Ho Chi Minh City Touring and Sightseeing.

There are several places of particular interest to visit whilst in Saigon and all of them are quite easy to reach either by wandering about on foot or you can hire a motorbike taxi or a real taxi.

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Ho Chi Minh City - nuts, bolts and washers shop, Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh City - river boats, Vietnam. Around Saigon's streets there are all sorts of old buildings to look at - and the shops sell all manner of items including one which fascinated us that had thousands of steel bolts, nuts and washes all piled up on the pavement. The waterfront along the Saigon River was a particular favourite place to go too as it was a little away from the bustle - you can sit there and watch the river traffic particularly including the heavily laden rice barges trundling by. Parts of the walkways and also along the canal are in a bit of a mess as they are being built around making access very restricted in places - there are some nice stilt houses around though. Around the city there are various gardens to enjoy.
A green Tug going along Saigon River, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Fully laden rice barge on Saigon River in Vietnam. Canal near Saigon River in Ho Chi Minh City. Thi Nghe Channel, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Reunification Hall (or The Independence Palace) in Ho Chi Minh City.

The original building on this site was the Norodom Palace which was built in 1871. It was the residence of the French Governor General of Indo-China and constructed as a huge colonial mansion set in beautiful gardens and grounds.The Reunification Hall in Saigon, Vietnam. Following the departure of the French invaders in 1954 Ngo Dinh Diem took over the building to use as his palace. However after extensive damage in 1962 the building was pulled down and subsequently re-built in 1966 as the Independence Palace. After the defeat of the South Vietnamese in 1975 the building was yet again re-named this time as the Reunification Hall. The former grandeur of the building has been replaced by a huge white concrete building unfortunately. The Hall is open daily 07:30 - 11:30 and 13:00 - 16:00 and there is a small entrance fee. The rooms inside are pretty much the same as they were in the 1960s with banqueting rooms, conference areas and reception rooms and in the basement is the former command centre and combat staff rooms. Here there are displayed old communication equipment and a variety of huge wall maps.
Just to the west of the Reunification Hall are the Van Hoa Park municipal gardens - these are quite extensive with lots of shady trees and plenty of flower beds etc. - just right for a quiet sit and cold drink after a bit of hot sightseeing.
Notre Dame Cathedral, Ho Chi Minh City - Vietnam. Saigon's Notre Dame Cathedral, Vietnam.

Visiting the Notre Dame Cathedral (or Nha Tho Duc Ba) in Saigon.

Constructed by the French in 1883 the granite building actually looks like it's made of red stone but in fact it is covered in red ceramic tiles which were imported from Marseille. This is the largest church ever built in the French Empire and it's spire is 120 feet high (40m). The interior of the cathedral is fairly plain and although it once had beautifully stained glass windows, these were destroyed during WW2 and have since been replaced by plain glass.

Vaulted inner ceiling at Saigon Post Office. Saigon Post Office Wallmap, Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh City Post Office in Vietnam.

Saigon General Post Office (Buu Dien Trung Tam) in Ho Chi Minh City.

Situated next to the cathedral this beautiful building was constructed between 1886 and 1891 and was designed by Alexandre Gustave Eiffel (of Tower fame). With it's coral coloured facade, cream trims and beautiful carvings this is a really grand looking building which actually looks more like a railway station. The inside of the building has a vaulted roof which is supported by green painted wrought iron pillars. There are two large maps on opposite walls which show Saigon as it was in 1892 and the other shows the telegraph lines which existed in South Vietnam and Cambodia as they were in 1936. At the far end of the building there is a massive portrait of Ho Chi Minh looking down and keeping his eye on everything. There are wooden benches and tables through the middle of the building and along the walls are cubicles where you can purchase stamps for specific destinations or make phone calls etc.
Jade Emperor Altar - Saigon, Vietnam. Jade Emperor Pagoda Demon Guards at Saigon.

Visiting The Jade Emperor Pagoda - also known locaally as The Tortoise Pagoda in Saigon.

Built by the Cantonese community in 1909, the Pagoda is situated at 73 Mai Thi Luu Street in District 3 - it is a little hard to find in the narrow Saigon streets so just ask if necessary. The Temple is in honour of the King of All Heaven Ngoc Huang which means "Jade Emperor". Entry is through a shaded courtyard which has seating areas and is full of shrines and has a turtle shelter which is quite rare in Vietnam. The Temple consists of several pagodas some of which are quite small and full of burning incense. The statue of the Jade Emperor is located in the main sanctuary and is protected by two very impressive giant demon guards made of paper mache.
Jade Emperor Pagoda carved door, Vietnam. The Courtyard at The Jade Emperor Pagoda in Ho Chi Minh City. Turtles in a pond at The Jade Emperor Pagoda, Vietnam. Jade Emperor Shrine, Saigon in Vietnam.
The statue of Phat Mau Chuan De (Mother of the Five Buddhas) is unusual as her Hindu effigy is flanked by statues of her five sons. In the women's room Kim Hoa (Goddess of Mothers) officiates over two rows of brightly decorated six figures which represent the Lunar Year. The Hall of the Ten Hells is lined with large carved panels and the King of Hell presides over it all. The whole temple complex is very colourful, full of huge statues and the whole temple is covered with tiles and carvings. This temple is probably the best choice for a visit if you are short of time whilst in Saigon.

Le Van Duyet tomb at his Pagoda in Vietnam. Le Van Duyet Temple Courtyard in Saigon

Looking round Le Van Duyet Temple in Saigon.

The Temple is located on Dinh Tien Hoang Street and is dedicated to General Le Van Duyet (1763-1831) who was a peasant who through his military capability rose to become a Marshall in the Nguyen Dynasty and eventually became viceroy of part of southern Vietnam. This is a fine example of a temple dedicated to a national hero rather than to a deity or religion. Entering through the main gate the Temple is set in shaded gardens - the tombs of the general and his wife are in two unmarked mounds which are surrounded with pots containing burning incense - he is still THE main hero to many South Vietnamese. A courtyard leads to the Temple the outside of which is decorated with mosaics and is beautifully carved.
View inside Le Van Duyet Temple in Saigon. Le Van Duyet Temple Shrine - Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The very colourful interior of Le Van Duyet Temple in Vietnam. Le Van Duyet Temple Hall - Vietnam.
Inside there are three halls - a portrait of Le Van Duyet is located on the main altar in front of which are two huge ancient tusks. All the altars and pillars are made from carved and polished wood and the surrounds are brightly covered with red and gold dragons, giant cranes and a life sized horse.
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