Modern sky-crapper offices, shopping malls, luxury hotels, restaurants and karaoke bars flourishing everywhere looming over shabby French colonial villas, the crowded but convenient traffic, the city which has no sleep both day and night, this is the 21st century Ho Chi Minh City. Officially, it is known as Ho Chi Minh City but it is still referred to as Sai Gon, the evocative name of a city with its past time when Vietnam was in a hard time because of the wars.
Once being called “Pearl of The Far East”, Ho Chi Minh City has become a mesmerizing gateway for visitors to Vietnam where traditional and modern influences go hand in hand. Its architectural design and lifestyle are the combination of the American influence with many dots of modernity yet without losing the Vietnamese historical traits. Welcome to Vietnam’s largest and most exciting city.
In the North of Vietnam Ho Chi Minh is the second most important economic centre of Vietnam after Hanoi. The total area of Ho Chi Minh City is 2,095.2 square kilometer with 24 districts including 5 rural districts. The population is about 8 million. Situated in the core of the Mekong Delta, Ho Chi Minh City is bathed by many rivers, arroyos and canals, the biggest river being the Sai Gon River.
As its location is in the South, Ho Chi Minh City is generally hot and humid. It is often cooler at night because of the wind blowing rather hard. There are two distinctive seasons in Ho Chi Minh City: the rainy season, from May to November, and the dry season, from December to April. The annual average temperature is 27ºC. It is warm all year.
No.106 Nguyen Du Street, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City is the place where is located. It is also called with another name Thong Nhat Conference Hall or Presidential palace. The Palace was built on the grounds of Norodom Palace as a residence for the French Governor General of Cochinchina.
The building is made up of 5 stories with 100 rooms and chambers decorated with the finest modern Vietnamese arts and crafts. The residential quarters are in the back of the building. The ground floor is the place where conferences often took place. Going up to the second floor, visitors will see a room called Phu Dau Rong where Nguyen Van Thieu received foreign delegations.
On the third floor, there is a card-playing room. This floor also possesses a terrace with a heliport where a helicopter is parked. The fourth floor was used for dancing, and even had a casino. The most interesting part of the building is probably the basement containing a network of tunnels, a telecommunication centre, and a war room.
It is daily opened for visitors at 07:30-11:00 in the morning and at 13:00-16:00 in the afternoon.
Ho Chi Minh Museum
Located on Nguyen Tat Thanh Street, District 4, Ho Chi Minh City, this museum mostly contains pictures and objects relating to President Ho Chi Minh.
Ben Nha Rong or The Dragon House Wharf was built in 1863 and served as the office of a French Shipping Company. From this place, Nguyen Tat Thanh (later President Ho Chi Minh) set sail on a French sip named Admiral latouche Treville in June 1911.
In September 1979, the People's Committee of Ho Chi Minh City chose Nha Rong as the Ho Chi Minh Museum–Dragon House Wharf. The name was taken from the two dragon-shaped symbols on the top of the building. Over time, approximately ten million people, local as well as foreign, have visited the Ho Chi Minh Museum. In addition, events such as artistic festivals and the introduction of new members into the Youth Union and Communist Party have been held in this museum.
Revolutionary Museum is located on No.65 Ly Tu Trong Street, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. The Museum used to be enlisted as the Governor of Nam Ky’s residence.
The construction of the museum started in 1885 and was completed in 1890 under the design of a French architect named Alfred Foulhoux. Following that, the building became the residence of Japanese Governor Minoda. It was also the office of the Nam Bo Provisional Administrative Committee (1945) and of the Republic of France High Commissioner. The building was later reconverted into the residence of the Governor of Nam Ky. Until August 1978, the building was finally turned into the Ho Chi Minh City Revolutionary Museum.
The museum displays items related to the invasion of Vietnam by French colonialists, the founding of the Vietnam Communist Party, the anti-French resistance in Saigon-Gia Dinh (1945 to 1954), the anti-American movement, the national resistance of Saigon-Gia Dinh and the Ho Chi Minh Campaign.
Ho Chi Minh Municipal Theatre
Ho Chi Minh Municipal Theatre is situated on Dong Khoi Street, Ho Chi Minh City, between the Caravelle and Continental Hotels. With a rotating stage and a 800 - seat hall, the theatre provides high standards for various artistic forms such as singing, music, dancing and traditional and modern dramas.
Built at the beginning of 1897, under an original architectural design by French architect Ferret Eugene, who won a prize for theatre designing in July 1895, the Municipal Theatre was restored and renewed to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the foundation of Saigon (1698-1998).
The architectural style and staple material of the Municipal Theatre of the old days are reflected in its stone veranda, a pair of white stone statues of pretty girls at the gate, the colorful granite tiled floors, the chandeliers, the bronze statues in front of the stairs, the audience's hall with its arch engraved with decorative designs and rows of statues on the two sides of the theatre.
