A hiding place for Chinese minorities during the 18th and 19th centuries, Ho Chi Minh City’s Chinatown is now a thriving hub of markets and pretty temples.
Hunt for bargains and purchase traditional Chinese food at the crowded covered markets of Cholon. Relax in hidden cafés and restaurants and explore the area’s colorful temples and stylish Chinese architecture.
Constructed in the late 1700s, Cholon was once a separate entity to the city of Saigon to the north. As Saigon grew, Cholon gradually became incorporated into its boundaries and is now Ho Chi Minh City’s largest Chinatown. Look for relics of the area’s illicit past. During the war, some American soldiers used Cholon as a black market to buy and sell military supplies.
Cholon literally translates as “big market.” Its main retail hub is undoubtedly An Dong Market. Look for this building near the intersection of Tran Phu and An Duong Vuong Streets. Spread across its four floors, vendors sell designer clothing and shoes as well as electronic goods and home appliances. If you are feeling hungry, start at the ground floor to find an extensive range of food outlets. Try banh bao, a type of Chinese dumpling, or banh cuon, a spongy spring roll that is usually served with bread and meat.
Once you have eaten, make your way to Binh Tay Market, which stretches between Thap Muoi and Phan Van Khoe Streets. Here local people come to get cooking ingredients such as rice, meat and vegetables. You will also find tables packed with handmade clothes and jewelry.
Leave the crowds behind and immerse yourself in local culture at Cholon’s colorful temples. Thien Hau and Quan Am Temple are both a short stroll from the markets and feature exquisite flowing roofs, hanging lanterns and golden Buddha statues. Red decorations show the Chinese influence on these structures.
Cholon makes up the District Five area of the city on the banks of the Saigon River. Use public buses which run here from the city center. It is also possible to visit as part of a guided tour.