Built in 1897 by French architect Eugène Ferret, the Saigon Opera House is one of the most spectacular pieces of colonial architecture in the city. It’s worth visiting even if you’re not going to catch a performance, but we can recommend the AO Show, put on by the Luna Production Company.
To the east of Dalat, in the village of Trại Mát, you’ll find one of Vietnam’s most amazing temples. Completely covered in carefully-arranged shards of broken glass and pottery, the insane Pagoda of Linh Phước provides a sight unlike any other.
Though its days as an important hub of transit are squarely in the past, the Dalat Train Station is still active, welcoming passengers aboard a scenic journey to nearby Trại Mát. Even if you’re not taking a ride, it’s worth stopping by the station to check out its art deco architecture, and the classic locomotives in its yard.
Dalat has three palaces, or “Dinh”. The Dinh III is the summer palace of Bao Dai, which we had visited earlier in the day. The Dinh II is the Governor’s Mansion, closed to the public. And then there’s the Dinh I, the “King’s Palace”, built in 1940 by French millionaire Robert Clement, and purchased by Bao Dai in 1949.
When I heard people talking about Dalat’s “Crazy House”, I wasn’t entirely convinced. I assumed it was going to be like some clown who promises “craziness” at your kid’s birthday party, but then he’s actually kind of normal. And while you’re glad that he didn’t kill anyone, part of you is disappointed that his definition of “crazy” was balloon animals.
It’s unbelievable that a city of Saigon’s size might still possess undeveloped, riverfront land straight across from downtown. But that’s the case. Saigon has been curiously slow to capitalize on the prime acreage of District 2’s Thú Thiêm ward… but it hasn’t forgotten it entirely. We visited while the area’s most prominent tenants were still grassy hillocks and nuns. Five years later, things would surely look a lot different.
Although the merest sliver of Vietnam’s population practices the faith, a number of prominent Hindu temples are located right in the middle of Saigon. We visited three in a single morning, all of them a short distance from each other in District 1.
The colonial house of Ben Thuy looks like it hasn’t changed a bit since the 19th century. After checking out the property and its garden of orchids, we walked toward the river along the entertaining street of Bui Huu Nghia.
The most stunning residence in Sadec is the former house of Huynh Thuy Le, made famous by Maugerite Duras’ semi-autobiographical novel, The Lover. Today, the house is open for tours, and also operates as a guesthouse. It’s impossible to imagine a more atmospheric place to stay while in Sadec, and we were unable to resist.
On a whim, we decided to check out District 3’s seventh ward, and uncover its secrets. Because, it must have secrets… I doubt there’s a neighborhood in this city which isn’t hiding something of interest. And Phường 7, Quận 3 did not disappoint.