While Hanoi has over 1,000 years of history, Ho Chi Minh City is a relatively new settlement. The 300 years old Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon, welcomes people from different walks of life coming to settle their new life. The name Saigon was first registered in official documents in 1698. After the Saigon Port was built in 1862, it quickly became a meeting point for foreign traders due to its geographical location, climate, and topography. As a result, Saigon was known as the “Pearl of the Far East”. After the Ho Chi Minh Campaign triumphed on 30th April, 1975, at the first session of the 6th National Assembly of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam in July of 1976, Saigon was officially changed to Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC).
Ho Chi Minh City Attractions:
- The Independence Palace was originally called the Norodom Palace, a palace of the Indochina Governor. In 1954, South Vietnam’s President, Ngo Dinh Diem, along with his family lived and worked at Norodom Palace. He decided to rename it the Independence Palace. The building was heavily destroyed by bombs in 1962 and Diem commanded the building to be destroyed and rebuilt. The now palace features 95 rooms, each decorated according to its functions. Also, there are 2 exhibition rooms, a 33-room guest house, and numerous facilities for entertaining the officials, such as a cinema, shooting range, a dance floor, tennis courts, etc. Outside of the palace on the lawn are 2 tanks numbered 390 and 843, which were credited with crashing through the gate of the Independence Palace on 30th April, 1975 and ended the war.
- Cu Chi Tunnels is located in Cu Chi District, 70 km from the city. The 250km tunnels system is connected like a cobweb built for food and ammunition storages, strategical military meeting rooms, medical rescue chambers, kitchen, bedrooms, underground water well, etc. Those who wish to learn more about the Vietnam War should not miss a visit to the tunnels to admire the talent, endurance, and determination of the communist guerillas, who dug, removed the soils and camouflaged the tunnel entrances so well that enemies could not find them.
- Central Post Office is located in the city center in District 1, next to the Notre Dame Cathedral. This functional post office, completed in 1891, is the oldest government working structure in the city.
- Cho Lon is part of Chinatown in HCMC. At the heart of Cho Lon is the busy wholesale Binh Tay Market.
- Ben Thanh Market originally was a brick market with a wooden frame situated next to the Ben Nghe River. It was partly damaged by a fire in 1870, rebuilt, and then demolished and moved for a more spacious one now standing in the center of the city since 1914. Almost all domestic products can be found in this most popular market in the city.
- Nguyen Van Binh Book Street is located in District 1 adjacent to the Saigon Central Post Office and the Notre Dame Cathedral.
- Turtle Lake contradictory to what the name suggests, this roundabout doesn’t have turtles or a lake. This area is favored by students who come hang out and have some street foods in the evening when the weather cools down.
- Landmark 81 holds the crown as the tallest tower in Vietnam standing at 81 stories tall.
- Bitexco Skydeck was of the first skyscrapers in HCMC standing at 68 stories tall.
- Nguyen Hue Walking Street was first inaugurated in 2015. Located in District 1, it is considered the most modern walking street in Vietnam with 670m in length.
- Bui Vien Walking Street is located in the heart of the backpacker’s area in District 1. This busy street comes to life at night from 8 PM onward and it’s more crowded on the weekend.
Ho Chi Minh City Museums:
- War Remnants Museum is one of those museums visitors cannot miss out if they want to learn more about the Vietnam War. As the most popular museum in Ho Chi Minh City, it displays shocking evidence of the atrocity and crime committed by foreign aggressors. There are American weapons, tanks, hueys, a French guillotine sent to Vietnam in 1911, and notorious barbed-wire cages, known as tiger cages, used for keeping Vietnamese prisoners and revolutionaries.
- Museum of Vietnam History is located at the Saigon Zoo at 2 Nguyen Binh Khiem Street in District 1. First built in 1929, the museum has 21 showrooms that introduce Vietnam’s history from ancient times (approximately 300,000 years ago) up to the 1930s, when the Communist Party was founded.
- Ho Chi Minh Museum is located at 1 Nguyen Tat Thanh in District 4, just adjacent to the Saigon River at Nha Rong Wharf. It was from here that the then 21-year-old Nguyen Tat Thanh (later became President Ho Chi Minh) set sail on a French ship named Admiral Latouche Treville to find ways to independence from France. The museum has a collection of 3,000 pictures and 700 artifacts relating to Ho Chi Minh.
