Once upon a time in ChinaTown
Art & Culture |22/06/2023amanaki icon4 minute
If there is a place you can call "Where time stands still" in Saigon, we would say it's ChinaTown with its distinguish culture as well as rich heritage from hundreds of years, which still exist today among people's daily life. If you happen to have a free morning in Saigon, let us show you some of our favorite spots in this neighborhood to experience ChinaTown's unique beauty and flavors.
Saigon's ChinaTown, or also known as Chợ Lớn (Big Market) consists of 3 districts: 5, 6, 11, which are known for their distinguished Chinese communities. Though known as one of the busiest areas in Saigon, the place still possesses a unique historic and cultural charm when compared to other central districts such as district 1, 3 or 7.
Ba Lù Coffee
Photo: Ba Lù Coffee
Tucked inside an old marketplace in district 5, this cafe with its traditional coffee roasting and brewing methods have been awakening the senses of the local people and accompanying them in every early morning for nearly 70 years.
Open everyday from the earliest hours such as 2am to serve the people in the market coming to prepare for their stalls, this cafe has quickly become an essential check point for any local's morning routine.
At Ba Lù Coffee, the coffee is prepared in a cloth mesh and then brewed inside an artisan clay pot in a certain amount of time. This traditional Chinese way of making coffee, the skills and recipes forged through the years bring about a truly special flavor that you cannot find in any other modern cafes in Saigon.
Opening hours: 6am-5pm
Address: 193 Phùng Hưng street, ward 14, district 5

Đông Nguyên Chicken Rice
Photo: Cơm gà Đông Nguyên

Hainanes chicken rice is a Chinese dish that is well-loved by Saigonese for its juicy boiled chicken and the rice cooked in chicken broth to maintain the pleasing aroma of the chicken, paired with the signature sweet and sour ginger sauce.

Known to be opened in 1945, Đông Nguyên has been one of the oldest places that serve Hainanese chicken rice in Chợ Lớn. Many people of Chợ Lớn until this day, have claimed they grew up with the memories of going to Đông Nguyên Chicken Rice with their families to enjoy a nice weekend dinner.

After nearly 80 years, Đông Nguyên's distinct elegant flavors in each of their dishes still continue to leave pleasing impressions and good memories in the hearts of the people of Chợ Lớn.

Opening hours: 9:30am-8:15pm
Address: 801 Nguyễn Trãi street, ward 14, district 5


Ông Bổn Temple
Photo: Bùi Thụy Đào Nguyên

Back in the first developing years of Saigon's ChinaTown, a group of residents from the southern coastal area of Fujian province of Quanzhou and Zhangzhou moved here and decided to build a first common guildhall for both their communities.

The guildhall is known as Ông Bổn's temple because it was built to worship of the human deity Bổn Đầu Công, and is the only place where this deity is worshiped.

This 300-year old temple possesses the signature Fujian architecture style with key features such as hammock roofs decorated with dragons and elegant pottery details. But the place is most recognizable for its “Tiger-eyes” on the front facade, which are two symmetrical circular windows with bamboo stems bars.

Opening hours: 9:30am-4pm
Address: 264 Hải Thượng Lãn Ông street, ward 14, district 5

*Source: Wikipedia, Tản Mạn Kiến Trúc


Hà Chương Guildhall
Photo: Bùi Thụy Đào Nguyên

After founding Ông Bổn temple, the group of Zhangzhou compatriots decided to establish their own guildhall, which was known as Hà Chương guildhall, Ông Hược pagoda or Bà Hà Chương pagoda.

The guildhall is also a representation of Fujian’s influence, but they have a key feature that no other Fujian temple in Saigon used, that is the engraved dragon column.

This style of sculpting temples’ columns into dragons to create elegant stands for the roof is a typical feature in every building of Fujian in territories outside China, but in Chợ Lớn, only Hà Chương guildhall owns it as a proof of wealth.

Opening hours: 9:30am-8:15pm
Address: 801 Nguyễn Trãi street, ward 14, district 5

*Source: Wikipedia, Tản Mạn Kiến Trúc


Ôn Lăng temple
Photo: DoktorMax

Another temple that embodied Fujian's architecture style in Chợ Lớn that you can stop by on your stroll in town is Ôn Lăng temple. This place belongs to Quanzhou fellow countrymen, and has various names such as Ong Lào pagoda, Quan m pagoda.

Besides typical features of a Fujian's temple such as the hammock roof, the curving blade, the treasured collection of artisan Hoa Mai pottery ornaments, Ôn Lăng temple also has an associated garden with an artificial pond, decorated by Taoist motifs relief panels, that is separated from the main temple by the street.

Opening hours: 9:30am-8:15pm
Address: 801 Nguyễn Trãi street, ward 14, district 5

Power Pole Sweet soup
Photo: giuademdong, nguyentrac
Almost every local has their own favorite place to eat sweet soup, and to the people of Chợ Lớn, it's Cot Dien (Power Pole) sweet soup that serves the best traditional Chinese desserts.
Humbly located in a small house next to a power pole where the place got its name, with minimal arrangements including some plastic stools and tables, Cot Dien sweet soup is still mostly always crowded with local people, young and old, coming to enjoy the special Guangdong flavors for dozens of years.
Coming to this place and trying a variety of exotic desserts such as black sesame soup, egg soup, baked papaya soup,... while enjoying the view of Chợ Lớn street in the evening can be a refreshing way to immerse in the local culture.
Opening hours: 5pm-10:30pm
Address: 476 Đ. Trần Hưng Đạo street, ward 14, district 5
Tags: Saigon tour, ChinaTown, 1 day tour
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