Step onto Ho Chi Minh City’s chaotic streets and you might think that you’ve stumbled upon the set of Fast and Furious. The only difference is that motorbikes and mopeds rule the roads here, not cars.
Known by its former name Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City’s need for speed is palpable. The fast growing Vietnamese city is one of the world’s most vibrant and rapidly developing urban regions.
Beneath the incessant movement of people, motor vehicles, bicycles, and tower cranes, Saigon exudes an old-world charm and enigmatic personality, making her the perfect canvas for photography enthusiasts.
Here are 8 top photography spots to capture a slice of its natural, urban, and architectural beauty for eternity, brought to you by the PARKROYAL Saigon team.
||Cau Thu Thiem, Phuong 22, Binh Thạnh, Ho Chi Minh City|
For a classic Saigon city sundown shot, park yourself at Thu Thiem Bridge, between Binh Thanh and An Phu. The 1,250-metre long bridge is a popular haunt for locals; by late afternoon crowds of people will be lining themselves along the bridge, watching the sun go down as the city awakes at twilight, adorned with lights.
Remember to show up early to stake out the best spot. Grab a beer while you’re at it so you can experience the magic moment in its full glowing glory.
Directions to Thu Thiem Bridge
If greenery is your cup of tea, you can escape to Binh Quoi Village—a tranquil oasis of flora and fauna located just 20 minutes from Saigon’s city centre. The lush grasslands, bamboo cottages, and ponds with giant lily pads make picturesque backdrops for your compulsory OOTD (Outfit Of The Day) shots.
Once you’re done shooting, head towards the south of the village and dine at one of the riverside restaurants. Enjoy a perfect moment of calm and quiet, in direct contrast to the cacophony of the city.
Directions to Binh Quoi Village
||135 Nam Kỳ Khởi Nghĩa, Bến Thành, Quận 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
||8:00am to 11:00am and 1:00pm to 4:30pm, daily
Designed by Vietnamese architect Ngo Viet Thu, Saigon’s Reunification Palace is a landmark not to be missed. Imagine shooting photographs of the original tanks belonging to the North Vietnamese Army that crashed through the gates of the palace, or of quaint antique furniture in command bunkers and meeting rooms that look like they’ve been frozen in time in 1975.
Tip: The louvered glass panels within the palace create a dramatic effect for photos, with a natural interplay of light and shadows.
Directions to Reunification Palace
||57 Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai, Bến Thành, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Dubbed the “green lungs of central Saigon,” Tao Dan Park offers plenty of photo opportunities for people watchers and ornithologists. Snap photos of this quintessential aspect of Saigon life, shaded by a towering canopy of tropical trees. You have to get there early (around 8:00am!) if you want to capture shots of local Saigonese taking their songbirds out for their daily sing-off, or engaging in morning exercises such as Tai Chi and badminton.
Directions to Tao Dan Park
Everyone has heard of its resplendent salmon pink walls and can’t resist taking a selfie in front of them, but fewer have ventured into Tan Dinh church to admire its intricate Gothic and Renaissance beauty from within.
With a history that dates back to its inauguration in 1876, the church has since undergone several redevelopment and refurbishment works. If you manage to get in, do take a snapshot of the elaborate Italian marble high altar and side altars; these are among the most outstanding features of any church in Saigon.
Directions to Tan Dinh Church
Touted as the “grandest post office in all of Southeast Asia,” Saigon Central Post Office is a stunning example of nineteenth century French art deco architecture. Designed by Gustave Eiffel, most famously known for his work on the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty, it is also the city’s busiest post office. So no worries about walking around and snapping away to your heart’s content.
Tip: Pay particular attention to the post office’s looping arches, patterned marble tiles, and beautifully decorated ceilings.
Directions to Saigon Post Office
||1 Cong Xa Paris, Ben Nghe, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
||5:30am to 5:00pm daily
Just opposite the Post Office sits the regal Notre Dame Cathedral, which is popular not just with tourists but wedding couples. On any given day, you will see happy grooms with brides either donning white bridal gowns or the Ao Dai, a Vietnamese traditional dress. The cathedral’s red brick walls – each one painstakingly imported from the French port city of Marseilles – are just one aspect of the church’s distinctive neo-Romanesque elements. However, they do form a picture-perfect backdrop for your wedding or travel journals.
Directions to Notre Dame Cathedral
||District 5, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
The hustle and bustle of Saigon's streets makes for framable, provocative captures. As famed photographer Annie Leibovitz once said: “A thing that you see in my pictures is that I was not afraid to fall in love with these people”, so will this place evoke similar emotions in you.
To perfect your scenes from old Saigon, head to Cho Lon (District 5), which also happens to be the world's largest Chinatown. Here, you'll find alleys, markets, and people likely to be donned in traditional garb going about their daily routines. Don’t be afraid of wandering into alleyways as there are often small shops filled with fascinating curiosities to be found.
The nearby Binh Tay market is another potential focal point for zooming into the lives of the Saigonese. You can relax and soak up (or shoot) the lively atmosphere here.
Directions to Cho Lon