Catholicism's place of destinations:
- Notre Dame Cathedral (Basilica of Our Lady Saigon)
Built between 1877 and 1883, Notre Dame Cathedral, with her two 40 meter towers topped with iron spires is one of Ho Chi Minh City's major landmarks. It is built in a neo-Romanesque form. The cathedral's red bricks and colored glass windows were imported from France. The cathedral was consecrated in 1962. Full services in both Vietnamese and English are held every Sunday morning.
- Saigon Bishop and The Ancient House
Chancery and the ancient house: Except the Cathedral, there is the Chancery, which was built by Bishop L.E. Mossard, in Saigon. He had lived in it from 1911. The ancient house which the French govement give to Bishop Lefèbvre for staying is nearby it. Some bishop such as Bishop D. Lefèbvre, J.C. Miche, I.F.J. Colombert, J.M. Dépierre had used it as a chancery from 1864 to 1900. It became the altar later. This is a special house with the main building consisting of three rooms and two wings as the structure of Vietnamese. The short kingposts and zing-zang tiles hold the Vietnamese wooden structure with thin sticks in square as wall. This wooden wall is not only the guard but also the effective ventilation system of the house.
- St. Paul Monastery
Nunnery of Sisters of Saint Paul of Chartres, according to the invitation of Bishop of Diocese of West of The South of Vietnam, Dominique Lefèbvre, 2 sisters of of Saint Paul of Chartres arrived in Vietnam from Hongkong. Benjamin (1821-1884), a French sister arrived in Vietnam, and was Installated to be the Superior of the Far East, which its main office is in Saigon. She is a brave, zealous and smart. In a short time (1860-1876), she founded 15 house for society and hospitality in the place of war for caring the wounded ones and growing up the orphans, which was the result of the war and anti-Catholic persecution. Especially, she founded a place for girls who get illegitimate children, in 1875. She is also the one who decided to build the ancient altar in the land which is The office of Saigon Province of Sisters of Saint Paul of Chartres (4 Ton Duc Thang street). This building is one of vestiges which need to preserve.
- Cho Quan Church
The parish of Cho Quan is one of the oldest parishes of Archdiocese Saigon. The first altar was built in 1674. After many time of rebuilding, Father Nicolas Harm decided to build a Gothic church which was consecrated in 1896. It stands till today.
- Tan Dinh Church
The Church of Tan Dinh. Father Superior Wibaux decided to build this church. He consecrated it on April 17th , 1864 in the presentation of Father Croc, Father Eveillard, father Roustant and the Bishop LeFebvre. For the need of large number of parishioners, Father Eveillard decided to build a new church, in 1874. On December 16th , 1876, Bishop Colombert celebrated the first mass in this new grandiose church. The new church is honored to The Sacred Heart of Jesus. Parishioners love this new church so much, they go to the church for pray and joining Mass diligently
- Cha Tam Church
The church of Cha Tam. On December 03rd, 1900, the feast of Saint Francisco Javier, Bishop Mossard blessed the first stone the construction of the church for Chinese. He anointed it on January 10th ,1902. The first priest in it is Tam Assou, so that parishioners call this church the church of Cha Tam. Father Tam died and was buried in the wall in front of the church, in 1934. The church of Saint Francisco Javier , or The church of Cha Tam as usual call is the only ancient church in Saigon, which have Horizontal lacquered board as in a Chinese temple.
- Cho Dui Church (Dr. County Church)
The Church of Cho Dui (1900) was designed by Father Charles Boutier, was built in 1902 and was anointed in1905. It is at a over 1 acre high land, on the corner of Frère Louis street (is Nguyen Trai street, today) and Frère Guilleraut street (is Ton That Tung street, today), which was offered by Mr. Le Phat Dat, or Huyen Sy. He also offered 1/7 of his fortune. The first name of it is the Church of Cho Dui. It is also called the church of Saint Philip the Apostle, because he is the Patron of Huyen Sy. However, people also call it is the church of Huyen Sy, and it is the name of this church late.
Other Interesting Places:
Ben Thanh Market
Ben Thanh is the largest market in Ho Chi Minh City. Shopkeepers sell a wide variety of local and imported products ranging from garments and textiles to handicrafts, flowers, and vegetables. The market was built in 1913. The French-style building has a distinctive clock tower at its entrance.
