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Ho Chi Minh City
Area: 2,095.2 sq. km
Population: 5,730,700 habitants (2004)
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...
In the core of the Mekong Delta, Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, is second the most important in Vietnam after Hanoi. It is not only a commercial center but also a scientific, technological, industrial and tourist center. The city is bathed by many rivers, arroyos and canals, the biggest river being the Saigon River. The Port of Saigon, established in 1862, is accessible to ships weighing up to 30,000 tons, a rare advantage for an inland river port. Climate:The climate is generally hot and humid. There are two distinctive seasons: the rainy season, from May to November, and the dry season, from December to April. The annual average temperature is 27ºC. The hottest month is April and the lowest is December. It is warm all year.
Many centuries ago, Saigon was already a busy commercial center. Merchants from China, Japan and many European countries would sail upstream the Saigon River to reach the islet of Pho, a trading center. In the year of 1874, Cho Lon merged with Saigon, forming the largest city in the Indochina. It had been many times celebrated as the Pearl of the Far East. After the reunification of the country, the 6th National Assembly in its meeting of the 2nd of July, 1976, has officially rebaptized Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City. The history of city relates closely with the struggle for the independence and freedom of Vietnam.
Today, Ho Chi Minh City is the big tourism center in Vietnam, attracting a large of visitors to Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh City has various attractions as Ho Chi Minh Museum, formerly known as Dragon House Wharf, Cu Chi Tunnels, system of museums, theatres, cultural houses... Recently, many tourist areas are invested such as Thanh Da, Binh Quoi Village, Dam Sen Park, Saigon Water Park, Suoi Tien, Ky Hoa..., which draw numerous tourists.
Despite its quite recent past, Ho Chi Minh City nevertheless 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...). 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.
Ho Chi Minh City is the main junction for trains, roads, water, and air transportation systems for domestic trips and for foreign destination.
- Roads: Ho Chi Minh City 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 City has National Highway 13 which connects Vietnam with the rest of Indochina.
- Train: Thong Nhat express train connects Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, vie many provinces in Vietnam.
- Air: Tan Son Nhat International Airport, 7km from center of city, is the biggest airport with many domestic and international routes. There are flights from Hanoi and Danang to Ho Chi Minh City and between the City to many regions as well a lot of countries on over the world.
THE NORTH DAME CATHEDRAL (DUC BA CATHEDRAL)
Duc Ba Cathedral is located on Han Thuyen Street, facing down Dong Khoi Street, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. The resplendent Governor’s Palace, completed in 1875, symbolized the regime’s political power in Asia. And five years later, the Duc Ba (Our Lady’s) Cathedral was inaugurated, and became the spiritual and cultural crucible of the French presence in the Orient.
After the first French colonizing force arrived in Vietnam in the mid - 19thcentury, it took only 21 years before the country had a cathedral to match the hulking Gothic edifices of France itself. The cathedral is supposed to represent the glory of the French Empire. Yet, as is always the case with colonization, this attempt to import French traditions into Vietnam transformed the colonizers’ culture in the process. Even though the cathedral is built in a Western architectural style, it has a uniquely Eastern aspect.
The whole building is well-ventilated thanks to a system of air-holes placed above and under the windows. The belfry is 57m high. For a long time it was the highest structure in the city centre, and was the first thing an arriving traveller would see when approaching the city by boat. Six bells weigh a combined 25,850kg. In 1885, the floor was taken apart and new pillars were added, because the original foundation could not bear the cathedral’s weight. Stepping inside the cathedral, tourists see a line of Chinese characters eulogizing the Jesus’ mother, "the innocent and unblemished Virgin Mother", and stained-glass portraits of Vietnamese believers amid Asiatic plants. On the square in front of the cathedral, there is a statue of the Virgin Mother made of white marble, symbolizing peace. All told, it’s an unusual building: a Western architectural and religious style that has been transplanted into, and adapted to, the East. The colonizers were trying to impose French beliefs and customs onto Vietnam but once that culture arrived on Asia’s shores, it took on a life of its own. The cathedral is seen as a unique synthesis, adding an unmistakable Oriental flavour to an ancient Occidental recipe.
HO CHI MINH MUNICIPAL THEATRE
Ho Chi Minh Municipal Theatre is located on Dong Khoi Street, Ho Chi Minh City, between the Caravelle and Continental Hotels. With a rotating stage and a 800 - seat hall, the theatre meets the required standards for various artistic forms such as singing, music, dancing and traditional and modern dramas.
