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Last updated : Nov 2009
 
Ho Chi Minh Sightseeing
Ho Chi Minh Sightseeing Guide - TravelPuppy.com
Overview

To walk and to ride in a cyclo are great ways to take in the sights and sounds of this lively city, since most tourist attractions are dotted in the central District 1. Walking along the banks of the river is a suitable way to experience the continuous activity on the Saigon River, since small and large boats ply to and from the opposite bank. As an alternative, the rooftop bar of the Majestic Hotel has spectacular birds eye views of the river.

Dong Khoi Street, once again the major shopping area, is full of tailors, gift shops, restaurants and jewellers. Visitors will also find Notre Dame Cathedral and the huge central Post Office, with its huge portrait of the former President, Ho Chi Minh at one end of the street. The Saigon Central Mosque, an oasis of calm is located near to this bustling shopping centre on Dong Du. These lively streets and river can be tiring but a fast-paced cyclo ride to the Botanical Gardens is well worth it. The small pagodas in Cholon are symbols of tranquility in an area frenzied with commercial activity.

All places of interest in District 1 can easily be accessible on foot; other attractions outside the district are reached by taxi or cyclo.

Tourist Information

Saigontourist
49 Le Thanh Ton, District 1
Tel: (08) 829-8914.
E-mail: sgtvn@hcmc.netnam.vn
Opening hours: Monday to Friday 8.00 am to 11.30 am and 1.00 pm to 5.00 pm. For booking coach tours open daily 7.30 am to 11.30 am and 1.00 pm to 6.30 pm.

This is not a tourist office in the usual sense, no such office exists. Nevertheless, Saigontourist is run by government and does have some information, even though most literature is related to the tours it operates and the hotels it owns.

Passes

Tourist passes in Ho Chi Minh City don't exist.

Key Attractions

Dinh Thong Nhat (Reunification Palace)

Dinh Thong Nhat or the Reunification Palace is charming in its ugliness, a 1960s monstrosity designed by Soviet architects. Most people will recall the image of a North Vietnamese tank crashing the gates on 30 April 1975 signifying the fall of Saigon. Today the tank still graces the front lawn. Rooms open to the public are exactly the same as they were in 1975, showing where important meetings were held during the war, including the living quarters of the president and his family. Most compelling are a sequence of underground tunnels housing a telecommunications centre.

Nam Ky Khoi Ngia, District 1
Tel: (08) 822-3652.

Opening hours: 7.30 am to 11.00 am and 1.00 am to 4.00 pm daily.
Admission: VND20,000 (including brochure).

Nha Trung Bay Toi Ac Chien Tranh Xam Luoc (War Remnants
Museum)


Previously known as the Museum of American War Crimes, its name has been changed as not to offend its US travellers. It's now the War Remnants Museum. This is not a museum for the delicate as it contains torture instruments and a range of photos of atrocities committed during the 20th century and, in particular, the Vietnam War. Visitors cannot help being moved as the exhibits provide a look inside a period of history many only know from old newsreels and Hollywood movies. Just in front of the museum is a small selection of military equipment and, most attractively, the mobile guillotine the French colonists used throughout the country before World War II.

28 Vo Van Tan, District 3
Tel: (08) 930-5587.

Opening hours: 7.30 am to 11.45 am and 1.30 pm to 5.15 pm daily.
Admission: VND10,000.

Notre Dame Cathedral

It has been a familiar landmark in Ho Chi Minh City since the 1880s. There's a delicate statue of the Virgin Mary in a small garden in front of the cathedral. The cathedral's interior is quite simple, unlike most French cathedrals, with no stained glass windows. But it is a cool place to get away from the heat.

Dong Khoi, District 1

Opening hours: No formal opening times.
Admission: Free; donations accepted and appreciated.

Buu Dien Truong Tam (Post Office)

The European style monumental Post Office constructed in the late 19th century is located across from the Notre Dame Cathedral. The interior has barely been touched since it was constructed. A huge portrait of Ho Chi Minh dominates the building. The post office frequently seems to be busy but most people are just visitors not customers.

