Sunday, November 11, 2012

Ho Chi Minh City - Cholon

Now, back to my Vietnam trip. I'll try to finish it before the new year arrives.

So, after my amazing lunch with The Lunch Lady, I was at a loss as to what to do. I mean, it was about 12 noon and I basically covered all there is to explore within the downtown of Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC). And if you remembered my rather vague itinerary, there is no plan at all on what to do in the afternoon before boarding my train to Danang.

Main bus station in Cholon

I considered going to Cu Chi Tunnel but due to the distance itself and also the time restraint, I have to give this must-visit place a skip. While walking aimlessly around the city, passing by numerous landmarks, I inevitably ended back at Ben Thanh market. This is also the site of the main bus station, and taking it as a sign, I decided to go to Cholon, or Chinatown, to spend my remaining afternoon there. The bus fare is VND 4,000 (about RM 0.60) one way.

Street of Cholon

Street kids posing for camera

Once reached Cholon, I walked to Binh Tay market which is about 5 minute from where the buses are. For those of you who want to shop for souvenirs cheaply in Saigon, there are no better places than Binh Tay market. Unlike the tourist-influenced Ben Thanh market where prices are highly inflated, here at Binh Tay market, you can find souvenirs being sold in wholesales in a much affordable and local-friendly price.

Binh Tay market

Just like Ben Thanh market, you can find almost anything here. From kitschy items like key chains to clothes and accessories, from daily essentials such as vegetables and meats to ready made foods, you name it, chances are you will find it here at a cut-down rate too. In short, Binh Tay market favours comparably against Ben Thanh market, in my opinion.

Lots of choices for you to buy your souvenirs...

While exploring the streets of Cholon, I stumbled upon a beautiful church called the St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church. Vietnam has a lot of captivating churches and I had already seen two of them in downtown Saigon (Notre Dame Cathedral and Tan Dinh Church). Now, add in this St Francis Xavier Church as well. Maybe it is the fact that there are many Christians in the country. Or maybe it is its colonial past. Somehow, their churches are sights to behold.

St. Francis Xavier Church

While admiring the church, I met a Chinese traveler, Jasmine. We decided to go to the Thien Hau Temple, a famous Chinese temple in Cholon. She heard great comments from some travelers on how beautiful it is and all and I'm intrigued by it, so we both ended up heading there together.

Thien Hau Temple

Thien Hau Temple is dedicated to Tian Hau or Mazu, the goddess of the sea. According to Jasmine, she noticed that many temples in Vietnam are worship grounds for Mazu during her exploration around the country. We asked a tour guide (who was bringing a group of Malaysians) about it and he told us that many Chinese Vietnamese came to the country by sea. When they arrived safely in the country, they often gave their thanks to Mazu, building temples dedicated to her.

About 3-ish to 4-ish, I have to head back to my hostel to retrieve my luggages for my ride to Danang and Jasmine wanted to go to the Saigon Zoo. We parted to our separate ways in the bus station, wishing each other a safe trip.


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