Ho Chi Minh City is Vietnam's largest city. This megalopolis has a rich culture and is also the country's economic powerhouse. The center of the old Saigon is boasts charming French colonial architecture and wide boulevards, usually congested by the huge traffic.
The main tourist attractions are found in District 1, within walking distance of each other. The most significant are the Reunification Palace, the City Hall, the Opera House, the Central Post Office, the State Bank Office, the City People’s Court and the famous Notre Dame Cathedral. Historic hotels such as the Majestic (dating from the French colonial era) and the Rex and the Caravelle (which were former hangout spots for American officers and war correspondents in the 1960s and 1970s) are worth visiting.Reunification Palace
The Reunification Palace is a 5-storey building with a dissonant 1960s architecture. Its construction began in 1962 and ended in 1966, and is almost in its original state since the fall of Saigon in 1975. Formerly the palace of the President of South Vietnam, the war ended on April 30th
1975 when the tank #843 hit its portal (a replica of the tank is parked on the lawn of this building). By visiting this palace, you can enjoy the kitsch of the lounge and its circular sofa and enter the ominous basement, with offices, radios and telephones dating back to the 1960s. There is also a photo gallery and propaganda films recounting the victory of Ho Chi Minh’s revolutionary forces of the North on the US military forces and the South Vietnamese army, upon which point many South Vietnamese supporters fled as refugees, and soldiers and policemen were recognized as guilty of treason and sent to labor camps.Museum of Vietnamese History
The museum houses many historical artifacts including three wooden stakes from the battle between Ngo Quyen and the Han invaders, granite tablets with intricate carvings, and uniforms of past mandarins and kings. A statue of the Thousand-eyed and Thousand-armed Buddha is also part of the collection. According to the curator, many of the artifacts date back to the 6th
centuries.Notre Dame Cathedral & the Central Post Office
The Cathedral is located in downtown Ho Chi Minh City and was opened to the public in 1880. The bricks in bright red color and the stained glass windows were imported from France. The Central Post Office was designed by Gustave Eiffel and is very close to the cathedral: it is yet another architectural gem of neoclassical style dating back to the French colonial period.Quan Am Pagoda
Quan Am Pagoda is one of the most active and colorful temples in Cholon, the Chinese quarter. This shrine was founded in the early 19th
century and is named after the Goddess of Mercy. It is a widely popular place of worship for both the Vietnamese and Chinese Buddhists.Thien Hau Pagoda
Thien Hau Pagoda is a Chinese style temple located in Cholon (the city’s Chinatown). It is dedicated to Thien Hau, the Lady of the Sea, a deity worshipped in the seafaring Chinese communities. It is most popular among tourists for its amazing incense: indeed, dozens of incense coils are hung over the main worship area, in front of the Thien Hau altar. Some are large, with a diameter exceeding one meter and can burn for over a month. By giving a small donation to the pagoda, you can light your own incense coil and hang it from the rafters.Phuoc Hai Pagoda
Phuoc Hai Pagoda (or Jade Emperor Pagoda) was built in 1909 by the Chinese community in honor of the supreme Taoist god (Ngoc Hoang, the Jade Emperor also known as King of Heaven). This temple has a unique atmosphere that greatly differs from most of the other pagodas found in Ho Chi Minh City. Statues of phantasmal deities and grotesque heroes, candles and ribbons of aromatic incense, fantastic illuminations, exquisite woodcarvings and a turtle pond give an incredible character to the place. Cu Chi Tunnels
This site is an immense network of underground tunnels located in Cu Chi district and is part of a much larger network of tunnels underlying much of the country. The Cu Chi tunnels were the location of several military campaigns during the Vietnam War and were used as the Viet Cong's base of operations for the Tet Offensive in 1968.
The tunnels were not only used by Viet Cong soldiers as hiding spots during the battles, but also served as communication and supply routes, hospitals, food and weapon caches and living quarters for numerous North Vietnamese fighters. The tunnel system was of utmost importance and strongly contributed to counter the growing military effort of the Americans. This vast network, built on several levels, included many hidden traps, living quarters, storage areas, weapon factories, field hospitals, command centers and kitchens.Activities:
- Dinner on a boat on Saigon River