Built at the beginning of 1897, under an original architectural design by French architect Ferret Eugene, who won a prize for theatre designing in July 1895, the Municipal Theatre was restored and renewed to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the foundation of Saigon (1698-1998).
The architectural style and staple material of the Municipal Theatre of the old days are reflected in its stone veranda, a pair of white stone statues of pretty girls at the gate, the colourful granite tiled floors, the chandeliers, the bronze statues in front of the stairs, the audience's hall with its arch engraved with decorative designs and rows of statues on the two sides of the theatre. It is a good place for artistic performances by domestic and foreign art ensembles and well - known artists, who visit Ho Chi Minh City.
THE CENTRAL POST OFFICE
The monumental Post Office located at 2 Cong Xa Paris, District 1, across from the Notre Dame Cathedral, was also built in the late 19th century in European style. The interior has barely been touched since it was built. A huge portrait of Ho Chi Minh dominates the building. The post office always seems busy but most people are just visitors not customers.
REUNIFICATION HALL (THONG NHAT CONFERENCE HALL)
Thong Nhat Conference Hall is located on No.106 Nguyen Du Street, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. Thong Nhat Conference Hall, also called Reunification Hall or Presidential Palace, was built in 1865 on the grounds of Norodom Palace as a residence for the French Governor General of Cochinchina.
After 1954, Ngo Dinh Diem and his family lived in the Norodom Palace. In February 1963, a dissident launched an air bombardment and heavily damaged it. Diem rebuilt the palace, which was later replaced by another one, called the Independence Palace. It was designed by Western-trained architect Ngo Viet Thu. The construction was undertaken by Saigon engineers and was completed in 1966.
The five-story building consists of 100 rooms and chambers decorated with the finest modern Vietnamese arts and crafts. The ground floor room has a boat-shaped table that was often used for conferences. Upstairs, a room called Phu Dau Rong was where Nguyen Van Thieu received foreign delegations. The residential quarters are in the back of the building. On the third floor, there is a card-playing room. This floor also possesses a terrace with a heliport where a helicopter is parked. The fourth floor was used for dancing, and even had a casino. The most interesting part of the building is probably the basement containing a network of tunnels, a telecommunication centre, and a war room.
At 11h30 on 30 April 1975, the palace was overrun by Liberation Army tanks. Duong Van Minh, who was president at that time, together with his 45-member cabinet, surrendered unconditionally. After the liberation of Saigon, the Independence Palace was turned into the Headquarters of the Municipal Military Administrative Committee. In December 1975, the palace welcomed a conference for national reunification. To mark the historical significance of the event, the building was renamed Thong Nhat Conference Hall (Reunification Conference Hall).
WAR REMNANTS MUSEUM
War Remnants Museum is located on Vo Van Tan Street, Ho Chi Minh City. The War Remnants Museum was established in September 1975 in Ho Chi Minh City. It contains countless artifacts, photographs, and pictures documenting American war crimes.
Such documents illustrate the killing of civilians, spreading of chemicals, torturing of prisoners, and the effects of the war on the north. Planes, tanks, bombs, and helicopters are also on display. Outside the museum are some rooms displaying cultural products of Vietnam. Over the last 20 years, over 6 million visitors entered the museum. Among this number, nearly 1 million were foreign visitors, including American tourists.
HO CHI MINH MUSEUM
Ho Chi Minh Museum is located on Nguyen Tat Thanh Street, District 4, Ho Chi Minh City.
This museum mostly contains pictures and objects relating to President Ho Chi Minh.
The Dragon House Wharf, originally called Nha Rong, is located at the junction of the Ben Nghe Channel and the Saigon River. It was built in 1863 and served as the office of a French shipping company. From there, Nguyen Tat Thanh, later President Ho Chi Minh, set sail on a French ship named Admiral Latouche Treville in June 1911. In September 1979, the People's Committee of Ho Chi Minh City chose Nha Rong as the Ho Chi Minh Museum–Dragon House Wharf.
In September 1979, the People's Committee of Ho Chi Minh City chose Nha Rong as the Ho Chi Minh Museum–Dragon House Wharf. The name was taken from the two dragon-shaped symbols on the top of the building. Over time, approximately ten million people, local as well as foreign, have visited the Ho Chi Minh Museum. In addition, events such as artistic festivals and the introduction of new members into the Youth Union and Communist Party have been held in this museum.
BEN THANH MARKET
At first, the market was situated near the Ben Nghe River Dike. After being moved many times, it is now standing in the centre of the city where consumers can conveniently find all sorts of products.
