Ben Thanh Market in Ho Chi Minh City
Situated in downtown Ho Chi Minh City, bustling Ben Thanh Market in District 1 is a great place to buy local handicrafts, branded goods, Vietnamese art and other souvenirs.
Here, you’ll find eating stalls inside the market where you can get a taste of hawker-style Vietnamese cuisine or simply cool off with a cold drink when the bargaining becomes too much.
The market is big, difficult to navigate at times and certainly best avoided during the hottest part of the day but all the same its well worth a look. When night falls, restaurants around the perimeter of the market open their doors creating a vibrant street side scene filling the air with the scents of wok-fried noodles, barbecued fish and meats.
One of Saigon’s oldest landmarks, Ben Thanh offers a great atmosphere that is absolutely authentically Vietnamese.
Bitexco Financial Tower Highlights
Six of the Bitexco Financial Tower floors have been given over to retail space although the main draw here is not shopping, rather the views. The public observation deck on the 49th floor is reached by using one of the tower’s 16 elevators which can reach any floor regardless of level within 35 seconds.
The tower is also well-known for its Bitexco Vertical Run where competitors race from the ground floor lobby to the Sky Deck. The race covers 178 metres with the latest record standing at 4 minutes and 51 seconds – held by Germany’s Vertical World Circuit Champion Thomas Dold.
The Sky Deck delivers breathtaking 360 degree views across the city and the Saigon River. Visitors can also use one of the binocular stands to get a closer look. Great views are also enjoyed from the 50th and 51st-floor restaurants, particularly at night when the metropolis below glitters above. There are also local art exhibitions held on the Sky Deck, where you can also purchase souvenirs, including textiles and locally produced tea.
Cao Dai Temple Highlights
Worshippers at the Cao Dai Temple strive for world peace and harmony with beliefs steeped in a number of world religions. Followers must obey the five virtues of Confucianism – humanity, obligation, civility, knowledge and reliability and have belief in the Buddhist principles of rebirth and karma.
Watching Caodiasts pray is one of the major highlights when visiting the temple as they dress in long flowing robes of white for lay followers, yellow, blue or red for priests whilst bishops have the Divine Eye embroidered on their headpieces. During worship men are seated on the right and women on the left with all devotees seated in orderly rows. The building is a combination of Neo-Gothic, Baroque and Oriental design and is very ornately decorated including dragon wrapped pillars, seven-headed cobras and ceilings of sky blue.
Cu Chi tunnels History, Highlights and Features
From 1948, the work never stopped and resulted in a massive collection of tunnels that were eventually used in the war with the American also. Meeting rooms, hospitals, accommodation, operating theatres and mess halls are among the underground rooms found in the Cu Chi Tunnels.
The tunnels were designed with several levels and effective air filtration systems to help them to survive the Cu Chi carpet-bombing by the Americans and were dug so deep that tanks could pass overhead without causing any damage to the tunnels.
This underground maze is a bit over an hour’s drive northwest from Ho Chi Minh City. While there expect to try many interesting activities such as a chance to fire an M16 assault rifle for fun or food testing – trying similar types of meals that the underground fighters had to live with years ago. Other facilities include souvenir shops, a restaurant as well as a mini-hotel.
Saigon River Highlights
One of the drawbacks of taking a Saigon city tour by day is that the river can be smelly due to the waste that is disposed into the water, however the shorter city trips will also usually include a trip to the secret city canals where the locals live, thus giving you an authentic slice of real Vietnamese life. More popular are the longer day excursions on boats heading along the Saigon River to the Cu Chi tunnels along with a visit to the Mekong Delta.
A boat trip to the Mekong Delta offers a fascinating insight into village life. The trip usually incorporates a riverside market visit, a trip to a pagoda, a tour around handicraft centres and the chance to see colonial architecture, tropical jungle and scenic smaller waterways. The Cu Chi tunnel tour delivers an opportunity for visitors to see the 250km underground network of tunnels which acted as a base for the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War.
Tourists are invited to explore this warren in which guerrillas once hid and which were once crucial communication routes and hiding spots for injured soldiers, food and ammunition. This tour will also include a visit to a fish farm, tourist village and an ancient house dating to 1890 in which the French Governor resided during the French War.
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