Interesting Places in Saigon
Notre Dame Cathedral: Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral, built in the late 1880s by French colonists, is one of the few remaining strongholds of Catholicism in the largely Buddhist Vietnam. Located in Paris Square, the name Notre Dame was given after the installation of the statue ‘Peaceful Notre Dame’ in 1959. In 1962, the Vatican conferred the Cathedral status as a basilica and gave it the official name of Saigon Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica. Measuring almost 60 metres in height, the cathedral’s distinctive neo-Romanesque features include the all-red brick façade (which were imported from Marseille), stained glass windows, two bell towers containing six bronze bells that still ring to this day, and a peaceful garden setting in the middle of downtown Ho Chi Minh City District 1.
Opening Hours: Daily 08:00 - 17:00
Address: 1 Cong Xa Paris, Ben Nghe, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
Jade Emperor Pagoda: In the main hall, the Emperor Jade Chua Ngoc Hoang or the 'God of the Heavens' reigns supreme. Aided by two assistants, the Emperor decides who can enter this higher realm. Those who don't pass this gate will meet with the formidable 'God of Hell', on the left, who will send sinners to one of the 10 levels of hell. Life in purgatory is magnificently if somewhat gruesomely represented by the intricate carvings on the temple wall, depicting different kinds of punishments that await transgressors. In a different hall, the goddess of fertility Kim Hua, surrounded by figures of women and small children, blesses childless couples who pray for an offspring here. The goddess of mercy Kuan Yin, who forms a very important part of any Taoist temple, has an altar in a room on the top floor. Emperor Jade Pagoda is a living and working shrine very much in use by the locals who come here to prayer or make votive offerings of flowers, and light candles and joss sticks. With worshippers coming and going, the temple can get busy and feel a little cramped. Its dimly lit, the narrow passageways filled with smoke lend an atmospheric feel to the place, adding to its charm. There is an overcrowded tortoise pond in front of the temple grounds and feeding the animals is considered part of the merit-making, temple-going rituals.
Opening Hours: 08:00 – 17:00
Location: 73 Mai Thi Luu, District 3
Remarks: There is no entrance fee but visitors can make donation
You’re going to hear most about Ben Thanh Market.
But I actually found Binh Tay Market to have better prices, be a more local experience, and I overall enjoyed visiting it more than Ben Thanh.
Binh Tay Market is one of the major official markets, located in the Cholon area of Ho Chi Minh City, what is Chinatown.
It has a similar feel to it as Ben Thanh, and even many of the products that are sold – from clothes to food – are basically quite similar.
However, from what I noticed in my few visit to both markets, Binh Tay Market caters a bit more to local Vietnamese, and therefore the prices are lower, and overall a little less touristy geared.
Before going to Binh Tay Market, I had read about it from Eating Asia that, there was a wet market in the morning behind the market.
If you go in the morning, anytime from about 6 am – 8 am, walk around the back streets of the official indoor market, and you’ll find an incredible fresh wet market, teeming with food and fresh Vietnamese ingredients.
This back lane fresh food market, was probably my favorite part of visiting Binh Tay Market, and one of the top places I would recommend seeing in Saigon.
And also, don’t miss the small food court, where you can get some delicious, simple, and affordable Vietnamese food.
I had a plate of noodles fried with beef (mì gói xào bò), and sitting on a stool in the morning while eating and drinking coffee, I was extremely happy.
If you are looking to do some shopping when you’re in Ho Chi Minh City, at Binh Tay Market you’ll find just about everything made or produced in Vietnam from clothes to snacks. There’s a huge section of Vietnamese cooking utensils, nuts, spices, and tools.
Address: Bình Tây Market, 57 Tháp Mười, 2, Quận 6, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Open hours: 6 am – 7 pm daily for the main indoor market section, 5 am – 9 am or so for the outdoor wet market