At present, the front of Ben Thanh Market faces Quach Thi Trang Square; its rear faces Le Thanh Ton Street; its right, Phan Chu Trinh Street and its left, Phan Boi Chau Street. At all of its four sides, there are bustling trading shops. Located at the centre of the city, Ben Thanh Market is always loaded with varieties of goods, such as consumer goods, cakes and candies, food and foodstuff, and particularly high-quality fruit and vegetables. Goods are displayed in a very attractive way that always catches the eyes of the buyers. They meet all requirements for the customers' daily life or for their families. The market has four gates that are very convenient for the market-goers. For all of its advantages, Ben Thanh Market is one of the most attractive tourist sites in the city for both domestic and foreign visitors.
CHO LON (CHINATOWN)
Cho Lon is located at Tran Hung Dao Street, District 5, Ho Chi Minh City. In 1788, a group of Chinese from Pho and My Tho Islands came to Ben Nghe River Dike and founded a market which developed into the existent Cholon Market, offering a wide array of products. This is Vietnam’s Chinatown market. It is an attractive site for visitors to observe that lively atmosphere.
THIEN HAU PAGODA
The Thien Hau Pagoda,one of the oldest pagodas of the Chinese in Cho Lon, is must-sees sight in Cholon. It's dedicated to the goddess Thien Hau, protector of the sea. Photographers have endless choices with the ornate decoration inside the pagoda and the statues of Thien Hau. It's popular with worshippers (the air is always pungent with the smell of burning incense). Regular festivals are held during the lunar calendar.
The via Ba (her birthday anniversary) ceremony is hold at Thien Hau Pagoda at the 23rd day of the third lunar month. Many Chinese people come to the festival, they make two effigies of Ong Thien (Good God) and Ong Ac (Evil God) with 3m long. At the end of the festival, the effigies are burned for worshipping.
GIAC VIEN PAGODA
Giac Vien Pagoda is located on Lac Long Quan Street, District 11, Ho Chi Minh City. It has the ancient architecture of the pagodas built in the Nguyen Dynasty of the 19th century, and typical characteristics of the southern area in terms of the architecture, design and arrangement of the worshipping shrines.
Giac Vien Pagoda has been classified by the State as a cultural relic and a mini-museum of wooden engravings of historical and artistic value. For this reason, it attracts a lot of researchers and visitors all year round.
GIAC LAM PAGODA
Giac Lam Pagoda is located at 118 Lac Long Quan Street, Tan Binh District, Ho Chi Minh City. It is one of the city’s oldest pagodas with many Buddha statues made of brass and precious timber.
Giac Lam Pagoda (also known as the Cam Son or Cam Dien Pagoda) was built in 1744, under the reign of Lord Nguyen Phuc Khoat. Unlike many other local religious structures, it has not been renovated since 1900; the architecture, layout, and ornamentation remain almost unaltered. The scenery around the pagoda is picturesque and many people come here to write or recite poetry.
CU CHI TUNELS
Cu Chi Tunnels are located approximately 70km northwest of Ho Chi Minh City centre in Cu Chi Rural District. Cu Chi Tunnels consist of more than 200km of underground tunnels. This main axis system has many branches connecting to underground hideouts, shelters, and entrances to other tunnels.
Cu Chi District is known nationwide as the base where the Vietnamese mounted their operations of the Tet Offensive in 1968.The tunnels are between 0.5 to 1m wide, just enough space for a person to walk along by bending or dragging. However, parts of the tunnels have been modified to accommodate visitors. The upper soil layer is between 3 to 4m thick and can support the weight of a 50-ton tank and the damage of light cannons and bombs. The underground network provided sleeping quarters, meeting rooms, hospitals, and other social rooms. Visiting the Cu Chi Tunnels provides a better understanding of the prolonged resistance war of the Vietnamese people and also of the persistent and clever character of the Vietnamese nation.
CAN GIO BIOSPHERE RESERVE
The ecological forest of Can Gio is situated 50km away from downtown Ho Chi Minh City. With an area of over 70,000 ha, of which 35,000 ha is salt-watered forest, Can Gio has been recognized as a biosphere reserve of the world by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Taking a boat ride on the big Dong Nai and Long Tau Rivers or on the smaller Vam Sac, Dong Thanh and Soai Rap Rivers, which run through Can Gio, visitors will not think that they are visiting a district on the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City. They seem to be in the watery areas of Ca Mau and Kien Giang, the southernmost area in Vietnam with vast mangrove and cajeput forests. The roots of the mangrove trees on the sides of the river twist with one another then spread out and root deep into the earth. It is these roots that make Can Gio a protective forest safeguarding millions of city dwellers, and an ideal ecological tourist site as well.