Saigon – A city where sophisticated steel-and-glass skyscrapers are juxtaposed with ancient, creaking pagodas, and elegant French colonial boulevards effortlessly blend with lively street food stalls and hidden alleys. Here, you can experience a dynamic urban lifestyle like nowhere else in Vietnam.
1. Thien Hau Pagoda, 710 Nguyen Trai, District 5, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Also known as Chua Ba, this beautiful Saigon pagoda was built by the Chinese in the early 19th century. It is one of the most active temples in Cho Lon and has an otherworldly atmosphere owing to the smoking rings of swirling incense and majestic interior furnishings. It is dedicated to Thien Hau, goddess of the sea and protector of sailors.
Easily one of the most favourite tourist attractions in Ho Chi Minh City, Thien Hau Pagoda is located on Nguyen Trai in Cho Lon. Be sure to keep an eye out for the porcelain dioramas that decorate the roof and walls. The dioramas depict duels on horseback, arena fighting and dragons and turtles. Interesting, Saigon’s Thien Hau Pagoda is dedicated to a goddess, Thien Hau, who is neither specifically Buddhist nor Taoist.
Don’t forget to lean back and take in the intricate carvings on the roof.
2. Jade Emperor Pagoda, 73 Mai Thi Luu, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Put this atmospheric Cantonese pagoda, built in 1909, at the top of your HCMC temple visiting list. The Jade Emperor, heaven’s gatekeeper, watches over an incense-filled room while hidden chambers harbour woodcarvings and altars depicting scenes from Taoist and Buddhist myths. One hall houses the go-to deity if you’re seeking fertility and the upstairs section represents heaven and features the goddess, Kwan Ying.
The temple, AKA the Tortoise Pagoda, was constructed in 1909 by Saigon’s Chinese population. The pagoda is a photographer’s paradise that features ribbons of aromatic incense smoke, robed monks, artful carved figures, Buddha sculptures and a turtle pond. Even if you’re not the praying kind you owe it to yourself to check out the Jade Emperor Pagoda. It’s a cheap taxi ride to the temple from central Ho Chi Minh City.
Don’t miss the mass of turtles in the turtle pond, said to bring good luck.
3. Vinh Nghiem Pagoda, 339 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
The largest pagoda in Ho Chi Minh City is a blend of modern influence and traditional Japanese and Vietnamese culture. It is home to a sanctuary and a seven-floor, 40-metre high tower. People come here to pay homage to Siddhartha Gautama, Buddha himself, and Samantabhadra, the Lord of Truth and Manjusri. Make sure to leave time to visit Vinh Nghiem Pagoda when sightseeing in Saigon.
Saigon’s Vinh Nghiem Pagoda was built between 1964 and 1971 based on the design of architect Nguyen Ba Lang. The area of the complex is somewhere in the range of 8,000 square metres. Look for the 25-metre tall Devotee Relic four-storey Tower, built in 1982, situated behind the pagoda. The Japan-Vietnam Friendship Association of HCMC constructed the Kwan-Yin tower.
It has a popular vegetarian restaurant, Viet Chay, tucked in its grounds.
4. Nghia An Hoi Quan Pagoda, 678 Nguyen Trai, District 5, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Built by the Chaozhou Chinese population of Ho Chi Minh City, this pagoda is hidden behind a sinister-looking gate. The pagoda is noteworthy for its gilded woodwork: a carved wooden boat hangs over the entrance and to the left is a large representation of Quan Cong’s horse and groom. At the ornate altar, greet Quan Cong himself, to whom the temple is dedicated. Nghia An Hoi Quan Pagoda is located at 678 Nguyen Trai in Saigon’s Cho Lon district.
Marvel at the door gods painted on the temple’s front door. The statue of Ong Bon, the keeper of happiness and virtue, resides in a glass altar to the right of the main sanctuary. Nghia An Hoi Quan Pagoda is one of the oldest temples in Saigon. Built in the 19th century by HCMC’s Chinese congregation, the pagoda is dedicated to Quan Cong, a deified general who lived during the Han Dynasty.
On the 14th day of the first lunar month, this pagoda celebrates with offerings to the spirits and dances staged out front.