The town of Tay Ninh, some 100 kilometres northwest of Saigon, is the center of the Cao Dai religion, which includes and unifies elements of Christianity, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Islam and possibly a number of other religions.
The religion worships as saints such different characters as the Hindu deity Brahma and Sir Winston Churchill, Moses and the French author Victor Hugo. The religion was founded in the 20’s of the 20th century by the Vietnamese government official
Ngo Van Chieu.
In Tay Ninh is the most important cathedral of the religion, the Great Cao Dai Temple. Apart from the cathedral, the complex includes a number of other buildings, among them a school. All buildings are painted pastel yellow. The cathedral is build in a style mixing oriental and European elements.
Women and men have to enter the cathedral by different portals.
My Tho is a Mekong delta town famous for its fruit orchards. It is some 70 kilometres from Ho Chi Minh City. Until into the 17th century, My Tho was a town of the Khmer (Cambodians).
Vinh Trang Pagoda
This pagoda near the town of My Tho was built in 1849. Architecturally, it combines Chinese and Vietnamese elements with the building style of French colonial times.
The town of Vung Tau, some 120 kilometres southwest of Ho Chi Minh City, is Vietnam’s most important seaside resort – with the potential to once become what Kuta on Bali is for Indonesia, or Pattaya is for Thailand. The town is situated on a spit projecting into the South China Sea. There are a number of decent beaches around Vung Tau.
The Tunnels of Cu Chi
The tunnel system of Cu Chi, some 36 kilometres outside Saigon, was laid out in its basic structures by the Viet Minh in 1948. Cu Chi and the surrounding region have always – even before World War II – been areas with a strong Communist presence. The tunnel system served as hideout of Communist guerrillas, and it also was a logistic center. In 1968 the command headquarters of the Tet offensive were in these tunnels.
The tunnels cover the surprising distance of some 200 kilometres. Many of them are so narrow, that is almost impossible for men with a European frame to crawl through them. Since the tunnels no longer serve as guerrilla hideouts, but as a tourist attraction instead, some passages have been extended to enable Western tourists to enter.
The tunnel system features numerous rooms, which at the time of the Vietnam War served as dormitories, conference rooms and ammunition depots, and even as hospitals and schools.
The Historical Museum (formerly: National Museum) was built in 1928 in pagoda style. Exhibited are findings from prehistoric times, art objects from different Vietnamese dynasties and kingdoms, as well as memorabilia of the Communist Party and from the struggle for independence.
The former presidential palace is now called Hall of Reunification. Originally, here stood the palace of the French governor of Cochin China, built in 1868. Later the building was the official residence of the South Vietnamese president Ngo Dinh Diem. In February 1962 the palace was bombed by two South Vietnamese fighter planes in an attempt to assassinate Diem.
The president and his family hid in the cellar and remained unscathed. However, during the attempted assassination of the president the palace was destroyed for the most part.
The original building was then replaced by a new one, which now is the Hall of Reunification. Inside the new building everything was left the way it was found on April 30, 1975, when North Vietnamese forces took Saigon.
Thien Hau Pagoda
This is the most important pagoda in Ho Chi Minh City and serves for prayers to the Buddha as well as to the Chinese deity Thien Hau Thanh Mau, the goddess of the sea and patron of the sailors. The pagoda is most richly ornamented.
Cathedral Notre Dame
The Catholic Cathedral of Notre Dame was built between 1877 and 1880, allegedly on the site of an old Pagoda. Mass is held several times every day of the year.
The Municipal Theatre of Saigon is another example of well-preserved, or well-restored, French colonial architecture in Vietnam. The Municipal Theatre is still, or again, very much in use as it is the venue for a large number of cultural presentations
Few French colonial buildings in Ho Chi Minh City are as well preserved as the City Hall.
Cholon is Saigon’s Chinatown. Though tens of thousands of Chinese citizens have fled the country before and after the Communist victory of 1975, Cholon still is the most densely populated part of the city. Many pagodas grace Cholon.