Exploring Chinatown in Ho Chi Minh City
Updated: Aug 28, 2020
Chinatown in Ho Chi Minh city has a lot to offer, and is definitely worth a visit if you have the time. Ideally, you should be there early in the morning to get some great pictures, while the temples and markets are buzzing with activity.
The narrow streets of China town are a delight to walk through-there are great restaurants, and some fairly affordable shopping!
Cho Lon or Ho Chi Minh city’s Chinatown is Vietnam’s oldest and largest China town, dating back to 1778. Chinese minorities hid here during the Tay Son period (1770-1802). During the America- Vietnam War, Cho Lon was the black market for American soldiers trading in US army issue supplies.
Here are the main points of interest in Cho Lon
1. Cha Tam Church (St. Francis Xavier Church)
This a Catholic cathedral that was built in the early 1900s, and it is painted in yellow! Its history of being the place of refuge of the catholic president of South Vietnam Ngo Dinh Diem & his brother Ngo Dinh Nu, is what gives it importance. They hid here after fleeing the presidential palace in 1963.
2. Binh Tay Market
This crowded wholesale market sells fresh produce, has food stalls, Vietnamese silk, hand embroidered clothing, and a lot more.
Visit the market even if you don’t plan on shopping, just to get the feel of the place.
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3. Thien Hau temple
Located on Nguyen Trai street, this is the most popular Buddhist temple in the area. Unfortunately it was closed when I visited due to the Corona virus scare, so I could only see it from the outside.
4. Quan Am Temple
Located on Lao Tu Street, this Buddhist temple is dedicated to Quan Am, the Chinese goddess of mercy. It was built in 1816, and was built by Chinese traders and Vietnamese merchants. It contains both Chinese and Taoist objects of worship.
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5. Nghia An Hoi Quan Temple
This 19th century temple is dedicated to a deified military leader, Quan Cong. There are other temples around the city that were built in the 1800s honouring Quan Cong, but this one is the most important. Its gilded woodwork, large courtyard, incense room, and intricate statues. The statue of Qun Cong is the centrepiece of the room. He is flanked on either side by his trusted attendants.
The statue of his warhorse in red is considered sacred. People come to ring the bell around its neck and then crawl under it to its opposite flank which is believed to earn them blessings from the horse.
6. Temple of Ten Thousand Buddhas (Chua Van Phat)
Like the name suggests, there are thousands of Buddha figurines inside this temple, in all sizes and forms. The walls are intricately carved, and studded with small buddha figurines.
There are a few other smaller temples along the streets, if you have time, you can step in to have a look.