Amid the modern dynamic city of Ho Chi Minh, you can still find a quaint old town with charisma, Chinatown Cho Lon of Ho Chi Minh City. Dating back to the 18th century, the Chinatown of Ho Chi Minh with its majestic temples and appealing residences is definitely worth a visit.
Getting around the city on vehicles can be a challenge and a hassle, so we know why walking is an ideal choice to discover Cho Lon Chinatown. In this 1 day walking itinerary in Cho Lon Chinatown, we dedicate the morning to religious sites, visiting the best temples in the city, as well as unique Chinese residential buildings, then the afternoon and the evening to local markets and the food paradise of Saigon’s Chinatown.
The history of Cho Lon Chinatown in Ho Chi Minh City goes back to the early 18th century, with residents coming from China’s big provinces like Guangdong, Chaozhou, and Fujian. Nowadays its area spreads across District 5, District 11, and a part of District 6 in Ho Chi Minh City. Entering Cho Lon Chinatown in Ho Chi Minh City, you’ll get fascinating Chinese vibes in the residential buildings of the Chinese Vietnamese here, getting to know their traditional rituals through the beautiful temples they set up, sampling their Chinese adapted cuisine in dumpling restaurants and dessert restaurants. This place is truly a worthy site to visit in the most diverse city of Vietnam.
8 AM: Breakfast with dumplings in Nguyen Trai Street, District 5
Enjoy mouthwatering dumplings in Cho Lon Chinatown of Ho Chi Minh City
Dumplings are a typical, delectable breakfast of Chinese Vietnamese in Ho Chi Minh City. Since our next stop would be Thien Hau temple on Nguyen Trai street, we pick a dumpling restaurant also on Nguyen Trai street; the name is Quan Sam - Mi Vit Tiem Sui Cao at 409/12 Nguyen Trai street, District 5 (the restaurant features other foods in Chinese cuisine as well). The type of dumplings offered here are called Jiaozi (“sui cao” in Vietnamese), prices ranging between US$2 and US$3 for a generous serving.
*Note: How to read addresses in Ho Chi Minh City (and addresses in Vietnam in general): When it reads 409/12, it means the location is in Alley 409 on the street, go into the alley and find the house 409/12. Houses are numbered in the normal order and don’t get numbers arbitrarily so don’t worry.
9 AM: Thien Hau Temple (or Ba Thien Hau Temple) at 710 Nguyen Trai Street, District 5
At the beginning of their new life in Vietnam, the first Chinese decided to stay loyal to their long-standing customs. They built temples and kongsis (“Hội quán” in Vietnamese, meaning an organization by Chinese people from the same hometown, to help each other in many aspects of life, conducting benevolent acts to members when necessary) to pray to the old gods of their hometown and maintain the bond among Chinese Vietnamese around the neighborhood.
Thien Hau is the respected Chinese Sea Goddess known by the English name Mazu. Thien Hau Temple at 710 Nguyen Trai Street, Ward 11, District 5 is an alluring cultural site where you can admire charming, sophisticated Chinese-style architecture in the main theme colors of red and gray.
Read the myth of Thien Hau Goddess.
Thien Hau Temple (or Chua Ba Thien Hau) is a must-visit cultural site in Cho Lon Chinatown of Ho Chi Minh City
From the dumpling restaurant, you walk straight ahead on Nguyen Trai street for about 1.4 km (0.8 miles, around 17-minute walk) to get to Thien Hau Temple. Don’t be overwhelmed by the walk; it’s getting easier from here on since Thien Hau Temple is very near other cultural attractions of Cho Lon Chinatown.
10 AM: Quan Am Pagoda at 12 Lao Tu Street, District 5
Just a 4-minute walk (300 m) from Thien Hau Temple is another solemn and tranquil religious site dedicated to Buddhist religion - Quan Am Pagoda at 12 Lao Tu street. To reach Quan Am Pagoda from Thien Hau Temple, you follow Nguyen Trai street, turn right onto Luong Nhu Hoc street when you see it, walk for a little while before turning left onto Lao Tu street.
11 AM: Lunch with Com Ga (Chinese chicken and rice) on Nguyen Trai Street
Another characteristic dish of Chinese cuisine that is loved by all Ho Chi Minh City residents - Com Ga (chicken and rice). The distinction that sets Vietnamese Com Ga apart from KFC’s one is in the rice. It is cooked with chicken broth or fried (with eggs added), a beautiful golden color and an aromatic flavor are the fruits of the special recipe. Chicken in these dishes are also picked and cooked with expertise, so it’s a far cry from the industrial chicken meat of fast food restaurants.
