Saigon was originally part of the kingdom
of Cambodia, then it was absorbed by Vietnam in the 17th century, captured by
the French in 1859 and served as the capital of the Republic of Vietnam from the
mid 1950's until it fell to advancing North Vietnamese forces.
Saigon, also known as
Ho Chi Minh
it was renamed in 1975, is considered to be the heart and economic center of
Vietnam, and its Vietnam's largest city. About 70% of all tourism to Vietnam,
more than 3 million people, come through Ho Chi Minh City.
It is a pumping, thriving,
animated city with over 8 million inhabitants.
New buildings are seemingly
Most of the tallest buildings
have been constructed in the last decade and a half. Some fear that
the old charm of
Saigon, the Pearl of the Orient, is taking a back seat to the modernity of
Sun Wah Tower
A landmark of the city of Saigon, Sun Wah
Tower boasts 22 stories in a prime office block. With each building in a race to
be the tallest in the city, the Sun Wah lost its status of being the tallest in
the mid 1990's. The building houses prestigious tenants including global
bankers, insurance companies, airlines and foreign trade organizations.
New Vietin Bank building under construction
In the deep blue mirror-like windows of this
skyscraper, you can see a reflection of Saigon's modern skyline.
Also under construction
More buildings continue to
be built in the city, changing its skyline forever.
One of the complaints city
dwellers and city planners alike have about the new skyscrapers is the
demolishing of the older trees it took in order to build these new structures.
The trees cooled the areas down, added beauty and color. Now certain areas seem
stripped of its earlier charm.
Me Linh Point Tower
This business center has 21 floors and was
built in 1999. It houses mostly offices and major hotels such as the
Renaissance, the Sheraton, the Legend and the Park Hyatt are all within walking
Outside our 7th floor
residence at Compass Parkview
the world's youngest major cities, Saigon holds a rich and dramatic history. It
is a city of metamorphoses and blends the old with the leading edge. Below is
another side of Saigon.
Notre Dame Church, a piece of the past
Built between 1863 and 1880, the city's main
church reflects the French flavor still prevalent in this historical city. All
materials used in construction of this church were imported from France, with the
outside wall of the cathedral made with bricks from Marseille. The stature of
Mary did not arrive until February, 1959 and from then on, the cathedral was
called Notre Dame.
The Hotel Majestic
During the Viet Nam war, Ho Chi Minh City was
abuzz with spies. Many of them slunk through the back doors of this famous
The Hotel Majestic. Opened
in 1925, the Majestic was the city's finest hotel, but during WWII, the Japanese
Imperial Army used this structure as a military barracks.
This building is steeped in history and is
still one of Saigon's famous landmarks.
Bitexco Financial Tower
A Vietnamese company named Bitexco owns this
skyscraper with its 68 floors above ground and 3 basements. The design was
inspired by Vietnam's national flower, the lotus, and is often called "The Lotus
Building." The tower was officially inaugurated in October of 2010.
The ultra modern inside of the Bitexco
building. There is both office space and retail space here with the retail
placed on the lower floors and the office areas taking the 7th floor to the 64th
The Lotus building is
seen from many vantage points throughout the city
There is a casual dining
area on level 50 and fine dining on level 51. The Saigon Skydeck is open to
visitors for about $10 a ticket, or tell the concierge people at Bitexco that
you would like to go to Restaurant EON and
they will guide you to the appropriate elevators. You can enjoy a couple of
Vietnamese ca phe sua das, ice cream or a fine pastry and check out the
view of the city.
On the right hand side of
this building you can see Vietnam's first heli-pad located on the 52nd floor
extending 22 meters out from the main structure.
Each of the 6,000 glass
panels that you see on this building was individually cut to unique
specifications because each floor is different from the next.
View of the Saigon River
from Restaurant EON
You can see the concrete
sprawl along the Saigon River from level 51 of the Bitexco Financial Tower.