Giac Lam Pagoda
Built in 1744, this is the oldest pagoda in Ho Chi Minh City. Situated in Tan Binh District the pagoda evokes a feeling of another world, with its pungent incense, funeral tablets and carved inscriptions. Carved wooden pillars bear gilded descriptions of the lives of the monks whose portraits adorn the walls. This pagoda also houses many beautifully carved wooden statues of
the Buddha, reincarnations of Buddha, judges, guardians from Hell and the Goddess of Mercy.
Giac Vien Tu Pagoda
On the outskirts of Saigon in District 11, the Vietnamese-style Giac Vien Tu Pagoda is dedicated to Emperor Gia Long. The accumulation of 300 years of incense burning imbues this place with a striking atmosphere. There is a profusion of carvings-Buddhist, Taoist, and Confucian deities and mythical figures. The most significant is a large gilded statue of Amitabha, Buddha of the Past. After a body is cremated, the ashes are transported in a funeral carriage to the pagoda. Numerous funerary jars are on view in the first chamber. Twenty monks are attached to the temple, and half live on the premises.
Thien Hau Pagoda
Cantonese fishermen built this Chinese temple, dedicated to the Goddess of the Sea, at the end of the 18th century. 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.
Built in 1892 the Jade Pagoda is dedicated to a pantheon of Taoist and Buddhist divinities. This pagoda was an important meeting place for Chinese secret societies that planned to overthrow the government in Peking during the Manchu Dynasty. It is one of the most colorful pagodas in HCMC, filled with incense, candles and statues of various divinities and heroes. A robed Taoist Jade Emperor surveys the main sanctuary, under a roof covered in elaborately patterned tiles.
Vinh Nghiem pagoda
Inaugurated in 1971, Vinh Nghiem Pagoda is the biggest pagoda in Ho Chi Minh City. Built in modern style, but the structure draws its inspiration from traditional Vietnamese culture and a touch of Japanese architectural style. The pagoda features a vast sanctuary and an eight-storey tower. On the first and fifth of lunar months, believers throng the pagoda to pay their respects, make offerings and pray for blessings.
Quan Am Pagoda
Quan Am Pagoda, at 12 Lao Tu Street, is the most active pagoda in Cholon. Hawkers here sell incense sticks, paper offerings, and captive birds to a steady stream of devotees. About 25 nuns and monks are based at the temple, and several live on the premises. In front of the main altar is a white ceramic statue of Quan Am, known in Chinese as Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy. There are also red wedding dresses and elaborate funeral chariots on display. The roof is richly decorated, with Chinese legends rendered in ceramic tiles.
The Cao Dai Temple of Tay Ninh
The Cao Dai Sect was founded in the 1920's by Ngo Van Chieu, a Saigon civil servant and its followers believe in a combination of the Islamic, Christian, Buddhist, Taoist and Confucian faiths. The symbol of the religion is an "all-seeing eye", which dominates the altar at the Cao Dai Holy See, a colorful temple described by Graham Greene in The Quiet American as "The Walt Disney Fantasia of the East". Monks dressed in bright colors represent different branches of the sect and the noon mass (one of four each day) is an amazing spectacle.
Hindu and Muslim Temples
Saigon's eclectic mix of temples includes a few mosques and Hindu temples. Like the ethnic Chinese, Hindus and Muslims were persecuted by the revolutionary government and most, including the spiritual leaders, fled Vietnam. Still, there are a dozen mosques around Saigon. At 66 Dong Du Street, off Dong Khoi, is Saigon Central Mosque, built by South Indian Muslims in 1935. The spotless blue and white structure features four minarets and is a tranquil retreat in the heart of the city; excellent Indian food is served at lunch hour.
Saigon Post Office
Located next to Notre Dame is Saigon's French-styled post office. Built between 1886 and 1891, the ochre-colored building has a glass canopy, ceiling fans, and enormous wall maps of "Saigon et Ses Environs". At the far end of the arched building is a large portrait of Ho Chi Minh.
War Remnants Museum
This is a poignant display of the futility of war. Some of the black and white photography in the ‘Requiem’ exhibit is particularly touching; dedicated to both foreign and Vietnamese journalists and photographers who perished during the conflict. The courtyard outside contains the spoils of war, namely rusting jets, tanks and cannons.
Reunification Palace (Former Presidential Palace)
Originally built for the French Governor-General of Indochina in 1868 the Norodom Palace as it was then known was abandoned in 1880 when government services moved to Hanoi. When the Government of South Vietnam was established in 1954, the palace became the luxurious residence of President Diem. In 1962, the palace was abandoned after a renegade pilot in the South Vietnamese army bombed and strafed the building. After four years of repairs it reopened. One of the most striking images of the War was the sight of North Vietnamese tank 843 crashing through the palace gates marking a symbolic end to the conflict in Indochina. On a tour of the palace one can visit underground tunnels and bunkers filled with radio equipment and maps left virtually untouched since 1975.
