For whatever reason, I had always assumed that the history of Saigon stretched back to the dawn of humanity. “The Ancient City of Saigon” does have a nice ring to it, but it’s not true. In fact, for most of its history, Saigon was an unimportant Cambodian fishing village. (Maybe I was mixing it up with legendary Shangri-La?) But despite its late debut as a major Southeast Asian city, Saigon has seen plenty of action. Here’s a concise rundown of its history.
Found within the same complex as the zoo and botanical gardens, the Museum of Vietnamese History occupies a handsome building which was built in 1929. The museum’s exhibits begin in the neolithic age, and continue through some of Vietnam’s most momentous struggles.
One of the greatest things about Saigon is its street food. There’s an endless variety, it’s ultra-cheap, and (almost always) delicious. This was the number one reason we had been excited about living in Saigon, and so far we haven’t been disappointed. We eat out for both lunch and dinner, and often breakfast. And when plates cost around a dollar, there’s no reason not to indulge… if we especially loved a particular dish, we’ll gleefully order another round. It happens more often than I’d like to admit.
Like practically every large, non-Chinese city in the world, Saigon is home to a bustling Chinatown. Known as Cho Lon, this large neighborhood has a history which stretches back to the earliest days of Saigon itself. We visited during the Tet holiday to check out some of the Chinese temples, and happened upon a traditional Lion Dance.
One of the largest green spaces in Saigon is Tao Dan, a 25-acre park in the middle of the city. With the busy street of Trương Dịnh running straight through it, Tao Dan doesn’t exactly provide an “escape to nature”, but it does give you the chance to mingle with locals and watch families enjoy their leisure time. And during the Tet Lunar New Year holiday, the park becomes the scene of a popular fair.
For about a week, hundreds of boats from the Mekong Delta line up along the Ben Binh Wharf to sell the flowers and small fruit trees with which Vietnamese families decorate their homes during the holiday of Tet. Visiting this floating flower market was among the first things we did in Saigon, and the scene […]
On our first morning in Saigon, we were invited to learn how to make bánh chưng. This hearty cake is a tradition around the country during the Lunar New Year celebrations of Tet, when families gather to prepare it together, as well as to recount its origin story to their children.
For better or worse, Jürgen and I arrived in Saigon just as the country was preparing for Tet – the Vietnamese Lunar New Year. This is by far the most important holiday on the Vietnamese calendar; regular life grinds to a halt, while families gather from near and far for a week of flowers, feasts and celebrations.
Saigon, officially known as Ho Chi Minh City, will be our home for the next three months. This sprawling and rapidly-developing metropolis has a population of eight million people, making it the largest city in Vietnam. For 91 days, Jürgen and I will be seeing its sights, eating its street food, meeting its locals, and […]