Ho Chi Minh City - Overview
Area: 2,095.2 sq. km
Population: 5,891,100 habitants (2005)
- 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...
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.
What to see in HCMC?
Thien Hau pagoda
Time: The 23rd day of the third lunar month. Place: 710 Nguyen Trai Street, District 5, Ho Chi Minh City.
Objects of worship: Lady Thien Hau.
Characteristics: The via Ba (her birthday anniversary) ceremony is hold at Thien Hau Pagoda, which is one of the oldest pagodas of the Chinese in Cho Lon. Many Chinese people come to the festival, they make two effigies of Ong Thien (Good God) and Ong Ac (Evil God) with 3m long. At the end of the festival, the effigies are burned for worshipping.
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.
Cho 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.
Giac Lam pagoda
Location: Giac Lam Pagoda is located at 118 Lac Long Quan Street, Tan Binh District, Ho Chi Minh City.
Characteristic: It is one of the city's oldest pagodas with many Buddha statues made of brass and precious timber.
Giac Lam Pagoda (also known as the Cam Son or Cam Dien Pagoda) was built in 1744, under the reign of Lord Nguyen Phuc Khoat. Unlike many other local religious structures, it has not been renovated since 1900; the architecture, layout, and ornamentation remain almost unaltered. The scenery around the pagoda is picturesque and many people come here to write or recite poetry.
Standing in the front garden is a shining white statue of the Goddess of Mercy, perched upon a lotus blossom, a symbol of purity. Inside, on either side of the main altar, are statues of Ameda Buddha and Sakyamuni Buddha, along with more representations of the Goddess of Mercy. Giac Lam Pagoda is open from 6 am to 9 pm.
Duc Ba Cathedral
Location: Duc Ba Cathedral is located on Han Thuyen Street, facing down Dong Khoi Street, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City.
Characteristic: The resplendent Governor's Palace, completed in 1875, symbolized the regime's political power in Asia. And five years later, the Duc Ba (Our Lady's) Cathedral was inaugurated, and became the spiritual and cultural crucible of the French presence in the Orient.
After the first French colonizing force arrived in Vietnam in the mid - 19thcentury, it took only 21 years before the country had a cathedral to match the hulking Gothic edifices of France itself. The cathedral is supposed to represent the glory of the French Empire. Yet, as is always the case with colonization, this attempt to import French traditions into Vietnam transformed the colonizers' culture in the process. Even though the cathedral is built in a Western architectural style, it has a uniquely Eastern aspect.
Several architects put forward design proposals for the cathedral, but in 1877 the authorities selected Mr Bourard, who was famed for his religious architecture. He envisaged, and executed, a basilica-like structure with a square plan. The cathedral is composed 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 whole building is well-ventilated thanks to a system of air-holes placed above and under the windows. The belfry is 57m high. For a long time it was the highest structure in the city centre, and was the first thing an arriving traveller would see when approaching the city by boat. Six bells weigh a combined 25,850kg. In 1885, the floor was taken apart and new pillars were added, because the original foundation could not bear the cathedral's weight. Stepping inside the cathedral, tourists see a line of Chinese characters eulogizing the Jesus' mother, "the innocent and unblemished Virgin Mother", and stained-glass portraits of Vietnamese believers amid Asiatic plants. On the square in front of the cathedral, there is a statue of the Virgin Mother made of white marble, symbolizing peace. All told, it's an unusual building: a Western architectural and religious style that has been transplanted into, and adapted to, the East. The colonizers were trying to impose French beliefs and customs onto Vietnam but once that culture arrived on Asia's shores, it took on a life of its own. The cathedral is seen as a unique synthesis, adding an unmistakable Oriental flavour to an ancient Occidental recipe.
For more information about attraction, accommodation, shopping in HCMC or Saigon city - click to the Best Vietnam Travel Guide - www.howtotravelvietnam.net