What to do near Nguyen Shack – Saigon
(we can help you organize walking, bus, or motorbike tours)
War Remnants Museum
The War Remnants Museum focuses primarily on the Vietnam War, but it also includes exhibits about the first Indochina War with the French colonialists. The museum is comprised of a series of themed rooms spread across several buildings, with historic military equipment arranged outside. One exhibit reproduces the “tiger cages” where the South Vietnamese government kept political prisoners. Another features war photography, documenting the effects of Agent Orange and other chemical defoliant sprays, the use of napalm and phosphorus bombs, and war atrocities such as the My Lai massacre. The photography exhibit includes work donated by photojournalist Bunyo Ishikawa in 1998. The War Remnants Museum is currently one of the most popular museums in Vietnam, attracting approximately half a million visitors every year. According to the museum’s own estimates, about two-thirds of its visitors are foreigners.
The Independence Palace
Independence Palace, also known as Reunification Palace and built on the site of the former Norodom Palace, is a landmark in Ho Chi Minh City. It was the home and workplace of the President of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. It was also the site of the end of the Vietnam War during the Fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975, when a North Vietnamese Army tank crashed through its gates. In November 1975, after the negotiations between the communist North Vietnam and their counterparts in South Vietnam were completed, the Provisional Revolutionary Government renamed the palace Reunification Hall.
Fine Arts Museum
With its airy corridors and verandas, this elegant 1929 colonial-era yellow-and-white building is filled with period details; it is luxuriously tiled throughout and home to beautiful stained glass, as well as one of Saigon’s oldest elevators. Hung from the walls is an impressive selection of art and historical pieces from a range of time periods, dating back to the 4th century.
Some works include elegant Funan-era sculptures of Vishnu, the Buddha and other revered figures carved in both wood and stone, as well as Cham art dating back to the 7th century. More statues are scattered around the grounds and in the central courtyard, accessible from the rear of the building.
Emperor Jade Pagoda
Built in 1909 in honor of the supreme Taoist god (the Jade Emperor or King of Heaven, Ngoc Hoang), the Emperor Jade Pagoda is one of the most spectacular temples in Ho Chi Minh City, filled with statues of gods and heroes. The pungent smoke of incense (known as huong) fills the air. Its roof is decorated with elaborate tile work, and the temple’s statues, depicting characters from both Buddhist and Taoist lore, are made from reinforced papier-mâché.
Inside the main building are two especially fierce and menacing Taoist figures. On the right is a 4 meter tall statue of the general who defeated the Green Dragon and on the left is the general who defeated the White Tiger. Outside of the door on the left-hand side of the Jade Emperor’s chamber is another room. The semi-enclosed area to the right is presided over by Thanh Hoang, the Chief of Hell and to the left is his red horse. This room 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.
On the other side of the wall is a fascinating little room in which the ceramic figures of 12 women, overrun with children and wearing colourful clothes, sit in two rows of six. Each of the women represents a human characteristic and a year of the Chinese zodiac. Presiding over the room is Kim Hoa Thanh Mau, the Chief of All Women. Upstairs is a hall dedicated to Quan Am, the Goddess of Mercy, opposite a portrait of Dat Ma, the bearded Indian founder of Zen Buddhism. This temple is also known as Phuoc Hai Tu, or the Sea of Blessing Temple.
Bến Thành Market
Bến Thành Market is the largest market in downtown Saigon. The market is one of the earliest surviving structures, and is an important landmark in Hồ Chí Minh City. It’s popular with tourists seeking local handicrafts, textiles, áo dài, souvenirs, and cuisine.
The marketplace evolved from informal markets created by early 17th century street vendors who gathered near the Saigon River. It was destroyed by fire in 1870 and then rebuilt to become Saigon’s largest market. In 1912, the market was moved to a new building and named the New Bến Thành Market to distinguish it from its predecessor. The building was renovated in 1985.
Saigon Opera House
The Saigon Opera House is a smaller counterpart to the Hanoi Opera House, which was built between 1901 and 1911, and modeled after the Opéra Garnier in Paris. Its architectural style is influenced by the flamboyant style of the French Third Republic, with the façade shaped like the Petit Palais from the same period. Originally, the façade of the theatre was decorated with inscriptions and reliefs, but it was criticized for being too ornate. In 1943 some of this decorations were removed, but a portion was restored by the city government for the 300th anniversary of Saigon in 1998. Today, the opera house has a seating capacity of 500.
Notre Dame Cathedral/Saigon Central Post Office
The Notre Dame Cathedral and the Central Post Office are located next to each other and are worth passing by to witness their beautiful architecture.
The Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon was constructed between 1863 and 1880. It has two bell towers, reaching a height of 58 meters. All of the original building materials were imported from France. There are 56 glass squares supplied by the Lorin firm of the Chartres province in France. The cathedral foundation was designed to bear ten times the weight of the cathedral.
Saigon Central Post Office building was constructed in the late 19th century, when Vietnam was part of French Indochina. It has Gothic, Renaissance and French influences. It was constructed between 1886-1891 and is now an architectural tourist attraction.
Inside the Saigon Central Post office are two painted maps that were created just after it was built. The first one, located on the left side of the building, is a map of Southern Vietnam and Cambodia titled Lignes telegraphiques du Sud Vietnam et Cambodge 1892 which translates to “Telegraphic lines of Southern Vietnam and Cambodia 1892”. The second map is titled Saigon et ses environs 1892 that translates to “Saigon and its surroundings 1892”.