South of Vietnam

SOUTH OF VIETNAM – HO CHI MINH CITY Summary Area: 2,095.5 sq. km Population: 9,396,000 (2011) Administrative divisions: – Urban 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 Geography – Ho Chi Minh City is nestled within the Mekong Delta, where Saigon River flows through – The city is an important economic and political center of Vietnam Climate – Saigon climate is hot and humid. There are two distinctive seasons: the wet season from May to November, and the dry season from December to April. There is sunshine all year round. History – In the 19th century, Saigon was under the French control and was the biggest and busiest city in Indochina. – In April 1975, the North and the South of Vietnam reunified, and Saigon was renamed into Ho Chi Minh City. Tourism Ho Chi Minh City is an important tourist attraction of Vietnam as it contains many vestiges of the past. It shows the cluster of Eastern and Western cultures via the architecture, costumes, and customs. The historical relics in the city attracts a large number of tourists each year. General information Ho Chi Minh City – the center of Southern Vietnam covers an area of 2,095.5 sq. km and has the population of 9,396,000 (2011). It consists of 19 urban 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, and Tan Phu) and 5 rural ones (Nha Be, Can Gio, Hoc Mon, Cu Chi, and Binh Chanh). Similar to Hanoi and Da Nang, the majority of the population is the Kinh people. There are also citizens from Hoa, Khmer, and Cham ethnic groups. Geography Along with Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, is one of the two important cities of Vietnam. It is the center of economy and entertainment. The city is nestled within the Mekong Delta, where the Saigon River flows through. The Saigon Port, which was founded in 1862, is a big inland river port. Climate In general terms, Saigon climate is hot and humid. There are two distinctive seasons: the wet season from May to November, and the dry season from December to April. The annual average temperature is 27⁰C. The city receives sunshine all year round. History This land was used by the Khmers as a hunting area 500 years ago. In late 19th century, the French colonizers invaded this area, and turned Saigon into a bustling city, and the economic center of Indochina. Traders from different countries came and established the major trading center there. Saigon became the largest city in Indochina in 1874, when the China Town (Cho Lon) merged into. It was considered the Pearl of the Far East. In April 30, 1975, the Viet Cong tanks hit the gates of the Independence Palace and marked the reunification of the North and the South of Vietnam. Since then, Saigon has been renamed into “Ho Chi Minh City”, under the name of the great leader of Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh City still is a crowded and bustling city. The past and the present stay together in the city, where you can easily find the ancient French architectural works stand next to new skyscrapers. Tourism Today, Ho Chi Minh City is the big tourism center in Vietnam, attracting a large number of visitors to Vietnam. The City has various attractions as Ho Chi Minh Museum, formerly known as Dragon House Wharf, Cu Chi Tunnels, system of museums, theatres, and cultural houses. Recently, many additional tourist areas evolved with significant investment such as Thanh Da, Binh Quoi Village, Dam Sen Park, Saigon Water Park, Suoi Tien, Ky Hoa, which draw numerous people from all over the world. Despite its quite recent past, Ho Chi Minh City still 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, Notre Dame Cathedral). 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. HIGHLIGHTS OF THE SOUTH Reunification Palace The Reunification Palace – Dinh Doc Lap is absolutely a must-visit stop for any Saigon Travel Tour. It is considered a landmark of Saigon. Similar to the United States’ White House, Dinh Doc Lap was the home and the workplace of Southern Vietnam Governors during the Vietnam War. During the Fall of Saigon, the palace marked the end of the War when the Northern Vietnam Army tanks crashed its main gates on April 30th, 1975. The Reunification Palace is not only an extremely important historical site but also a masterpiece of architecture. It is a combination of Eastern and Western styles. Nowadays, it has become a meeting place of the Government and also a national historical and cultural site which attracts a huge number of tourists from every part of the world each year. Address: 106 Nguyen Du Street, District 1, HCMC Opening hour: Everyday, 7.30 am – 5.00 pm Entrance fee: Around 20,000VND/adult Notre Dame Cathedral This is the city’s Catholic Church built in 1880, which has become the worship place of a large Catholic Community in Saigon. Notre Dame Cathedral was constructed with French-imported materials only.  The twin towers of the church is a distinctive feature which are approximately 60 meters high. In 2005, there was a miracle in the church that the statue of the Virgin Mary shed tears. With its distinctive Western design as well as religious value, the Notre Dame Cathedral is regarded a must-stop place that every traveler should visit. Address: Han Thuyen Street, District 1 Opening hour: Everyday, 8.00 am – 5.00 pm Entrance fee: Free Recommend: If you visit on weekdays, use the side gate (if the main gate is close) to get inside the church Museum of Ho Chi Minh City Also known as The Museum of the Revolution, the museum is placed in a beautiful French palace (Gia Long palace), which used to be the home of French Governors and President Ngo Dinh Diem – the final residence of the South Vietnam Government. That museum displays the developments of Saigon as well as the revolutionary movement. Visiting the museum, travelers will get exposure to the history of the