By Sai Gon Local Guide
Cholon, Saigon's Chinatown, is not the place to come for a quiet respite from the downtown frenzy. In fact Cholon may be the epicentre of the city's hyperactivity. The name Cho Lon translates literally as "big market" and that's exactly what it is.
Amidst the cacophany of motorcycles, street vendors and the different tones of the Chinese dialects spoken here, Cholon is also home to some beautiful and relatively serene Chinese pagodas, bustling Binh Tay market and plenty of history.
Originally a Chinese satellite city of Saigon, Saigon has now engulfed its little sister. Still, Cholon has a distinctive character and its people have played an outsized role in Saigon's economy and history since the enclave was created. Spend half a day or more fighting your way through its historic streets.
If you can brave the traffic, a cyclo is an interesting way to get around - everything is close by.
In the 1950s, Cholon was famous for its brothels, opium dens and casinos. The Binh Xuyen criminal gang operated a vast empire that was defended by its own militia with the blessing of the still influential French. In a critical showdown, South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem eliminated the Binh Xuyen in 1955.
Eight years later, in November 1963, Diem faced a new threat. A group of rebel South Vietnamese generals launched a coup against him and he fled his downtown palace (now the Ho Chi Minh City Museum) for Cholon's Cha Tam Church. A devout Catholic, he prayed in vain for mercy from coup leaders. He was captured at the church and then murdered in cold blood along with reviled brother Ngo Dinh Nhu while being transported back to the city centre.
Cholon has been at the centre of economic life in Saigon for decades - excepting an interruption in the late 1970s and early 80s when China's invasion of Vietnam created a backlash against the ethnic Chinese community. The backlash saw thousands of Chinese flee by boat settling in the US, Canada, France and Australia.
By the early nineties, it was back to business and the Chinese of Cholon have resumed their central role in Saigon's economy since then.
7 Reviews of Saigon's Chinatown
It’s immediately obvious when you arrive in Ho Chi Minh City’s Chinatown as all the shop names are in Chinese characters. And once in a while you will hear a few merchants of the older generation...
Cholon - literally translated as “big market” might lack imagination as a place name but it’s right on in terms of what this heaving Chinese enclave of Saigon is all about. Said to be the biggest...
The western part of Ho Chi Minh city is dominated by Cholon (Chinatown), a thickly settled district rife with teahouses and pagodas and the famous Binh Tay Market. Cholon spans across, and consists of, Districts 5...
Cholon is in District 5 and is a maze of narrow streets, bustling with people. Most of Vietnam’s ethnic Chinese live here and they are the largest single ethnic minority group in the country. Merchants began...
It was here that President Diem and his brother took refuge in during the coup d'etat in 1963. An armoured personnel carrier was sent to the church to take custody of the two. The soldiers killed Diem and his...
Thien Hau Pagoda is in cholon area, just a short walk from Binh Tai market. When we arrived there, the pagoda was occupied by some enterntainment group i guess, some pretty young vietnamese model is posting to get...
Cho Lon, Saigon’s Chinatown, is one of the oldest, mysterious and most interesting parts of Saigon. Cho Lon literally means ‘big market’ and the vast Binh Tay Market lives up to that reputation....
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