The largest city of today’s Vietnam and former capital of the once independent country of South Vietnam has been developing at a tremendous pace for decades, thus reflecting the transformation of the emerging power of Vietnam, which is particularly strikingly visible in the form of numerous luxurious hotels, large shopping malls, massive office buildings, modern event centers and amusement parks, which are technologically and visually up to date and invite travelers from all over the world to visit.
On the other hand, the city has also preserved silent witnesses of past eras that provide insights into the eventful history of the city and the country, such as the Notre Dame Cathedral or the Jade Emperor Pagoda.
Tip 1: Saigon Skydeck
Visitors can enjoy the best view of bustling Ho Chi Minh City with its distinctive buildings and the Mekong River from the skydeck of the Bitexco Financial Tower, the city’s tallest structure at 262.5 meters.
The distinctive building houses numerous small stores, offices, restaurants, stylish bars and cafes within its 68 floors, so in addition to the viewing platform, the interior also offers an interesting shopping experience and a culinary world of diverse food. In addition, there is a modern cinema and a helipad. The elevator takes no more than 35 seconds to get from the first floor to any floor. The stairs are used from time to time, of course, especially during the annual Bitexco Vertical Run, with participants from all over the world running up over 1000 steps from the first floor lobby to the observation deck.
Tip 2: Buu Long Pagoda
Buu Long Pagoda is one of the most beautiful Buddhist monuments. If you are vacationing in (Saigon), be sure to take the time to visit it. The pagoda is located 20 kilometers from the center of Ho Chi Minh City. The temple belongs to the most orthodox branch of Buddhism, the Theravada school. The architectural appearance of Buu Long is reminiscent of temples in Thailand and India. There are also similarities with pagodas in Myanmar and Laos.
The majestic Buu Long Pagoda was built in 1943 on a hill by the Dong Nai River. A comprehensive restoration of the temple complex began in 2007 and took five years.
The pagoda is amazingly large. The area of the stupa (the largest in Vietnam) is 2000 square meters. It is surrounded by four gold-colored copper towers in which bells are installed, their ringing echoing far into the area of the temple complex. In the center there is a tower with the height of a seven-story building. The total height of the stupa is 70 meters. A semicircular artificial lake with turquoise water and a dragon-shaped fountain is one of the main decorations of the pagoda. Surrounded by green trees, it is very picturesque. The beauty of the lake reflecting the snow-white walls of the temple and the golden spires of the towers are especially wonderful.
The entire temple building is magnificently decorated, with many depictions of Buddha, lotus flowers, Dharma wheels and leaves of the Bodhi tree on the walls. Stone statues of dragons and cranes are scattered around the pagoda. Buulong Pagoda is built on a hill.
The viewing platforms offer breathtaking views of the entire complex as well as the suburbs of Ho Chi Minh City and the Dong Nai River.
Buu Long Pagoda is not yet very famous among tourists, so the temple complex is a quiet place to enjoy.
Tip 3: Notre Dame of Saigon
Notre Dame Cathedral is the seat of the Archbishop of Saigon. For many it may be a surprise to find a Catholic church in a country whose inhabitants are predominantly – namely 80% – Buddhists.
The cathedral rises 60.5 meters to the sky. It is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Saigon and the largest Catholic church in Southeast Asia. The architectural style is neo-Romanesque.
The church was built by the French. The materials are all from France including the red bricks from Marseille. Most of the interior ornaments and decorations are still intact.
The altar – formed by a monolithic block of marble surrounded by the 6 angels – embodies the center. Around the altar are grouped several small chapels with stained glass windows.
In front of the church extends a park in the form of a large cross. In Vietnam – and this must be emphasized – there is freedom of religion. Masses are held in the church exclusively on Sundays at 6:00 am 9:00 am and 4:00 and 6:00 pm.
For the Saigonese, the church also has a symbolic character. It is a backdrop for the wedding couples even for non-Catholic -and their photographers.
Tip 4: Ben-Thanh-Market
Ben Thanh Market is one of the typical places to visit in Ho Chi Minh. This place is not just an ordinary business market like other markets, but also a witness of history, experiencing all the ups and downs and living through all the wars with the city. Therefore, it is considered as a symbol of the city. Traveling to Saigon without visiting Ben Thanh Market is not a complete trip.
Ben Thanh Market: is located in Cua Nam, Ben Thanh, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. The main gate of Ben Thanh Market is Cua Nam overlooking Quach Thi Trang Square: symbol of a three-sided bell tower. The bell tower at the main gate is often considered the main symbol of the market.
Tip 5: Cu Chi Tunnels
Once the famous Chu Chi tunnels in the south of Vietnam were a huge tunnel system on three floors, which served the partisans well in the Vietnam War. At that time, the enemy often did not even find the entrance, which provided the partisans with a significant advantage. The fascinating Chu Chi Tunnels are mostly buried today, but there is still one tunnel that has been opened to visitors and can be visited.
You will find the Chu Chi Tunnels about 70 kilometers away from Saigon, but of the once good 250 kilometers of tunnel system on three levels only a few tunnels are left today, the rest of the huge Chu Chi Tunnels have been buried in the meantime. The first Chu Chi tunnels were built in 1948 during the Vietnam War. The reason for the creation of the tunnel system was the fight against the former colonial power France – the inhabitants wanted to use the Chu Chi tunnels to protect weapons, people and the precious supplies.
After the victory of the Vietnamese over the French forces, troops were sent from the USA, but they had no idea that their opponents could be found underground near Saigon. It was not until the 1960s that the Vietcong, or Vietnamese partisans, expanded the tunnel system so that the Chu Chi tunnels reached a length of about 250 kilometers on 3 levels. Entire cities with hospitals and places for elderly people children were created underground, which were all strategically connected by the Vietcong. The Chu Chi tunnels were originally just 80 centimeters high and about 60 centimeters wide, so that while small Vietnamese could easily get in – the larger U.S. soldiers did not have much of a chance to get into the Chu Chi tunnels. In addition, the entrances to the Chu Chi tunnels were very well protected and thus usually not even discovered by the U.S. soldiers.