past Vietnam, to see what happened in Vietnam War through photos, and see how Saigon has changed time after time. Especially, there is a corridor leading the way from that palace to the Reunification Palace. Address: 65 Ly Tu Trong, Ben Nghe Opening hours: Monday to Friday, 7:30 a.m – 6:00 p.m Entrance fee: Free War Remnants Museum Once known as the ‘Museum of American War Crimes’, the Museum was first opened to the public in 1975. It offers a shocking reminder of the long and brutal Vietnam War, with many graphic photographs and American military equipment on display, including a helicopter with rocket launchers, a tank, a fighter plane, a single-seater attack aircraft, and a 6,800kg conventional bomb. Address: 26 Vo Van Tan Street, District 3 Opening hour: Everyday, 7.30 am – 12.00 pm, 1.30 pm – 5.00 pm Entrance fee: Around 15.000VND/guest Cu Chi Tunnels Nestled about 40 kilometers from the city center of Ho Chi Minh City, Cu Chi Tunnels is the underground tunnel which was used by Vietnam Army during Vietnam War. It was a 250 kilometer-long tunnel bug by elementary tools and bare hand and was the place where the Vietnamese stay and live during the War. It was later the Viet Cong base during Tet Offensive event – a major military campaign on January 1968. It was used to store weapons and food, as a hospital and a hiding place and living quarters for Viet Cong armed forces. The tunnel, therefore, played a vital role in the victory of Vietnam during the War. Nowadays some plots are open for tourism. Visitors can come inside the tunnel and experience how Vietnamese people did to survive during the War. Address: Ben Dinh, Nhuan Duc, Cu Chi Ward Opening hour: Everyday, 9.00 am – 5.00 pm Entrance fee: Around 80.000VND/guest Central Post Office Located at Paris Commune Street, District 1, Saigon Central Post Office is a must-stop destination for Saigon City Tours.  It is a typical colonial French Building. The post office was built in 1891, based on the design of Eiffel – the globally famous French architect and has become the busiest post office in the city. As a mixture of Gothic, Renaissance and French influences, the post office attracts tourists with typical characteristics of French-style architecture. Walking into the Central Post Office, visitors would feel like they are brought back to a 20th-century building in Europe rather than an Eastern post office. Nowadays, the post office still offers all kinds of traditional postal services such as mailing, selling postcards or stamps, and exchanging foreign money. Address: 2 Cong Xa Paris, District 1 Opening hour: Everyday, 7.00 am – 8.00 pm Entrance fee: Free Jade Pagoda The Pagoda was built in 1892 and is dedicated to Taoism and Buddhism. This pagoda was an important meeting place of Chinese secret societies who planned to overthrow the government in Peking during the Manchu Dynasty. The pagoda is filled with incense, candles, and statues of various divinities and heroes. Address: 73 Mai Thi Luu Street, District 3 Opening hour: Everyday, 8.00 am – 5.00 pm Entrance fee: Free Recommend: Visitor can make donation. Giac Lam Pagoda It is the oldest pagoda in the city which has more than 250 years of history. The pagoda make tourists feel that they are entering a different world with its pungent incense, funeral tablets, and carved inscriptions. Carved wooden pillars describe the lives of the monks whose portraits adorn the walls. This pagoda also consists of many beautifully carved wooden statues of the Buddha, reincarnations of Buddha, judges, guardians from Hell, and the Buddha of Mercy. Address: 118 Lac Long Quan Street, District 3 Opening hour: everyday, 5.00 am – 8.00 pm Entrance fee: Free Thien Hau Temple This Temple was built by Cantonese fishermen in late 18th century and is dedicated to the Goddess of the Sea. The altar for the Goddess features three statues of the goddess “Thien Hau”. Votive paper offerings are burned in a large furnace at the entrance. Address:  710 Nguyen Trai Street, District 5 Opening hour: Everyday, 8.00 am – 4.30 pm Entrance fee: Free Ben Thanh Market It is the largest market in Ho Chi Minh City which has gone through a hundred year of history. The market is highlighted with French-style decoration with an outstanding clock tower at its entrance. Visitors can find a wide range of products in the market such as garments, textile, handicrafts, flowers, and vegetables. It is also a good place to try the authentic Saigon Cuisine. Address: Le Loi Street, District 1 Opening hour: Everyday, 6.00 am – 6.00 pm Entrance fee: Free Recommend: Ben Thanh Night market, which flanks the 2 side roads of the Ben Thanh Building, comes on at about 5 pm and all the way to 12 midnight Chinatown – Cho Lon Cho Lon is the largest China town in Vietnam. Not only does Cho Lon sell a wide range of product, it also displays the influences of Chinese culture in the architecture and customs. The majority of people living there is Chinese-Vietnamese people. The ancient works are well preserved. Visiting Cho Lon, tourists can take a glimpse at the life of the Chinese-Vietnamese community and the cluster of the past and the present. Address: District 5, Ho Chi Minh City Opening hour: 24/7 Entrance fee: Free TRANSPORTATION Ho Chi Minh City is the hub of the South. It is the main junction for railway, road, air, and water transportation systems for both domestic and international routes. Saigon 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 National Highway 13 is the main road connecting Vietnam and other Indochinese countries. Regarding railway transportation, Thong Nhat Express Train is the biggest railway system in Vietnam which comes throughout the whole country. Tan Son Nhat Airport in Ho Chi Minh City is a big domestic and international airport. Flights within Vietnam and towards other countries are available there.