In the years of the Second World War, France was involved in many battles. In Vietnam the revolutionary high tide shook the colonial regime. The Municipal Theatre was closed and deserted. During the French re-invasion of the South after 1945, the Theatre was restored. When the French invaders withdrew from the South under the Geneva Agreement in 1956, the Ngo Dinh Diem regime turned the theatre into the headquarters of the lower House, therefore the inside and outside structure of the theatre was changed considerably.
The theatre was renewed with new materials and equipped with state-of-the-art electric appliances, light and sound systems and fire and safety equipment. It is a good place for artistic performances by domestic and foreign art ensembles and well - known artists, who visit Ho Chi Minh City.
Duc Ba Cathedral
Duc Ba Cathedral is located on Han Thuyen Street, facing down Dong Khoi Street, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. Completed in 1880, the cathedral was built in a Western architectural style, it has a uniquely Eastern aspect. It was the symbol of the Western style and the spiritual and cultural crucible of the French presence in the Orient at that time.
The cathedral comprises of two main central bays with two sidereal corridors, with tall pillars and light coming in through sets of high windows, and a semi-circular shrine. The style follows a Roman pattern, although the outside contains some modifications: the cathedral’s vaults are Gothic, and a modern steel skeleton supports the whole building.
The cathedral is a much smaller than those in France, but it was the largest in the French empire. The interior is very large: the principal shrine and two additional bays are 93m long, and reach 35m in width at one point. The semi-circular shrine at the rear seats a choir during services, and there are five chapels. The walls are made of Bien Hoa granite, combined with red tiles from Marseilles, all without coating. Red tiles from France were also used on the roofs, but they were later replaced with tiles of equal quality from Phu Huu. Natural light streams in through stained-glass windows which were made by the Lorin Company from the French town of Sartre.
Ben Thanh Market
Ben Thanh Market is situated at the intersection of Le Loi Avenue, Ham Nghi Avenue, Tran Hung Dao Avenue and Le Lai Street, 700m south-west of the Rex Hotel. At first, the market was situated near the Ben Nghe River Dike. After being moved many times, it is now standing in the centre of the city where consumers can conveniently find all sorts of products.
The market got its name because it was built close to a landing stage (Ben) and the old city (Thanh). The opening ceremony for the market in March 1914 was a big festive event. At present, the front of Ben Thanh Market is Quach Thi Trang Square; its rear faces Le Thanh Ton Street; its right, Phan Chu Trinh Street and its left, Phan Boi Chau Street. At all of its four sides, there are bustling trading shops. Located at the centre of the city, Ben Thanh Market is always loaded with varieties of goods, such as consumer goods, cakes and candies, food and foodstuff, and particularly high-quality fruit and vegetables. Goods are displayed in a very attractive way that always catches the eyes of the buyers. They meet all requirements for the customers' daily life or for their families. The market has four gates that are very convenient for the market-goers. For all of its advantages, Ben Thanh Market is one of the most attractive tourist sites in the city for both domestic and foreign visitors.
Cho Lon (Lon Market)
Cho Lon is located at Tran Hung Dao Street, District 5, Ho Chi Minh City. In 1788, a group of Chinese from Pho and My Tho Islands came to Ben Nghe River Dike and founded a market which developed into the existent Cho Lon Market, offering a wide array of products. This is Vietnam’s Chinatown market. It is an attractive site for visitors to observe that lively atmosphere.
Food & Drink
In Ho Chi Minh City it is very easy to find restaurants, bars. There are both Western style and Vietnamese style restaurants here. For those who want to find a Westernized one, Blue Ginger at 37 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia Street, District 1 or Vietnam House upstairs at 4 Nguyen Thiep Street, also Distric 1 are good choice. The two restaurants are magnificently decorated, you can expect fabulous service and live music .
But if you want to enjoy real Vietnamese food and contemporary Saigon living you can have meal in restaurants where the Vietnamese do. The food in this kind of restaurant is often much cheaper and the local whisky makes merry in Saigon every night.
Once settled your foot in Ho Chi Minh City, do not leave this city before trying “banh xeo” on Dinh Cong Trang Street. There is about one block on the street where you can find hundreds of people eating outdoors. This is one of the most unusual eating in the city. In these places you will find a variety of Vietnamese food which is quite cheap except for some seafood dishes.
Some one says Ho Chi Minh City is a paradise for shoppers. Beautiful handicrafts, potteries, souvenirs of thousand shapes and colors are in endless supply. In Ho Chi Minh City you can customize to make shirts and it often takes three to four days with the price of seven to ten dollars. If you are a coffee lover, buy as much as you can to take home with you. Coffees in Vietnam are among the best in the world and very cheap.
In Ho Chi Minh City the traffic is always crowded but very convenient. The city is the main junction for trains, roads, water, and air transportation systems for domestic trips and for foreign destination
- Roads: National Highway 13 run through the City connects Vietnam with the rest of Indochina.
- Train: Thong Nhat express train connects Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, via any provinces in Vietnam.
- Air: It’s only less than 1 hour to fly from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City. Tan Son Nhat International Airport, 7km from center of city, is the biggest airport with many domestic and international routes.