Saigon Opera House

Built by the French next to historic rue Catinat in 1872, Saigon Municipal Theatre is one of the city’s most iconic landmarks.

 

Its history is quite eventful and turbulent and here’ s a summary.

Did you know that the first purpose-built city theatre was constructed in 1872 on the site of today’s Caravelle Hotel?

It was originally built to entertain Saigon’s developing middle class in French colonial times. At the time it specialized in comic operas.
Made of wood, it burned in 1881 and was reconstructed in stone the following year.

Later it was decided that Saigon needed a much larger and more elegant theatre building to reflect the power of the French empire.
A number of French Architects were involved with the creation of this third building and it was completed in 1898. The current theater was inspired by «The Petit Palais» in Paris built the same year. The ornaments, balustrades and roof of the theatre building were originally imported from France.

Fun fact: at the time the theater could only function 4 months a year (from October to January) because of the heat!

Later, the façade got remodeled during the Japanese occupation of Indochina in the beginning of 1940’s. Then it finally got severely damaged by Allied bombing in 1944. Closed during World War II, it reopened in 1955 after the Geneva Convention and became the Southern Vietnam’s Assembly House.

In May 1975, it was officially named Saigon opera house.

It finally reopened as a theatre in 1982 and was completely refurbished and modernized at the end of the 1990’s with French support to commemorate the 300th anniversary of Saigon.

Saigon Opera House was certified as a national relic in 2012. Nowadays, with its 468 seats, it still daily provides high-quality performances.

You can look at its programme right here.

If you are interested in getting an overview of Saigon’s essentials in a short time and in an original way, join our vintage car tour.

The rice paper pizza

Have you already tried a Vietnamese pizza?

Actually, it’s not really a pizza but it looks like it.

This very popular street food called “Bánh tráng nướng” (literally meaning “grilled rice paper”) is much beloved by young people.

It is made of some rice paper grilled over a coal grill and covered with various toppings. Some quail or chicken egg is beaten directly on top of the rice paper and spread evenly to help gluing the toppings. Toppings are various: it could be fish, minced meat, dried shrimps, sliced sausage, cheese, peanuts, fried shallots, spring onion, herbs and fish sauce…

You can find vendors cooking and selling them next to school gates, city parks and around Hồ Con Rùa roundabout (Turtle Lake).
Be aware that you can get easily addicted to this crispy and tasty snack!

Vietnam National Day

Vietnam National Day (Ngày Quốc Khánh in Vietnamese) is tomorrow!

Just a quick reminder: it commemorates the proclamation of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in Hanoi and the independence of the country on September 2, 1945. At the time, nearly 500,000 people gathered at Ba Đình Square in Hanoi to listen to the Declaration of Independence read by Ho Chi Minh, the first President of Vietnam. This officially stated that Vietnam was liberated from French’s colonial force.

As a typical National Day, people get a day off from work and take this opportunity to travel and visit their family, especially if it falls on a Monday like this year.

On that time of the year, we can see Vietnam flags appearing everywhere on the streets, vividly coloring the whole country.

We can also admire the very colorful posters, with the typical graphic style that recalls the spirit of the 1970s, which appear along the streets, to commemorate the national holiday.

Ceremonies and cultural activities are set up and fireworks displays take place on that special day in the major cities of Vietnam.

In Ho Chi Minh city, there will be fireworks shows organized in three different locations tomorrow evening: at the Thủ Thiêm Tunnel between Districts 1 and 2, at the Landmark 81 (Vietnam’s highest building) and at Đầm Sen Park in District 11.

Be ready to gather in advance as the fireworks displays will start at 9PM and will last 15 minutes. Note that several major streets will be closed to vehicles at that time so you have to be ready to walk and stand in the crowd!

If you like to enjoy Saigon by night on quieter evenings, join our city tours by vintage car.

Tân Định Church

During our tour aboard vintage cars, we cross different areas of the city and pass by Tân Định area.

Tân Định church is quite iconic in Ho Chi Minh City and always surprises and fascinates visitors with its walls painted with a joyful pink and adorned with decorative white motifs.

Somehow, shall we dare to say that it kind of remind of a huge cream cake? 😃

Built in 1876 and more than 50 meters high, Tân Định church was designed in Romanian style with Gothic and Renaissance elements. It is said to be the second biggest church in Ho Chi Minh City, after Notre Dame Cathedral and one of the earliest catholic institution to be established in Saigon.

Outside mass hours, there reigns a quiet and pleasant tranquility in the church as well as outside in the yard and in the small garden at the back.

Last time we came was around 5:15pm, and floods of local visitors were converging on the parking and the building to attend mass which has already started. It was the rush time!

Quite a bustling atmosphere and such a lovely golden light as the daylight was fading. It was a great time to take pictures and to enjoy the moment!

To get an overview of the city’s essentials in a short time and to visit Tân Định church, we recommend you do not miss our morning discovery tour.

Colorful « Bánh da lợn »

Would you want to taste a « Bánh da lợn »?

« Bánh da lợn » literally means « pig skin cake » because of the texture and the touch of this dish.

It’s a Vietnamese dessert made from tapioca starch, rice flour, coconut milk and mung beans which give this very particular green color. It can be made also with durian or taro.

You can find this sweet and gelatinous cakes on Ly Tu Trong and Hai Trieu streets in District 1.

 

If you want to discover some of the best local street food, get on board for our evening food tour!