Wednesday August 15, 2018

Walking around Ho Chi Minh City


OUR stay in Vietnam’s biggest urban metropolis, Ho Chi Minh City, was a brief one. Since it was the last stop to a 10-day adventure in four cities in three Southeast Asian countries, the Ho Chi Minh City leg of our trip was a bit slow and unhurried. Our primary agenda was to shop for souvenirs and items requested by friends.

We only had a few days to roam what was formerly known as Saigon. What we did was to walk whenever we could and took only a cab when really necessary. Since we stayed in District 1, which is more popular with backpackers. We stayed in one of the backpackers’ inn right across the September 23 Park, so we had a chance to stroll around the area day and night.

Ben Thanh Market. This over a century-old structure is one of the famous destinations in Ho Chi Minh City. It began as an informal area for vendors in the 17th century until it evolved into a formal market. The iconic clocktower catches the eye of passersby that marked the façade of the building. Souvenir items, shirts, handicrafts, household items, food, fruits and dry goods are sold in Ben Thanh Market.

Ho Chi Minh City Hall. The elaborate and intricate design of the French colonial style edifice is a breathtaking view in the heart of HCMC. In front of the Saigon City Hall is the statue of Ho Chi Minh, a key figure in Vietnam. Built from 1902 to 1908, the city hall was originally referred to as the Hotel de Ville de Saigon. Near this place is the Saigon Opera House, which also boasts of its charming architectural design.

Saigon Notre Dame Basilica. The Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of The Immaculate Conception is another sight to behold. Its Romanesque style of architecture is another trace of European influence. Its twin spires seem to reach towards the heavens. A statue of the Virgin Mary, titled “Regina Pacis,” stood in front of the church, evoking calmness and serenity.

Saigon Central Post Office. Right next to the Basilica is the imposing Central Post Office. Built in the late 19th century, this is another structure that projects the French influence. The interiors of the post office are elegantly beautiful. It has become a tourist destination that a souvenir shop can also be found inside the building.

Independence Palace. The Reunification Palace was closed when we passed by. But it is another significant structure in Vietnam that speaks of the rich history of the country.

War Remnants Museum. Although the War Remnants Museum is an interesting site as it brings us back to the events during the Vietnam War and the first Indochina War, I am not a big fan of war. The way things are depicted in this museum may be a bit gruesome to the senses, but they happened in reality. It was somewhat emotional looking at the displays in the museum.

Tao Dan Park. We spent our last moments in HCMC strolling under the canopy of trees at Tao Dan Park. There were locals enjoying a picnic at the park, and we even came upon the entrance of the Den Tuong Niem Cac Vua Hung Temple.

We got to these sites mostly on foot, under the warm Vietnam weather. There were other interesting destinations to see but time was not on our side. As we made our way to the airport to catch our flight back home, we passed by the statue of Phu Dong Thien Vuong in one of HCMC’s thoroughfares. It would be interesting to go back to Saigon and explore other parts of Vietnam.

All photos are by this author unless otherwise stated. Claire Marie Algarme blogs at Follow her as @firsttimetravel on Twitter and Instagram and like her Facebook page First-time Travels blog.