Guide about Ho Chi Minh
Ho Chi Minh City
Area: 2,095.2 sq. km
Population: 5,730,700 habitants (2004)
- Districts: District 1, District 2, District 3, District 4, District 5, District 6, District 7, District 8, District 9, District 10, District 11, District 12, Tan Binh, Binh Thanh, Phu Nhuan, Thu Duc, Go Vap, Binh Tan,Tan Phu.
- Rural districts: Nha Be, Can Gio, Hoc Mon, Cu Chi, Binh Chanh.
Ethnic groups: Viet (Kinh), Hoa, Khmer, Cham...
In the core of the Mekong Delta, Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, is second the most important in Vietnam after Hanoi. It is not only a commercial center but also a scientific, technological, industrial and tourist center. The city is bathed by many rivers, arroyos and canals, the biggest river being the Saigon River. The Port of Saigon, established in 1862, is accessible to ships weighing up to 30,000 tons, a rare advantage for an inland river port. Climate:The climate is generally hot and humid. There are two distinctive seasons: the rainy season, from May to November, and the dry season, from December to April. The annual average temperature is 27ºC. The hottest month is April and the lowest is December. It is warm all year.
Many centuries ago, Saigon was already a busy commercial center. Merchants from China, Japan and many European countries would sail upstream the Saigon River to reach the islet of Pho, a trading center. In the year of 1874, Cho Lon merged with Saigon, forming the largest city in the Indochina. It had been many times celebrated as the Pearl of the Far East. After the reunification of the country, the 6th National Assembly in its meeting of the 2nd of July, 1976, has officially rebaptized Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City. The history of city relates closely with the struggle for the independence and freedom of Vietnam.
Today, Ho Chi Minh City is the big tourism center in Vietnam, attracting a large of visitors to Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh City has various attractions as Ho Chi Minh Museum, formerly known as Dragon House Wharf, Cu Chi Tunnels, system of museums, theatres, cultural houses... Recently, many tourist areas are invested such as Thanh Da, Binh Quoi Village, Dam Sen Park, Saigon Water Park, Suoi Tien, Ky Hoa..., which draw numerous tourists.
Despite its quite recent past, Ho Chi Minh City nevertheless possesses various beautiful buildings, displaying a characteristic combination of Vietnamese, Chinese and European cultures. These include Nha Rong (Dragon House Wharf), Quoc To Temple (National Ancestors’ Temple), Xa Tay (Municipal Office), Ho Chi Minh Municipal Theatre as well as many pagodas and churches (Vinh Nghiem, Giac Vien, Giac Lam, Phung Son pagodas...). After more than 300 years of development, Ho Chi Minh City presents many ancient architectural constructions, famous vestiges and renowned sights. It is remarkable for its harmonious blending of traditional national values with northern and western cultural features.
Ho Chi Minh City is the main junction for trains, roads, water, and air transportation systems for domestic trips and for foreign destination.
- Roads: Ho Chi Minh City is 1,730km from Hanoi, 99km from Tay Ninh, 30km from Bien Hoa (Dong Nai), 70km from My Tho, 125km from Vung Tau, 168km from Can Tho, 308km from Dalat, and 375km from Buon Ma Thuot. The City has National Highway 13 which connects Vietnam with the rest of Indochina.
- Train: Thong Nhat express train connects Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, vie many provinces in Vietnam.
- Air: Tan Son Nhat International Airport, 7km from center of city, is the biggest airport with many domestic and international routes. There are flights from Hanoi and Danang to Ho Chi Minh City and between the City to many regions as well a lot of countries on over the world.
WAR REMNANTS MUSEUM
The sobering War Remnants Museum was established in September 1975 in Ho Chi Minh City. It contains countless artifacts, photographs and pictures documenting some of the less heroic activities carried out by the US army in Vietnam.
Displays illustrate the killing of civilians, the spreading of toxic defoliant, the torturing of prisoners and the effects of the war in the north. Planes, tanks, bombs and helicopters are also on display.
