Cholon: Ho Chi Minh's Chinatown
Everything you Need to Know about Cholon
Ho Chi Minh City’s Cholon is Vietnam’s largest Chinatown with roots dating back to 1778; it’s also a place of great historical and cultural importance. Chinese minorities hid here from the Tay Son and subsequently had to rebuild the area twice following attack with as many as 70% estimated to have died trying to escape on boats. Those who survived settled and began selling a variety of Chinese products. During the Vietnam War Cholon was a thriving black market for US soldiers trading in American Army issue supplies.
The area today is a popular site for those on the tourist trail and also attracts many Taiwanese and Chinese visitors. Cholon is an interesting place to see classical Chinese architecture reminiscent of years gone by with plenty of Chinese restaurants.
The Binh Tay market at the centre is busy, crowded and messy with small aisles selling all manner of goods. This market sometimes disappoints tourists when compared to other markets in Ho Chi Minh as the products are not that varied, but the main draw to Cholon is not to shop but to enjoy the authentic Chinese atmosphere that has existed here for hundreds of years. It’s a wonderful place to experience at night.
The crowded Binh Tay Market is the major attraction in Chinatown and offers everything you can think of, from fresh produce to Vietnamese goods and especially items with a Chinese flavour.
Temples in this area include Thien Hau Temple on Nguyen Trai Street and Quan Am Temple, on Lao Tu Street. Both feature interesting Chinese-Buddhist style architecture and interiors with pagodas, courtyards, altars and paintings. Chinatown is also home to the Cholon Mosque on Nguyen Trai Street and Cha Tam, a small Catholic cathedral on Duong Hoc Lac Street.
Cholon Restaurants & Dining
Chinatown is full of authentic local restaurants as well as incredibly cheap street hawkers. Like many Chinatowns around the world you will know you have arrived once you see lots of roasted duck and pork hanging in front of the local eateries.
The noodles served in this district have more choices of Chinese style than the usual Vietnamese pho rice noodles while unusual herbs or exotic foods such as dried seahorse and ‘thousand year old eggs’ (aka salted duck eggs) can be spotted here and there.
Saigon’s Chinatown isn’t big on night entertainment. Luckily it is located not far from the city’s downtown where all the night action is. There, tourists will enjoy great choices of bars, pubs and cafés.
Some of them have interesting live music featuring local and international artists but the best part of all this is that beer and alcohol drinks in Vietnam are not expensive and if that’s not enough there are always happy hour promotions.
You can easily combine exploring and shopping in HCMC’s Chinatown. Though it is a wholesale market, Binh Tay also sells retail goods.
Popular items range from Vietnamese silk to lacquerware and hand-embroidered clothes to skillfully woven textiles. You will enjoy discovering many exotic items including delicious tropical fruits. Enjoy shopping and eating.
This area has a unique atmosphere and should not be missed; it’s a small town in itself with its own character, very different from other areas of HCMC. Tour around Chinatown by foot or take a traditional cyclo ride to make an interesting day out.
Good shoes and light clothes will be needed to make your trip more enjoyable and comfortable, especially when visiting Binh Tay Market as it can be hot and very crowded most of the time.
Cholon is located on the west bank of the Ho Chi Minh River, mainly over district five. There are plenty of tours available which will take you on a trip round Cholon including the more unusual bike tours which will whizz you round the area at night pointing out the sights and where to eat. Keep any bartering light hearted; expect to receive a discount of around 20% and remember to take time out to sample some of the local nuts, fruit and beer on sale.