Cathe­drals, Parks and Pup­pets

HK Magazine - - TRAVEL -

From sober­ing rem­nants of a war-torn past to awe-in­spir­ing neo-Ro­manesque ar­chi­tec­ture and dreamy hazes float­ing along the Saigon River, there’s some­thing to in­spire and in­trigue on ev­ery street cor­ner in Saigon.

To start your tour, head to two of the most his­tor­i­cal sites in the city, both lo­cated in the cen­tral District 1. The Gothic-in­spired is one of the most iconic struc­tures of Saigon, and still op­er­ates af­ter more than 100 years. Send a post­card off to rel­a­tives, then walk to

across the way, a ma­jes­tic church boast­ing iron spires, stained glass windows and two 60-me­ter-tall bell tow­ers. Con­sid­ered the most beau­ti­ful church in all the French colonies at the time of con­struc­tion, the cathe­dral still stands as a rem­nant of Saigon’s colo­nial past.

From there, it’s a short 10-minute walk to Tao Dan Park, a 10-hectare green space in the heart of the city out­fit­ted with tow­er­ing trees and shaded benches. On the edge of the park lies the Golden Dragon Wa­ter Puppet Theater (gold­en­drag­onwa­ter­pup­pet.com.vn), where you can catch a slice of lo­cal cul­ture while rest­ing your feet.

At the east end of the park, while away a few hours at In­de­pen­dence Palace, known for mark­ing the end of the Viet­nam War when a North­ern Viet­namese tank crashed through its gates in April 1975. The com­plex is a mix of old and new ar­chi­tec­ture, and houses an ex­ten­sive col­lec­tion of me­men­tos, maps and old com­mu­ni­ca­tion equip­ment. For an even more poignant—and sober­ing—re­minder of the dev­as­ta­tion of the Viet­nam War, visit the War Rem­nants Mu­seum (war­rem­nantsmu­seum.com), which dis­plays tanks, planes, ar­tillery pieces and in­fantry weapons, as well as un­fil­tered pho­to­graphs of the vic­tims of war. It’s not for the faint of heart—and de­cid­edly one-sided—but it serves as a stand­ing sym­bol of Viet­nam’s re­silient spirit.

With many more places to ex­plore, from golden tem­ples smoky with in­cense to bustling lo­cal mar­kets like cen­tral Ben Thanh brim­ming with Viet­nam’s fa­mous cof­fee beans, knick­knacks and sou­venirs, it’s worth hop­ping on one of the scooter tours (Scooter Tour Saigon and Back of the Bike Tours come highly rec­om­mended). You’ll go from feel­ing like an out­sider as you dodge the end­less throngs of scoot­ers mo­tor­ing on by, to be­ing in­stantly as­sim­i­lated into the rhythm of the city as you whiz with traf­fic un­der canopied, tree-lined streets and along the serene banks of the Saigon River.

Nguyen Hue Street, Cen­tral Post Of­fice Dame Cathe­dral Notre-

lo­cal

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