Outside the museum are some rooms displaying cultural products of the Vietnamese culture. Over the last 29 years, over six million visitors have entered the museum. Nearly one million among them are from abroad.
THONG NHAT CONFERENCE HALL
Thong Nhat Conference Hall is situated at 106 Nguyen Du street in Ho chi Minh City. Originally Norodom Palace and the Palace of Indochina's Governor General, it was built in 1868. Until 1954, Ngo Dinh Diem, South Vietnam's President, lived and worked in Norodom Palace.
In 1962, the palace was heavily bombed by diem's own air force (he was that popular). He commanded the remains to be destroyed and had a new structure built: Independence Palace. The new building was built on a 120,000 sq.m area and itself covered 2,000 sq.m.
It included a basement, three main floors, two mezzanines, one terrace and one upper floor. There are a total of hundreds of rooms in the palace, each decorated according to its function. It also features two exhibition rooms, a 33-room guest-house and numerous entertainment services such as tennis courts.
On April 30, 1975, the tanks of the northern army broke through the gates of Independence Palace, and what remained of the southern government, 45 members and the recently-appointed President Duong Van Minh, surrendered without condition.
After reunification, Independence Palace became the headquarters of the city's Military Administration Committee. The political consultation for national unification was held in this palace, which was renamed the Thong Nhat Conference Hall.
Nowadays, the site has become a historic, cultural relic attracting domestic as well as international visitors.
Notre Dame Cathedral
Notre Dame Cathedral is situated in Paris Square, in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City. A French priest laid the first brick in October 1877 and the lastnamed Notre Dame during ceremonies held in December 1959.
Its neo-Romanesque architecture and two 40m-high square towers tipped with iron spires dominate the city's sky line. In front of the cathedral is a statue of the Virgin Mary. Visitors who wish to attend mass should go Sunday at 9.30 am.
Ho Chi Minh City Zoo
HO CHI MINH CITY ZOO AND BOTANICAL GARDENS
Ho Chi Minh City Zoo and Botanical Gardens opened in 1865 on a 20-ha area thanks to JB Louis Pierre, a famous French botanist.
The zoo contains more than 520 animals representing 120 species. The botanical gardens feature 1,830 trees and plants representing 260 species, some of which are over 100 years old.
Twenty species of orchids, 32 species of cacti and 34 species of bonsai are being grown to the delight of the millions of tourists who have arrived here. Ho Chi Minh City Zoo and Botanical Gardens is a member of the South-East Asian Zoological Association.
Giac Vien Pagoda
GIAC VIEN PAGODA
Giac Vien Pagoda is located about 10km south-west of downtown Ho Chi Minh City, amid a quiet area near Dam Sen (lotus pond) tourist park. It has the ancient architecture of the pagodas built in the Nguyen dynasty of the 19th century, and typical characteristics of the southern area in terms of the architecture, design and arrangement of the worshipping shrines.
In 1789, a monk who was in charge of taking care of the restoration of Giac Lam Pagoda, built a small pavilion for his daily prayers, called Quart Am Cac (Kwan Yin Pavilion).
In the third year under king Tu Duc's reign (1850), the pavilion was rebuilt and named Giac Vien Pagoda. When building Dam Sen tourist park, the Management Board decided to preserve Giac Vien Pagoda intact and incorporate it into the park, making the park more attractive due to its cultural-historical value.
Giac Vien Pagoda has typical features, of southern Vietnam. The main shrine, also a big hall, is 360 sq. rn in area, and used to worship Buddha. To its East and West, there are corridors, a room for the monks to prepare clothing before assisting the Superior Monk, and a large and spacious compartment at the rear. Along the corridors, there are small altars with worshipping items.
In particular, there are rows of wooden pillars engraved with parallel sentences. The letters are carved delicately and painted with red lacquer and trimmed with gold. Around them there are decorative designs of leaves and climbing plants. All 153 statues in the pagoda are made of jack wood. The faces and postures of the statues look honest and they are placed low, creating a close feeling between them and the viewers.
