This week, our Travel pics series is H for Ho Chi Minh City.
Our final image in this series is of the Ben Thanh markets, in “District 1” of Ho Chi Minh City.
I mentioned earlier this week that the markets have played a central role in HCMC (or Saigon, as it was known prior to 1975) – and said that I’d look at that history.
The markets are apparently one of the oldest surviving ‘structures’ in Saigon – but like much of Asia, the city is constantly reinventing itself and the markets building actually dates from 1912 – and was refurbished in the ’80s.
The clock tower at the southern entrance to the market is considered by many to be the unofficial symbol of Ho Chi Minh City.
Markets in the area have existed for centuries .. although they were initially closer to the river (which is unsurprising).
However, during the French invasion, the existing markets were burned down allegedly by the Vietnamese soldiers defending the area.
If that’s true, then the attitude attributed to later American invaders – “We had to destroy the village in order to save it” – has apparently been a tradition in Vietnam!
Anyway, next to the markets, in front of the southern entrance, is a huge roundabout – logically enough called the Ben Thanh roundabout.
It is also an iconic symbol of Ho Chi Minh City – and in its centre there used to be a statue of General Tran Nguyen Han who helped repel Mongol invaders around 1400 … but it was literally falling apart (a leg fell off and nearly injured a tourist in 2013) so it was removed.
You’ll also see a bus terminal – Ben Thanh is not only a major hub for bus transport, it will also be the lynchpin of a new Metro rail service which is being built in the city.
Our picture today comes from the observation deck on the nearby Bitexco Financial Tower.