- Ho Chi Minh City Museum situated at 65 Ly Tu Trong Street in District 1 is in a more than 100 years old former Palace of the Governor of Cochinchina. Many pictures and exhibits on display are related to the struggles against the French colonialists, the American imperialists, the uprising at Mau Than Spring in 1968, and the historical Ho Chi Minh Campaign that led to liberating the country in 1975.
Ho Chi Minh City Parks and Gardens:
- Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens were first completed in 1865 under the supervision of French tropical botanist J.B. Louis Pierre. The botanical garden has valuable trees from different parts of the country, as well as those from Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and India.
- Dam Sen Park covers 52 hectares of various areas, such as a water park, flower gardens, a mini zoo, a circus, a man-made lake for swan pedal boats, and a mini amusement park with several roller coasters.
- Suoi Tien Theme Park is located 20km away from HCMC in District 9. This 25 hectares park includes flower and butterfly grottoes, a crocodile farm with over 2,000 crocodiles, orchards, and mini Sea World area to see many different species of fish.
- Koi Fish Park (also known as Tung Son Thach Hoa Vien Park or Rin Rin Park) is located in Hoc Mon District. The 20,000m2 park is designed based on three factors: Fish, Stone, and Tree to create a Japanese culture and garden style. There are hundreds of ancient bonsai trees, a red bridge, and a lake with more than 200 koi fishes imported from Japan.
Ho Chi Minh City Religious Sites:
- Tran Hung Dao Temple is styled after northern Vietnamese temples and communal houses. It was built to honor Tran Hung Dao, a general who chased away Kublai Khan’s Mongol aggressors in the 13th century. The temple is at 36 Vo Thi Sau Street in District 1.
- Lang Ong Ba Chieu – Saigon’s Ancient Tomb, also known as Le Van Duyet Temple, is located at 126 Dinh Tien Hoang Street in Binh Thanh District. Le Van Duyen (1746 – 1832) was a high-rank military official of the Nguyen Dynasty. Due to a long feud between Duyet and King Minh Mang, in 1835, the king prohibited anyone to offer incense or burn candles at Duyet’s tomb. However, in 1841, King Thieu Tri forgave Duyet after re-examined his case and once again gave him honorable titles.
- Xa Loi Pagoda has a 7-floor bell tower that is considered one of the highest bell towers in Vietnam at 32m tall. On the top floor of the tower is a 2-ton bell. Xa Loi Pagoda, inaugurated in 1958, is located at 89B Ba Huyen Quan Street in District 3.
- Giac Lam Pagoda is known to be one of the oldest pagodas in the city. It was built in 1744 and is located at 565 Lac Long Quan Street in Tan Binh District. The pagoda was built in the architecture in the shape of a Han Character (三) including a sanctum, preaching hall, and dining house. The sanctum houses 113 Buddha statues made of precious timber and brass. In the courtyard, there is a Bodhi tree brought over from Sri Lanka by Venerable Narada in 1953. And the Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva statue is under this sacred Bodhi tree. There is also a 7-floor hexagon tower holding sacred Buddhist relics.
- Giac Vien Pagoda is located at 161/35/20 Lac Long Quan Street in District 11. The pagoda has 153 statues in various sizes made mostly of wood, 57 altar doors and 60 reliefs carved in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
- Vinh Nghiem Pagoda is located at 339 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia Road in District 3. It was built on an area of 6,000m2 between 1864 – 1971.
- Phung Son Pagoda has a number of valuable statues created by a group of craftsmen from Sa Dec, such as Ngu Hien Thuong Ky Tu, Di Da Tam Ton, a stone statue of Buddha covered with gold leaves, and a ceramic statue of Tieu Dien. In the surrounding area, there are baked earthen heads of statues and ceramics belong to Oc-Eo culture.
- Notre Dame Cathedral is one of the oldest and biggest churches in Vietnam. Built between 1877 – 1880 in a French style. With approval from the Vatican, it was named the Notre Dame since 1959. In front of the two 57.6m high towers is a statue of the Virgin Mary. Visitors can attend mass held 3 times on weekdays and 6 times on Sundays.
- Nha Tho Cha Tam (St. Francis Xavier Parish Church)
Other religious worship places:
- Mariamman Hindu Temple is named after the goddess Mariamman, who is believed to have miraculous powers to cure diseases and help find suitable spouses.
Ho Chi Minh City Activities:
- AO Show