The most attractive items are 60 plates, which are engraved on both sides made of jack wood. They are and made with gold. The most beautiful plate is engraved with 18 fat, honest and smiling Arhats, with each riding on the back of a buffalo, a cow, a pig, a goat, etc.
Some plates are engraved with birds, ducks, fish, etc., but all looking alive. Other plates are carved with fruits popular in the South, such as coconut, mangosteen, durian, rambutan, etc. These wooden engravings are the only ones that have been kept intact in Vietnam. The Buddhist spirit of the ancient Viet people, during their migration South, accepted different religious tendencies and sects, on condition that they were useful to society.
This is clearly seen through the items preserved at Giac Vien pagoda. For this reason, Giac Vien Pagoda became a centre for worshipping ceremonies and discussions on Buddhism of the six southern provinces in the 19th century- a prosperous time for Buddhist followers and talents whose works remain valuable until today.
Giac Vien Pagoda has been classified by the State as a cultural relic and a mini-museum of wooden engravings of historical and artistic Value. For this reason, it attracts a lot of researchers and visitors all year round.
Cu Chi tunnels
It contains countless artifacts, photographs and pictures documenting some of the less heroic activities carried out by the US army in Vietnam.
Displays illustrate the killing of civilians, the spreading of toxic defoliant, the torturing of prisoners and the effects of the war in the north. Planes, tanks, bombs and helicopters are also on display. Outside the museum are some rooms displaying cultural products of the Vietnamese culture. Over the last 29 years, over six million visitors have entered the museum. Nearly one million among them are from abroad.
BA DEN MOUNTAIN
Ba Den mountain, the highest elevation in the south at 986m, is the last peak in the Truong Son mountain range. It is located 15km north -east of Tay Ninh. The area is a historical and beautiful site, and covers more than 24 sq.km.
Centuries ago Ba Den mountain became the place of worship for the local population. Perched on the mountain in front of a lake is Van Son pagoda.
The mountain overlooks the whole province, like a conical hat rising from the plains. From here visitors can see Cau mountain to the east and the Heo and Phung mountains to the north-west. Besides, picturesque grottoes and caves are scattered in the mountain.
Ba Den mountain is also the location of three preservation parks that serve as outdoor museums which display relics and photographs depicting the life and activities of the Vietnamese Liberation Forces during the American war. Ba Den mountain is always very crowded and lively on holidays and festivals.
CAO DAI GREAT TEMPLE
The Cao Dai Great temple is the cathedral of the Cao Dai religion and is the main attraction in Tay Ninh. The temple, buil between 1933 and 1955, is located more specifically in Long Hoa, 5km south-east of Tay Ninh.
It is 140m long and 40m wide. The construction is harmonious fusion of Asian and European styles. The interior consists of a huge decorated hall ans sanctuary The two rows and columns are decorated with dragons and are coated in white, red and blue paint.
The domed ceiling is divided into nine parts similar to a night sky full of a stars and symbolizes heaven, Under the dome is a giant star-speckled blue globe with the Divine Eye painted on it: This is the official symbol of CaoDaism. Followers worship Jesus Christ, Confucius, Laotze and Buddha, and also believe to be in touch with such deceased celebrities as Shakespeare, Joan of Arc and Victor Hugo.
Cho Lon (Lon Market)
Location: 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 Cholon 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.
Ben Thanh Market
Location: 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.
Characteristics: 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.
According to Vuong Hong Sen, author of "the book Saigon of the Past", in 1912, the French filled a pond, the Boresse, into a solid foundation of 12,000m² and built a market on it. The market was close to a landing stage (Ben) of the old city (Thanh), hence its name of Ben Thanh. The opening ceremony for the market in March 1914 was a big festive event.
At present, the front of Ben Thanh Market faces 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