Friday, February 23, 2018

Ho Chi Minh City Hall and Shopping Malls

I do wonder about the simplest of things. Such as if most people visiting Vietnam know who or what Ho Chi Minh is? Do people even care?

Moi with Ho Chi Minh standing in bronze behind me and the beautiful City Hall in the background. I am smiling in the picture but it was so fricking HOT on that day. 

Ho Chi Minh

Ho Chi Minh is the revolutionary man behind the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (or North Vietnam then). He was a polyglot who can speak French, Russian, Mandarin, English and Vietnamese fluently. A communist and a staunch nationalist from the north, he formed the Viet Minh coalition that eventually threw the French out of the country after almost a century of occupation. The Battle of Dien Bien Phu (or First Indochina War) was the defining moment, the end of French rule in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos.

He also later became an important figure and influence during the Vietnam War (Second Indochina War/American War), although he did not see the victory together with his comrades against the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam - Vietnam was divided then), the United States and its Allies because he died 6 years before the Fall of Saigon. It was a war that lasted almost 20 years.

When North Vietnam (or Viet Cong and its allies) captured Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam, it sent the Americans and its Allies packing back to their respective countries. A popular musical back in the 90s, "Miss Saigon" would probably help jog the memory of some from my or earlier generation. South Vietnam was reunited with the North under the communist credo.

A foreign newspaper was said to have quoted:

"When the North Vietnamese marched into Saigon yesterday, they were led by a man who wasn't there".

[To read the rest of the post and see more pictures, click the READ MORE link below]

More pictures of the City Hall and the square (walking pedestrian street) in front of it that goes all the way down to the Saigon River. My sister and I walked on this big pedestrian street flanked by 2 busy streets which are the main thoroughfares of District 1, the Nguyen Hue.

The Ho Chi Minh City Hall and Square

Ho Chi Minh, the revolutionary communist and nationalist leader of (North) Vietnam and the Ho Chi Minh City Hall in French colonial style architecture named after him.

After the Vietnam War, Saigon was renamed to Ho Chi Minh City abbreviated by many as HCMC. If you know the war history of Vietnam, the renaming is a huge slap to the South Vietnam political party, the United States and its Allies (South Korea, Australia, Philippines, New Zealand, Taiwan, Thailand). It was a war that ended in humiliation.

But that was more than 40 years ago. The wounds have healed. Well, mostly. People have moved on. A new generation can look back to the past without blinking an eye and learn from it. (Except for North Korea) Communism has become a thing of the past.

The mile-long square and pedestrian walkway in the city center. This walkway is in the middle of a main and very busy street, Nguyen Hue.

Anyway, enough of Vietnam’s war history, let’s talk about shopping in the city =)

It is not my favourite topic though, nor my sis, but when we are with my mom, we have to compromise, so the sister and I made sure to allocate an afternoon of shopping and hopping from one mall to another. We did some online research beforehand so that was handy. In the city center, we found out that the shopping areas are near each other so it was quite easy for us to navigate.

To make sure we are not driving east and west, we picked 3 shopping malls located near the Ho Chi Minh City Hall: Union Square, Vincom Center and Saigon Centre Shopping Mall.

The 3 shopping malls are not too far away from each other:

Vincom Center and Union Square are across each other and it is just a 9-minute walk to Saigon Centre Shopping Mall. Not bad at all.

Union Square – The ultra luxury mall

This luxury shopping center is located beside the Ho Chi Minh Square, just on the corner of Nguyen Hue and Le Than Ton across the Ho Chi Minh City Hall. This chic mall is all about high-end shopping with many European luxurious signature brands.

It would be difficult to shop here if your budget is below 4 figures. Because this was not our budget, we quickly decided to move on.

Vincom Center – Your upper/middle class man’s mall

Luckily, Union Square was not too far away from Vincom Center so we did not have to walk that far. This was very important for my mom who has troubles with walking. Although far from being an every day man's shopping mall, Vincom was friendlier when it comes to the prices. However though, we didn’t fancy anything in the shops but we managed to find our way to the basement’s supermarket, VinMart.

The center is a mix of commercial shops and offices.

Well, of course, we won’t miss visiting a new country without checking its market which we already did in Ben Thanh and its supermarket. Did I mention before that I am a ‘supermarket tourist’? My favourite supermarket so far are French ones, naturally in France.

Our best finds in the supermarket were granular salt in different flavours (shrimp, mango, tamarind, name it!), pistachio nuts (they were somewhat sweet with a milky taste), green tea macha popcorn (we should have bought more), and Vietnamese-style noodles (we were curious to try).

We also bought the popular Vietnamese coffee in packs. We really liked the cold coffees in the city, it has a nice and distinct taste to it, but strangely enough, the coffee we bought in the supermarket did not taste the same when I made it at home.

The parents were looking for me =)

A part of our loot in VinMart.

A cool and cute roadside coffee shop.

Then it was time to check another shopping mall, but first we need to bring our shopping bags back to the hotel, so we took a cab.

From the hotel, we took again a cab to Saigon Centre Shopping Mall which is just around the corner really, a 7-minute walk, but this is a much comfortable option for the parents.  I should say that the cab was a blessing in disguise because it was scorching hot outside. Thank goodness for airconditioning.

GPS and Vietnamese map version for taxi drivers.

Saigon Centre Shopping Mall – Biggest mall in Vietnam

This shopping mall is a mix of high and medium-end shops with a lot of cafes, restaurants and entertainment options and is the biggest mall in Vietnam. There is a Takashimaya department store as well. You cannot go wrong here.

The family finally managed to shop here a bit. I personally bought a sleeveless A-line dress from Benetton, the only souvenir item I bought in Vietnam apart from the food. Every time I wear the dress, it reminds me of Vietnam. I have the same flashbacks with my other dresses as well, but with different countries =).

Saigon Centre on Le Loi Boulevard. 

Saigon Centre Towers 1 and 2 are a shopping mall, office and residential buildings with 43 floors.

If you come to Ho Chi Minh City for shopping, check these malls out in District 1. They are not very far from each other, all within a 7-10 minute walking and are near to lively Ben Thanh area.

A picture with the blue and silver tree in front of one of the entrances of the Saigon Shopping Center.

Trying dresses =) and oh, a quick photo should suffice!

The sister was quite happy to see a Bee Cheng Hiang in Saigon. Well me too because I love jerky!

Travel Period: December 2016
Destination: Ho Chi Minh City (Southeast), Vietnam

Keep in touch and follow me on Facebook: Travel & Lifestyle Diaries by Dutched Pinay Travels
Happy Travels! Enjoy Life =)

All pictures were taken by a point and shoot pocket camera or a smartphone.

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