There is still river village life along the river, it's just not here at this
location. Book one of the Saigon River tours for a different view and feel of the city.
Red roofed Ben Thanh Market in the center
Named Ben Thanh after the port by the Gia
Dinh citadel, the original market was destroyed in 1870. The market you see in
the photo has been here for about 100 years and was renovated in 1985. It is one
of the major tourist attractions of the city selling handicrafts, textiles, ao
dai, souveniers and local cuisine. It is also a major hub for the network of
city buses that serve Ho Chi Minh City.
Cu Nhac Circle
Across from Ben Thanh
Market and seen in the previous photo is Cu Nhac Circle. This area used to be a
swamp and Mr. Cuniac proposed filling the swamp and creating this area. Cu Nhac
Circle is named in his honor.
Outdoor cafe in Saigon
There are smart outdoor and indoor cafes all
Having a coffee and getting together
for a chat is a commonplace activity.
Fashionable buildings make
up the downtown section of Saigon with its wide streets and garden areas.
Saigon Opera House
Here is another example of
French Colonial architecture in the downtown area mixing the old with the new. Built in 1897 by French
architect Eugene Ferret and initially criticized as being too ornate, this 800
seat building was used as the home of the Lower House assembly after 1956. It
wasn't until after 1975 that this building was again used as a theater, and it
was restored to its original look in 1995.
The Caravelle Hotel, just
behind the Opera House, was opened to the public in 1959. It has been featured
in novels and was a noted location of communication in the Vietnam War.
Entrance to the Caravelle
On the morning of August 25, 1964, a bomb
exploded in room 514 on a floor that was occupied mostly by foreign journalists
who were all on war assignment. Nine rooms were damaged and windows blown out of
several cars parked in the street but there were no fatalities.
In 1975, after Saigon had fallen (or
"liberated" depending on whether you are from the North or the South of
Vietnam), the hotel was taken over and operated by the government. It was
renamed Independence Hotel and kept this name until 1998 when the Caravelle name
View of the street from the Opera House
You can see the heli-pad at the Bitexco
building here in the center of the photo. The streets are pleasant and nearly
Union Square is a landmark
in the Central Business District. It was originally a new part of Vincom Center,
the shopping mall across the street, but was later sold and is now an
independent mall in a prime location. Home to a wide range of foreign luxury
brands, it also carries a mix of everyday brands from Vietnam and beyond.
It is a new building built
in the French style to blend in with the city center.
A patch of green
In the center of the photo to the right is
Lion Brewery famous for its German cuisine and freshly made brew done in the
Another French Colonial style building
All of the Central Business District
showcases beautiful buildings whether modern or French Colonial style.
Saigon Grand Hotel
This hotel is in a restored
colonial building only about 50 meters from the Saigon River. The General Post
Office, Notre Dame Church and the Reunification Palace are all within walking
Ho Chi Minh City Stock Exchange building
Officially inaugurated in July, 2000, trading
commenced 8 days later with 2 equities listed. Today the exchange has 342
listings including stocks, funds and bonds.
Building after building
Another beautiful building peeks out behind 2
Saigon Central Post Office
Designed and constructed around 1886 - 1891
by the famous architect Gustave Eiffel (the one who constructed the Eiffel Tower
in Paris), this has long been the busiest post office of the country. Made to
look like a 20th century railway station in Europe, it has ornate furnishings,
pattern tiled floor and massively high ceilings.
Check out the 2 large hand painted maps on
either side of the interior walls. One reads "Saigon et ses environs 1892."
The HSBC building
The Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking
Corporation the founding and principal member of HSBC first opened an office in
Saigon in 1870. It is now the largest foreign bank in Vietnam and calls itself
"the world's local bank."
If you are ever in Saigon, it's worth your
time to take several walks downtown and wander between the blend of the old and
the new. Saigon is making a statement that it's ready for business and wants to
be a part of international economics.
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