Places - December 5, 2022 | 04:34 pm PT

Foreigners a common sight again at Saigon tourist hotspots

At the peak year-end travel season, Ho Chi Minh City is beginning to look more like the international tourist hotspot it was before the Covid-19 pandemic struck.

European tourists in front of the Notre Dame Cathedral that has been closed for a long time to complete a major renovation project.

Costing over VND140 billion ($5.98 million), the project began in 2017 and was expected to be completed in 2023.

However, city authorities said recently that renovations to the iconic cathedral might extend until 2027 due to impacts of the Covid pandemic.

The cathedral was first built in 1877 by the French colonialists.

A bar employee (L) tries to persuade two tourists on the Bui Vien backpacker street in District 1 to patronize his establishment.

Once Vietnam’s busiest backpacker area, Bui Vien has become a favored haunt of locals as well, particularly during weekends, when the street is closed to vehicular traffic.

A group of foreign tourists at a bar on Bui Vien Street.

"The atmosphere here is so great and we drink beer until midnight," said Peter from the U.K.

"It is extremely fun to sit here and hang out with friends but it’s better for motorbikes to be banned on all days, not just the weekends," he added.

Foreign tourists cross a zebra crossing near the Ben Thanh Market in District 1.

The market is another iconic tourist destination in the city which has gone back to its busy days in recent months, after a long period of being empty amid border closures due to Covid-19.

Foreign tourists at a stall selling all kinds of bags inside Ben Thanh Market.

Foreign tourists enjoy a tour of HCMC atop an open-deck bus. The picture was taken late November on Dong Khoi Street in the heart of HCMC, home to luxury hotels and restaurants as well as fashion shops.

Departing Saigon Central Post Office, the city tour winds its way past Nha Rong Wharf in District 4, Ho Chi Minh Campaign Museum on Le Duan Boulevard in District 1, the backpacker area of Pham Ngu Lao Street, War Remnants Museum in District 3, and several other historic and cultural attractions.

Tickets currently cost VND150,000 ($6.56) for adults.

A tour guide with Saigontourist (R) explains to French tourists the historic and cultural significance of the Ho Chi Minh Statue Park in front of the City Hall on Nguyen Hue Boulevard, most of which has become a pedestrian street.

Hoang Thuy Linh, deputy director of marketing and communications at Saigontourist, said her company has started bringing groups of foreign tourists from the U.S., Europe and Australia to Vietnam since last month. She said it was a sign that the international tourism market was getting busier.

Tourists walk on the sidewalk next to a hotel on Dong Khoi Street.

So far this year, HCMC has received over 2 million foreign tourists. It has set an annual target of welcoming 3.5 million foreign visitors this year.

Foreigners wait to buy banh mi (Vietnamese sandwich) from a street vendor near Bui Vien Street.

Banh mi, one of the most popular street foods in the country that has now achieved international fame, is a fusion of cold cuts and vegetables like coriander, cucumber, pickled carrots, daikon and cilantro combined with condiments from French cuisine like pate and mayonnaise. It also comes with a wide variety of other popular fillings including cha lua (Vietnamese pork bologna), fried eggs, grilled pork, and meat balls.

A banh mi costs VND15,000 to VND50,000.

Foreigners at a coffee shop in a District 3 alley.

Spaniard Manuel Lopez (C) said it was his first time in Vietnam. He had read a lot about the Vietnam War, and thought it would be good to visit the place.

Thanh Loc, Nguyen Quy