Ho Chi Minh City is a sprawling, dense concrete jungle so locals relish in the city’s remaining green spaces and communal areas. If you happen to be in the mood for a shaded sit or a quiet stroll, here are a few parks to find it.
Located just behind Reunification Palace, Tao Dan Park is one of the biggest public green spaces in downtown Saigon. The neatly tended to area is filled with towering trees as well as elaborate plant sculptures of animals such as tigers and dragons. Tao Dan is a place of activity. In the morning city dwellers head here for a round of badminton, meditative tai chi or to show off their prized caged birds. Popular are the public exercise machines in the park’s north corner. In the evening, see people working out or join in an early afternoon aerobics class, which is free and draws dozens of participants.
The expansive, leafy grounds of Reunification Palace are also worth a wander after you’ve explored the inside of the 1960s era presidential palace. Despite the tanks and other war machines on display, the perfectly manicured park is a peaceful place. Admission to the palace and grounds is 40,000 dong, Mo–Su: 07:30–11:00 & 13:00–16:00. Meanwhile, the pedestrian-friendly, tree-filled land of Park Cong Vien 30-4 stretches from the gates of Reunification Palace on Nam Ky Khoi Nghia for several city blocks to Notre Dame Cathedral and the Saigon Central Post Office, making your city walking tour of District 1 sights all the more enjoyable.
23-9 Park is one that most visitors to the city will walk through as it offers a quiet path from the Saigon backpacker area to Ben Thanh market. Named after the anniversary of the day Ho Chi Minh rallied the newly independent Vietnam against the French in 1945, this thin park stretches the length of Pham Ngu Lao St, serving as an escape when the hustle of the backpacker hood becomes too much.
The area has some shade, various gazebos, a small amphitheatre and a modest 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 lining the park’s edge. 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 Ho Chi Minh City’s better ones for an early morning jaunt along the river. Although the park is narrow, it unfurls along a considerable length of waterfront. The cornerstone of the park is the roundabout with a pier, 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 spot to sit and watch Saigon’s crazy traffic, both on land and in the water. It lacks good shade so visit early morning or late afternoon. It also offers easy access to several of the city’s riverboat restaurants and dinner tours, while along the street are some notable five-star hotels, such as Majestic Hotel and its rooftop bar overlooking the park and river.
To escape District 1, a little out of the way oasis is the tomb of General Le Van Duyet (1763-1832), a man with a colourful history and a positive reputation that was destroyed then restored. Behind walls, the grounds are dominated by magnificent large trees and a temple, usually quiet unless it is a special day in which case crowds arrive to pay their respect at the temple. Find it in Binh Thanh District, about two kilometres north of the centre.
Not a park nor a lake, Turtle Lake (Ho Con Rua) is a concrete pond without turtles in the centre of a busy roundabout. It has become a city landmark and a popular evening hangout spot. Wading through the fast flowing traffic is an interesting experience, as is trying all the different street snacks on offer. Find it in District 3, at the northern edge of the city centre, Vo Van Tan and Pham Ngoc Thach St.
Cindy Fan is a Canadian writer/photographer and author of So Many Miles, a website that chronicles the love of adventure, food and culture. After falling in love with sticky rice and Mekong sunsets, in 2011 she uprooted her life in Toronto to live la vida Laos. She’s travelled to over 40 countries and harbours a deep affection for Africa and Southeast Asia. In between jaunts around the world, she calls Laos and Vietnam home where you'll find her traipsing through rice paddies, standing beside broken-down buses and in villages laughing with the locals.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
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