To outsiders, Saigon is a sprawling, concrete metropolis, but the city does have its share of green spaces scattered about that are very popular with locals. If you happen to be in the mood for a shaded sit, or a quiet stroll, here are a few parks to enjoy free of charge in Ho Chi Minh City.
Located just behind the Reunification Palace, Tao Dan Park is one of the bigger green spaces you’ll find in downtown Saigon. A neat, manicured area mostly shaded by large trees, the first thing that may jump out at you are the park’s large, elaborate plant sculptures of animals, such as tigers and dragons. If you really dig on sculptures, you can find a proper sculpture garden on the small sliver of the park separated by Truong Dinh, the one-way street that crosses through the park.
Besides sculptures and shrines, Tao Dan is a place of activity. In the morning you can find a variety of city dwellers enjoying badminton, practising tai chi, or showing off their prized caged birds. In the evening, go to the park to see people working out on the public exercise machines in the park’s north corner; or join in an early afternoon aerobics class, which is free and draws dozens of participants.
A park most visitors to the city will walk through, as it offers a quiet path from the Saigon backpacker area to Ben Thanh market, 23-9 Park is a thin park that stretches the length of Pham Ngu Lao. Named after the anniversary of the day Ho Chi Minh rallied the newly independent Vietnam against the returning French in 1945, this is another good park to cool down and people watch.
Inside the shaded park you’ll find various gazebos, a small amphitheatre and a small playground for children, as well as plenty of room for exercise and lounging. The park becomes particularly active at night, when it fills with locals who sit along the ground and buy drinks and snacks from vendors who line the park’s edge. More than an everyday park, 23-9 comes to life during special events and holidays, especially Tet, when the park hosts concerts, festivals and flower markets.
Following the Ton Duc Thang waterfront in District 1, Bach Dang Park is one of Saigon’s better ones for an early morning jaunt along the river. Although the park is fairly narrow, it stretches down a considerable length of heavily used waterfront. The cornerstone of the park is the roundabout toward the centre, where you’ll find a fountain and statue of Tran Hung Dao, the legendary 13th century war hero famous for running the Mongols out of Vietnam. This is a good, shaded spot to sit and watch some of Saigon’s crazy traffic, both on land and in the water. It’s not the most shaded of parks overall, so visit early morning or late afternoon. The park also offers easy access to several of HCMC’s riverboat restaurants and dinner tours, while across the street are some of Saigon’s more popular five-star hotels, such as the Legend and the Majestic.
Outside of District 1, in the more suburban District 7, Ho Ban Nguyet Park, or Crescent Park, is a popular park for couples. Next to the Crescent Mall and shopping area off Nguyen Van Linh, during the day the park is less active, as it lacks the shade of the downtown parks. This makes it one of the more popular spots among locals for wedding photos and, at any given time during the day, you’ll see five or six couples posing for portraits. At night, when the sun goes down, the park becomes much more active but is still popular as a romantic hangout. Couples walk hand in hand along the waterfront park and across its long metal, pedestrian-only bridge and enjoy the peace and quiet that can only be found outside of District 1.
On the border of the Phu Nhuan and Thanh Binh districts, Hoang Van Thu Park is another interesting out of downtown park worth a visit. More familiar to most as ‘the park you pass when going to or coming from the airport,’ the triangular park occupies the space created by the intersecting streets of Tran Quoc Hoan, Hoang Van Thu and Phan Dinh Giot. At the north tip of the park you’ll see the area’s most visible landmark, a large metal monument. The spacious park has a few nuggets hidden of interest hidden within, including a large, mostly dry, grass-filled lake, a circular restaurant and a playground. Busy at all times of the day, locals come here to exercise during the day and to snuggle with their sweetheart at night.
Another spot outside District 1, Van Thanh Park off Dien Bien Phu is one of HCMC’s bigger but quieter parks. The main draw to the park is its space; covering roughly five and a half hectares, the peaceful park has an expansive, open field and a large lake surrounded by small gazebos. Thanks to its large area, Van Thanh has become a hotspot for outdoor festivals, particularly around Tet and Reunification Day. The park is home to a modestly priced Vietnamese buffet restaurant, some sport courts and one of the city’s nicer public pools. And like many parks around the city, during the evening hours the park begins to fill with young couples looking to share a bit of romance.
By Max Murta
Last updated on 26th December, 2016.