Saigon attracts more visitors despite lurking coronavirus

By Tam Linh   February 25, 2020 | 03:50 am PT
More tourists are coming to Ho Chi Minh City during peak season, filling its previously deserted tourism sites amid the coronavirus epidemic.

The Central Post Office in District 1 is filled with visitors on Monday (pictured right), following a dry spell a week or so before (pictured left).

"It started getting crowded just a few days ago, and I’ve been able to make some sales," said a souvenir shop owner.

Since the Lunar New Year holiday (Tet) ended in late January, Ben Thanh Market had been nearly empty due to the novel coronavirus epidemic (pictured left). But it has started welcoming more European and Asian travelers in the last few days. 

Luan, a market guard, said: "There are mainly Western Europeans and Malaysians here." 

Ben Thanh Market, an iconic Saigon landmark, is known primarily as a traditional market where all kinds of consumer goods – clothes, bags, shoes, handicraft items and so on – are sold.

At the start of February, the War Remnants Museum in District 3 only saw 50 visitors a day (pictured left), but since last Sunday it has grown more crowded (pictured right).

The Independence Palace in District 1 tells a similar story.

The palace, formerly known as the Norodom Palace, served as the home and workplace of the President of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. On April 30, 1975, northern Vietnam stormed the palace, signaling the end of the Vietnam War and the start of national reunification.

Nguyen Hue walking street in District 1 is again luring night time revelers, sans face masks (pictured right).

Another walking street in HCMC in District 1, Bui Vien has been much more crowded (pictured right) after being nearly deserted (pictured left). 

The number of tourists to HCMC declined by 30 to 50 percent in the first 20 days of February due to the coronavirus concerns, official data shows.

Vietnam has recorded 16 cases of Covid-19 infection, of whom 15 have been discharged from hospitals, but the dire situation in South Korea is expected to affect its visitor count. 

Health declarations are now required for anyone traveling from South Korea. Those with symptoms like high fever, coughing and breathing difficulties will be put under quarantine.

South Korea declared 893 infections by Tuesday, many in Daegu, of whom nine died. The country’s number of infections is second only to China, the epicenter.

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