Sai gon – Cho lon heritage tour

Keen to learn in more detail about the history and development of Hồ Chí Minh City?
Why not take a step back in time with writer and local historian Tim Doling, author of the popular heritage blog Historic Việt Nam and of the new walking tour guidebook Exploring Hồ Chí Minh City (2014).

Tim runs two four-hour Heritage Tours which introduce a wealth of lesser-known places of interest alongside the city’s better-known historic vestiges.

Both tours are based on original research for the guidebook Exploring Hồ Chí Minh City.

Both tours can be organised according to demand on weekdays or weekends.

●  The tours commence at 0750 in the lobby of the Caravelle Hotel.

The Hôtel de ville (town hall) pictured in the early 1900s.
●  A minimum of five guests per tour is required.

●  Both tours involve moderate walking plus air-conditioned car or minibus transportation.

●  All guests are offered a welcome tea or coffee and supplied with a souvenir folder of historic maps and old photographs, which make it easier to imagine how the city once looked.

●  Pre-booking is essential – please email Tim c/o the Contact form on this website.

About the Heritage Tours

SaiGon 1950

SaiGon 1950

Saigon Heritage Tour

The Hôtel des douanes (Customs House) on the Saigon river wharf with the Compagnie des messageries maritimes building in the background

Tracing the city’s development from a Khmer fishing village to a modern economic powerhouse, the Saigon Heritage Tour points out the locations of the two citadels of 1790 and 1837, the canals which once criss-crossed the CBD and the railways and tramways which once ran along its streets.

It introduces the development of the naval, river and maritime port areas, the history of the wealthy banking district and the locations of the city’s opium refinery, the first and second Bến Thành Markets and the first wooden cathedral and earliest French governor’s “palace.”

The tour takes in the French colonial “Triangle of Power” and provides new insight into more familiar vestiges like the Unification Palace, the Cathedral and the Post Office, as well as pointing out some locations used by Graham Greene in The Quiet American and several intriguing vestiges of the American era.

A selection of images depicting places visited during the Saigon Heritage Tour may be viewed here

Le Canal 1950

Le Canal 1950

Chợ Lớn Heritage Tour

A creek ran through the centre of Chợ Lớn until 1925
The Chợ Lớn Heritage Tour examines the city’s origins in the 1680s as a tiny Minh Hương settlement, explaining the history of its seven distinct Chinese communities and their assembly halls, as well as the rivers, canals, creeks, tramways and railways which once passed through it.

Touring the city, it points out the house used as the “bachelor pad” in Jean-Jacques Annaud’s 1992 film of Marguerite Duras’ The Lover and the site of the old Central Market and visits the current Bình Tây Market and the house where Nguyễn Tất Thành (later Hồ Chí Minh) lived before leaving for France in 1911, as well as numerous temples, assembly halls and churches.

On the way, guests also learn about several wealthy Chợ Lớn residents who played an important part in the city’s development.

A selection of images depicting places visited during the Chợ Lớn Heritage Tour may be viewed here.

Tour Information

Essential details

– Both of these tours last for four hours (an additional 30 minutes’ travel should be added to the timing of the Chợ Lớn Tour);

– Meet at 07.50 in the Caravelle Hotel lobby – please don’t be late!

– They involve a moderate amount of walking, interspersed by bus/car transportation;

– They are not ideal for children;

– A minimum of five guests per tour is required;

– You should bring along a sun hat (plus umbrella in rainy season).

– Please note that Tim Doling does not accept any liability for injuries  you may sustain to body or loss of property during or as a result of the tour. Please make sure your travel insurance covers you for illness, injury, theft or any other occurrence while you are in Hồ Chí Minh City.

– If you cancel your booking less than 48 hours before a tour, there will be a cancellation fee. Similarly, if you book for a specific number of people and then one or more persons do not turn up for the tour, you will be liable for a cancellation fee in respect of each person who has not turned up. Thank you for your understanding.

What’s included

As part of the tour you’ll be provided with:

– souvenir brochure of historic photos and maps for historical context;

– welcome drink in a café at the start of the tour while Tim introduces the history of the city;

– free water and light snacks during the tour;

– air-conditioned transportation between walks.

What’s not included

On both tours we stop for a break, but the cost of refreshments or other purchases during those breaks is not included in the price of the tour.

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