From your last stop Quan Am Pagoda, you only need to walk 5 minutes to Com Ga Dong Nguyen restaurant at 801 Nguyen Trai, Ward 14, District 5. Prices are around US$ 3 per serving (and it’s already an upscale restaurant from many customers’ perspective).
12 PM: Nhi Phu Ong Bon Temple at 264 Hai Thuong Lan Ong Street, District 5
From Com Ga Dong Nguyen, it's only a 5-minute walk to 264 Hai Thuong Lan Ong street to behold the breathtaking design of Nhi Phu Ong Bon Temple. Ong Bon is a benign man who aided his Chinese fellows in starting their businesses and collecting wealth. Besides Ong Bon, Nhi Phu Ong Bon Temple honors other important gods of China like the Jade Emperor.
Nhi Phu Ong Bon Temple is another cultural site in Cho Lon you should not pass up
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2 PM: Binh Tay Market at 57a Thap Muoi, Ward 2, District 6
Binh Tay Market, also known by its original name Cho Lon, is, without doubt, the main trading and commercial center of Cho Lon Chinatown in Ho Chi Minh City. Experience the feel of an authentic local market and get some good bargains with our top Saigon shopping tips! Check out our complete Binh Tay Market Guide and list of things to buy in Ho Chi Minh City.
From the chicken rice restaurant, walk for 1 km (13 minutes) to get to Binh Tay Market at 57a Thap Muoi street, Ward 2, District 6.
Binh Tay Market is the major market of Cho Lon Chinatown
4 PM: Soai Kinh Lam the largest fabric market in Saigon, at 465-473 Tran Hung Dao street, Ward 14, District 5
Silk, cotton, wool or velvet, high end or low end, Soai Kinh Lam Fabric Market caters to all fabric needs. It’s where you find not only Vietnamese fabric but also imported products from China, India, Thailand, or South Korea. Soai Kinh Lam Market is also known by another name, Dong Khanh Trading center. An exciting experience guaranteed!
From Binh Tay Market, walk for only 800 m (10 minutes) to get to Soai Kinh Lam Fabric Market at 465-473 Tran Hung Dao street.
Soai Kinh Lam is the largest fabric market of Ho Chi Minh City
5 PM: Taste “che” at a famed Chinese dessert restaurant, Che Ha Ky
Che Ha Ky at 138 Chau Van Liem, Ward 11, District 5 is a well-known Chinese dessert restaurant with an extensive menu of not only the delectable sweet soup “Che” but also other options such as sweet sesame seed soup and Chinese energy cocktail (Sam bo luong).
From your last stop Soai Kinh Lam fabric market, walk for only 450 m (5 minutes) to get to Che Ha Ky at 138 Chau Van Liem street.
Tasting Chinese desserts in Cho Lon Chinatown should be on your checklist
6 PM: The Lantern Street of Luong Nhu Hoc (if you happen to be in town around big holidays of the year in Vietnam)
Lanterns are a beautiful creation of Chinese people. Children love them and adults are mesmerized by them too. Once you’re in Saigon’s Chinatown on big occasions like Tet Holiday and Full Moon Festival, definitely drop by Luong Nhu Hoc street. Now, let the picture speak for itself.
Luong Nhu Hoc Lantern street with vibrant-looking lanterns and home decorations during Mid-Autumn Festival
From Che Ha Ky, walk for only 250 m to reach Luong Nhu Hoc lantern street.
It’s an 8-km distance, a 30-minute drive from Tan Son Nhat International Airport to Cho Lon Chinatown in District 5, Ho Chi Minh City. Taking a taxi would cost you around US$ 6, and a motorbike taxi would be under US$ 3. Taking a bus is another choice, but it would take more time (over 1 hour) since you need to follow 2 bus routes to get to Cho Lon: Bus No.109 from Tan Son Nhat Airport and then Bus No.150 to District 5.
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Cho Lon Chinatown of Ho Chi Minh City is an intriguing place to visit and explore the culture and cuisine of the Chinese Vietnamese. Consider our suggested itinerary to make the best plan for yourself.
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I love the Chinatown, didn't expect I could visit the area at all, but you guys did a great job on planning the itinerary, I got a very good overview of the city, way more than the little bits shown in travel guides. I truly appreciate how your guide Minh attentive to my needs because it was so hot outside