Cho Lon District (Chinatown)
Ho Chi Minh City is home to some one million ethnic Chinese, many of whom live in Cholon district. The Chinese have played a major role in Vietnam's emerging private sector as evidenced by the bustling streets and markets of Cholon. Cholon means 'Big Market', and today the area is home to 500,000 people. The streets of Cholon are a maze of narrow side streets, old temples, local Chinese restaurants and calligraphy shops.
Rue Catinat (Dong Khoi Street)
Running from Notre Dame Cathedral down to the riverside, Dong Khoi St. is perhaps the most famous street in Saigon. Dong Khoi is lined with restaurants, cafes, art galleries and handicraft shops, and a stroll from one end of the street to the other is one of the joys of a visit to Saigon.
On any City Tour guests may choose from the above, depending on their particular interests. For each option allow 1-2 hours. Entrance fees may vary from location to location. Note that museums, other than the War Remnants Museum, are closed on Mondays.
Municipal Theater and the Hotel Continental
On Dong Khoi Street a few blocks southeast of Notre Dame Cathedral lies the Municipal Theater, also known as Saigon Concert Hall. Originally built in the early 1900s, it was renovated in the 1940s. After 1956, the building housed the lower division of the National Assembly. Today the theater is used as a venue for traditional theater, gymnastics displays, and rock concerts. The interior is not as elaborate as the exterior suggests. Although there are plush red chairs and fancy wrought-iron banisters, there's hardly anything in the way of ceiling decoration. For bike or motorcycle parking, go to the back of the theater to the east side.
Facing the Municipal Theater is the Hotel Continental, a French hotel magnificently restored to its full colonial grandeur. The hotel was originally constructed in 1885 by the Societe des Grands Hotels Indochinois, part of a chain of elegant hotels also found in Hanoi, Hue, Vung Tau, and Phnom Penh. The sidewalk terrace outside the Continental was a popular rendezvous spot for highbrow French society. In the 1980s, the terrace bar was glassed in and transformed into an air-conditioned Italian restaurant. Graham Greene featured the terrace in his novel The Quiet American.
The Historical Museum
Built in 1929, the Historical is a huge collection of historical objects relating to the development of Viet Nam history,from the Bronze Age Dong Son civilization (13th century BC) to the last feudal dynasty ending in the mid-20th century, with emphasis on the southern Funan, Vietnamese, Cham and Khmer civilizations and regional acculturation.. Situated within the famous botanical garden aged more than 100 years, it keeps the most information and objects of some civilizations in the Mekong Delta such as Oc Eo (Funan)… Botanical gardens and zoo open daily. Researchers can get special permits to stay inside its great library for study. Live water puppet shows can be enjoyed in here.
The Tunnels of Cu Chi
Located a one-hour drive northwest of Ho Chi Minh City are the extraordinary Cu Chi tunnels. During the war Vietnamese guerillas built this labyrinth of narrow tunnels using them to hide during bombing raids and stage surprise attacks. The entire area of Cu Chi was designated a free fire zone and was heavily bombarded: you can still see numerous craters caused by 500 pound B52 bombs. There are over 200 kilometers of tunnels in the area, all of which were dug using only hand tools. Two sections of tunnel are open to the public and ex-Vietnamese fighters lead tours through the underground hospitals, kitchens and sleeping quarters. Visitors to Cu Chi can also fire AK47s and M16 rifles on a specially designed firing range.
Can Gio Mangrove Forest
The Can Gio Mangrove Forest was recognized as a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 2000. Covering an area of 75,740ha, the evergreen forest is a lively world of 150 kinds of flora, 137 species of fish, 31 species of reptiles, 4 species of mammals, 130 species of birds which has inspired biologists and nature lovers alike. At Can Gio, visitors will have opportunities not only to indulge in a fresh green environment but also to explore the mysteries of the tidal swampy ecosystem and thrill to the legends of amphibious commandos during the Vietnam War.
Hall of the Ten Hells
On the left-hand side of the Jade Emperor's chamber in the Jade Emperor Pagoda is another room. It contains the famous Hall of the Ten Hells, carved wooden panels illustrating the varied torments awaiting evil people in each of the Ten Regions of Hell.