Cholon, or Chợ Lớn, is a historic district in Ho Chi Minh City, and on this walking tour you can explore its rich Chinese cultural heritage. It’s an atmospheric place to wander around with a mix of bustling streets and peaceful ancient temples.
How to get to Cholon
This walk starts in Binh Tay Market in Cholon. To get to Cholon from the centre of Ho Chi Minh, the easiest way is to take a taxi (Grab or Gojek). Alternatively, you can find a bus.
Cholon Walking Tour Route Map
Tips for Cholon Walking Tour
- Download the Grab or Gojek apps before you arrive in Vietnam to easily get a taxi.
- Download the Maps.Me app and the area around Ho Chi Minh City so you’re never lost.
- Many of the small street food places don’t accept card, so make sure to have cash (get a Wise Card* for cheap money conversion and cash withdrawals).
- Discover our walking tour of central Ho Chi Minh City, or for other city tours, hikes and bike rides in Vietnam, see our Vietnam page.
Attractions on the Cholon Walking Tour
On this walking tour you’ll see the main sights and attractions of Cholon, the Chinatown of Ho Chi Minh City. This walk takes a morning or afternoon. If you want to go on a guided tour of the area, this Off the Beaten Track tour* visits several of the top places in Cholon.
- Binh Tay Market
- Cha Tam Church
- Ong Bon Temple
- Herb Street
- Tam Son Hoi Quan Pagoda
- Ba Thien Hau Temple
- Guan Am Pagoda
- Phuoc An Hoi Quan Pagoda
- Nghia An Temple
- Cholon Jamail Mosque
- Hao Sy Phuong Street
Cholon Walking Tour Route
Cholon is the largest Chinatown in Vietnam and the world. You’ll find lots of signs in both Vietnamese and Chinese here and delicious Chinese food along every street, try the dumplings!
1. Binh Tay Market
Binh Tay Market* is the main market of the area and one of the most famous landmarks in Cholon. It’s much more authentic than the one in the touristy centre of Saigon. The original structure was built in the 1880s by the French. In the middle there’s a little courtyard and gardens, and the outer building has a large clock tower that you can see from far away. The bustling market sells fresh food, clothing, electronics, and much more. Additionally, you can get cheap eats or coffee inside.
Directions: Leave the market from the front entrance and turn left. Turn left just past a small park with a cool dragon statue. The church is in the courtyard on the left.
2. Cha Tam Church
Key Information: Open every day 7am-noon & 1-6pm & 7-9pm.
Cha Tam Church is a peaceful and quiet little catholic church in the Chinatown district, also known as St Francis Xavier church. It’s rather lovely from the outside and set in a calm courtyard where you can take a breather from the hustle and bustle of the streets outside. The building and the inside also have several Chinese touches, creating a real blend of architecture and culture. Today there are about 7 million Catholics in Vietnam.
Directions: Walk along the street opposite the church and turn right at the roundabout. The next temple is on the main road to the right.
History of Cholon
Many Chinese people migrated to Vietnam after the fall of the Ming Dynasty in the 17th century. Roughly a century later the beginnings of the city of Cho Lon formed, previously separate from nearby Saigon. In the Vietnam War, Cho Lon became famous as the Black Market spot for Americans selling American Army supplies to the locals. Cho Lon is even mentioned in the famous Novel, The Quiet American*.
3. Ong Bon Temple
Ong Bon Temple is dedicated to the deity Ong Bon, a name for the supreme Taoist god. The temple is one of the oldest pagodas in Saigon, dating from around 1730. It’s very atmospheric and quite smoky inside. Many people burn paper money here in the hope of gaining more financial wealth in the future. It can be busy with children who go to school next door.
Directions: Walk along the main road and over the roundabout. Follow the road as it bends left.
4. Herb Street
There are many traditional herb shops, or Chinese medicine pharmacies, along this street. You’ll notice the very pungent smells wafting out of them, with many dried goods of herbs and animal parts on display.
Directions: Take the next left and across the main road to find the next temple on your right.
5. Tam Son Hoi Quan Pagoda
Tam Son Hoi Quan Pagoda is another pagoda in Cholon with rich ornamentation. It’s dedicated to the goddess of fertility, and many women pray here hoping for children.
Directions: Continue onwards and you’ll see the next temple opposite.
6. Ba Thien Hau Temple
Key Information: Open every day 6-11:30am & 1-4:30pm.
Ba Thien Hau Temple* is an old temple from around 1760, located in the middle of Chinatown and the most important temple in Cholon. There’s beautiful architecture and it’s very ornate inside, with many statues and the smell of incense pervading the atmosphere. The temple is dedicated to Mazu, a Chinese sea goddess, since many migrants arrived from the sea.
Directions: Head left, right and left again to find colourful Quan Am Pagoda on your right.
7. Quan Am Pagoda
Quan Am Pagoda is a lovely temple, named after the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy Quan Ma and founded in the early 1800s. Don’t miss the roof and the golden panels on the doors.
Directions: Continue along the street and turn right to the main road. Cross over and the next pagoda is just to the right.
8. Phuoc An Hoi Quan Pagoda
Phuoc An Hoi Quan Pagoda is a colourful and ornate Confucian temple. It’s dedicated to a Chinese General and you’ll see some weapons as you look around the colourful inside. Note the many lanterns and incense coils hanging from the ceiling. In 2016 Barak Obama visited this temple!
Directions: Head along the main road, cross over, and take the first street on the right. Take the first left, then right at the T-junction. Turn right at the next junction and you’ll see the next temple.
9. Nghia An Temple
Nghia An Temple is in a large complex, surrounded by an open courtyard at the front, with lots of space for a change. Don’t miss the distinctive carved wooden boat hanging over the entrance or the large red horse statue inside.
Directions: Return slightly along the street and you’ll see the mosque on your right.
10. Cholon Jamail Mosque
Cholon Jamail Mosque has a fairly simple exterior, lacking in colour compared to the nearby pagodas. It was built in the 1930s by Tamil Muslims from India. In the courtyard, you’ll see a pool for ritual washing.
Directions: Take the next right, then left on the main road. You’ll soon see the entrance to the small alley on your left.
11. Hao Sy Phuong Street
Hao Sy Phuong Street is a little street roughly 100 years old lined by colourful houses and railings.
Directions: This is the end of the Cholon Walking Tour. To explore further, check out our central Ho Chi Minh City Walking Tour, or find the best day trips from the city, or the best things to do at night in Saigon.
Guidebooks to explore more of Vietnam
After this walk, try the central Ho Chi Minh City Walking Tour, or Hanoi Walking Tour. Alternatively, why not visit Ninh Binh, or the Imperial City of Hue? For other city tours, hikes and bike rides in Vietnam, see our Vietnam page.
Useful things for a holiday in Vietnam
- Travel Insurance: we use SafetyWing*, it’s simple to buy online and they have a downloadable letter proving you have travel insurance which includes Covid-related issues
- Travel Debit Card: we have Wise Cards* which allow you to cheaply convert most currencies into Vietnamese Dong. You can then pay by card within the country for no extra fees, or withdraw cash from an ATM.
- We booked train travel in Vietnam through 12GoAsia*. They charge a few extra dollars in commission, but to book directly on the official website you must have a Vietnamese credit card.
FAQS – Cholon Walking Tour
The main attractions of Cholon are Binh Tay Market and Ba Thien Hau Temple. Additionally, there are several other interesting temples and streets in the neighbourhood.
Cholon is the largest Chinatown in Vietnam and its name means ‘Big Market’.