The changing face of Saigon's Dong Khoi

By Quynh Tran   September 3, 2017 | 06:20 pm GMT+7
Dong Khoi Avenue still oozes a certain class and sophistication that date back to the 19th century.

Dong Khoi Avenue, located in Saigon's District 1, is less than 1 kilometer long (0.6 miles), but has been a major thoroughfare since French colonial times, when it was named Avenue 16.

After 1954, the Vietnamese changed its name to Road of Freedom, and after Vietnam's independence, its name was changed again to Dong Khoi.

The French turned the avenue into a center for the colonial administration, and many of its bureaus and offices were situated on Dong Khoi.

The building on the left was constructed in 1881 and was used as the city's Tax Department. It was transformed into the headquarters of the Southern Vietnamese government's Intelligence Department 1917, where many Vietnamese Communists were imprisoned. From 1955 to 1975, it was the headquarters of the Ministry of Home Affairs of the Republic of Vietnam. It is now home to Saigon's Department of Culture and Sports and Tourism.

The building on the right used to be the administrative office of the Tax Department. In 1955, it became the headquarters of the Republic of Vietnam's Ministry of Finance, and later, the Ministry of Social Affairs. After 1975, it was turned into the Department of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs. In 1998, the office was demolished and replaced by a skyscraper.

In the 19th century, while administrative bureaus lined up at one end of the avenue, the middle of the street was home to mainly hotels, stores and other entertainment spots.

Saigon's first hotel, the Continental, was built in 1880 and is located on this road. It was the place to be for many high-ranking French colonial officials. After 1975, the hotel's name was changed to Hai Au, but in 1990, it returned to the original name.

Saigon Opera, on the other hand, was completed in 1900. Under the rule of the Republic of Vietnam, it was the Parliament House. In 1975, however, it was returned to its original purpose as the Opera House.

The hotel next to the Opera House was built in 1881. The ground floor was the Grand Café de la Terrace, a café famous in Saigon in the 19th century. In 1956, the building was demolished to make way for the Caravelle Hotel.

At the time, the Caravelle was among the most modern hotels in Saigon. After 1975, its name was changed to Independence, but was changed back again 20 years later. In 1997, the hotel was rebuilt and connected to the 24-story building next to it.

Just opposite the Continental there is a row of stores. Situated at the corner of the street, Café de la Music opened in 1890. In 1922, the café was turned into a pharmacy.

After 1954, it was turned into Eden Tax House, and then in 2010, it was replaced by a mall that covers Dong Khoi, Le Loi, Nguyen Hue and Le Thanh Ton streets.

This was once the bureau of L'impartial, a press house in the early 20th century. In 1970, it was demolished to make way for the Astor Hotel, and the name was changed to Huong Sen after 1975.

The Grand Hotel was built in 1930. The name was changed to the Saigon Palace after 1937.

The three-story building on the left is Grand Hotel de France, which was opposite Café de la Terrasse (now Caravelle Hotel).

During the 20s and 30s, Grand Hotel de France was expanded into a complex that included stores, apartments, offices and a cinema, which are still there now.

This photo was taken in 1920. The Photo Studio was next to the Continental. In 2002, the building was replaced by a mall.

The other end of Dong Khoi Avenue faces the Saigon River. The building on the left was once Hotel d'Annam, which was demolished in 1925 and replaced by Hotel Majestic. The building on the right was Hotel de la Rotonde. It once served as offices for many companies and consulates, and was rebuilt in 1980.

go to top