A rare green section of District 10, Lê Thị Riêng Cultural Park encompasses a large lake, several coffee shops, and a small but impressive eucalyptus forest. This park is perfect for some morning exercise and fresh air, or try your hand at activities such as badminton, rollerblading and even fishing while the sun sets. Next to the lake is a quaint temple showcasing photos and memorabilia from the park’s history, as well as the story of Ms. Lê Thị Riêng, a celebrated war hero and military leader of the Gia Dinh area, who was arrested and killed on the second day of the Tet Offensive in 1968. Built on a reclaimed mass graveyard from the Vietnam War, this park carries some painful memories that shouldn’t be forgotten.
Thỏ Trắng Amusement Park is a fantastic destination for families with young children. The carnival happens from sunset until 10pm every evening and has about a dozen classic rides including a small roller coaster, merry-go-round, dodgem cars and a large space in the centre packed with arcade games. Entrance to the park is free, and activities will cost you from 10,000 VND (0.5USD) to 30,000 VND. The park also has a 5D cinema.
Dedicated to the history of Vietnamese traditional medicine, the FITO museum provides an in-depth look at a world that is slowly changing. Over 3,000 items of medical purpose, such as herbs, containers and journals, are displayed within its walls of ancient wood. Some items displayed even date back to the Stone Age. You can even dress up in an áo dài and have your picture taken behind a medicine counter.
Built in 1963, Việt Nam Quốc Tự, a popular pagoda in the city, is seven storeys tall and full of colourful, oversized statues of religious figures. On the first and fifteenth of the month, the pagoda opens up its third and seventh floors to the public. On other days, the second floor is accessible and features a shrine made up of miniature Buddhas floating against a cloudy sky mural. At night, the pagoda is lit up and becomes a highlight of the whole area.
Hồ Thị Kỷ is a wholesale market that supplies flowers to buyers and retailers. Entering the market is like walking into a giant flower garden – lilies, roses, daisies, hydrangeas, sunflowers, you’ll see them all and more. These flowers come from Da Lat (a beautiful mountain city in south-central Vietnam), the Mekong Delta (a vast maze of rivers and rice paddies in the southwest of Vietnam) and even from other countries. Pro tip: on the inside is a Cambodian Market where you can buy all sorts of goodies imported from Cambodia including shoes, clothes, accessories, handbags and even food.
Probably the most popular café in the area, Cafe 1985 looks as if it never left the past. The dark walls, mood lighting and use of antique decor will make you feel as if you are enjoying your cup of coffee in the ’70s. Every night there is a live music show organised by the owner, Uncle Binh, who also performs on occasion. He is a genius on the piano and will play songs on request. His favourites, as you may have guessed, are oldies. Join him on stage if you have the vocal cords to go with it.
House number 287/70 is located between two lanes each running to Nguyen Dinh Chieu and Vo Van Tan streets. It was built by Trần Văn Lai in 1966 and, despite the passing years, one room of this house remains unchanged. Trần Văn Lai worked for the Presidential Palace in Ho Chi Minh City as a contractor for three years, and during that time he was strategically building a secret cellar under his house – conspiring against the president he was working for, Ngô Đình Diệm. He stacked up nearly three tonnes of weapons in the basement to use against Diệm’s government in the war and planned to attack the Presidential Palace during the Tet Offensive in 1968. Many of the weapons still remain in the same position against the wall or on the floor. Trần Văn Lai has since passed and his son, Tuan, is in charge of the house. While only a few tours in Ho Chi Minh City include this in their itinerary, you can also visit it yourself if you book in advance. If you prefer to check this house out while on a tour and save yourself the hassle, try this Saigon In-Depth tour by Onetrip, that will take you to other seldom-visited places in the city on a motorbike as well. The secret weapons basement at 287/70 is among many exhibits in Vietnam that reveal the brilliant feats of the Vietnamese people in their fight for their national reunification.