and Vietnamese journalists and photographers who perished during the conflict.
This is a poignant display of the futility of war.
The courtyard outside contains the spoils of war, namely rusting jets, tanks and cannons.
Cu Chi Tunnels
During the war Vietnamese guerillas built this labyrinth of narrow tunnels using them to hide during bombing raids and stage surprise attacks. The entire area of Cu Chi was designated a free fire zone and was heavily bombarded: you can still see numerous craters caused by 500 pound B52 bombs.
These tunnels are located about 70km northwest of Ho Chi Minh City.
There are over 200 kilometers of tunnels in the area, all of which were dug using only hand tools. Two sections of tunnel are open to the public and ex-Vietnamese fighters lead tours through the underground hospitals, kitchens and sleeping quarters.