2 Cong Xa Paris, District 1
Tel: (08) 829 9615.

Opening hours: 6.30 am to 9.30 pm daily.
Admission: Free.

Ho Chi Minh City Museum

Previously known as the Revolutionary Museum, it is located in the former building of the Government of Cochinchina, and features artifacts, such as uniforms, weapons, old photos, and medals, from the period of Communist's conflict against the French and the Americans. The exhibits are only described in Vietnamese but some are self-explanatory. A selection of military hardware which include a tank and a helicopter sit outside the museum.

65 Ly Tu Trong, District 1
Tel: (08) 829-9743 or 829-9741.

Opening hours: 8.00 am to 4.00 pm daily.
Admission: VND10,000.

Vien Bao Tang Lich Su (Historical Museum)

The Historical Museum, just inside the entrance to the Botanical Gardens and Zoo, contains an impressive range of artifacts dating from the last 2,000 years of Vietnamese history. Included are items that belong to ancient cultures such as Cham, Dong Son, and Oc Eo. The museum was erected in 1929 and the collection was assembled by the Ecole Francaise d’Extreme Orient.

Nguyen Binh Khiem, District 1
Tel: (08) 829-8146.

Opening hours: 8.00 am to 11.20 am and 1.30 pm to 4.20 pm daily.
Admission: VND10,000.

Cholon (Chinatown)

Situated in District 5, Cholon or Chinatown is a maze of narrow streets and alleys swarming with people. Most of Vietnam’s ethnic Chinese, the largest ethnic minority group in Vietnam, live here. Merchants came to settle in Cholon in the 1770s and numerous ethnic Chinese fled the country in 1975.

A must-sees sight in Cholon is the Thien Hau Pagoda which is dedicated to the goddess Thien Hau, protector of the sea. Photographers have endless choices with the ornate decoration inside the pagoda and the statues of Thien Hau. It's famous among worshippers (the air is usually pungent with the smell of burning incense). Regular festivals are held during the lunar calendar.

Binh Tay Market is teeming with people from early morning. The gloomy, narrow walkways are full of consumer products and exotic food. The sound of bargaining, often in Chinese rather than Vietnamese, and the sounds of shouting vendors constantly fill the air. This is definitely one of the best spots to observe the locals going about their daily lives.

Further Distractions

Chua Ngoc Hoang (Jade Emperor Pagoda)

One of the most beautiful pagodas in the city, the Jade Emperor Pagoda is dedicated to various Chinese-Vietnamese divinities, in a mix of Taoist and Buddhist styles. It is home to many of statues and exquisite woodcarvings with elaborate tiles on the roof.

Mai Thi Luu, District 3

Opening hours: No formal opening times.
Admission: Free; donations accepted and appreciated.

Giac Lam Pagoda

The Giac Lam Pagoda is 3 kilometres or 2 miles from Cholon. It is thought to be the oldest pagoda in Ho Chi Minh City and is a peaceful place to visit. Families of the sick and old visit regularly to pin supplications on the large bronze bell, believing that when it's rung the messages will be sent to the heavens above.

Lac Long Quan, District 11

Opening hours: No formal open times.
Admission: Free; donations accepted and appreciated.

Thao Cam Vien (Zoo and Botanical Gardens)

Created by the French in 1864 the Botanical Gardens were once known as some of the best in Asia. At present, however, it is just a pleasant spot for an easy walk in the city centre of Ho Chi Minh, among tropical plants and trees. The Zoo isn't up to Western standards, and has poor enclosures.

Nguyen Binh Khiem, District 1
Tel: (08) 829-3728.

Opening hours: 7.00 am to 8.00 pm daily.
Admission: VND8000.
Useful travel links
Ho Chi Minh-Sightseeing info on sightseeing in Ho Chi Minh City
Sightseeing sightseeing in Ho Chi Min City