Saigon River in Ho Chi Minh City

Rachel Tran
Rachel Tran | Published: November 4, 2020

One of the most typical features of Southern Vietnam or Mekong Delta is having an interlaced system of rivers, streams and canals, which is both an advantage and a drawback of this region.

The most beneficial advantage may be economic benefits obtained from developing inland water transports. In this respect, we may have to mention Saigon River, which in the past, had played an important role in helping Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Sai Gon) to become the Pearl of the Far East and now it also becomes an attractive destination not to be missed by tourists on visiting Ho Chi Minh City.

For people living in Ho Chi Minh City for a long time, Saigon River is considered as the historic witness of the city that went with the city through wars, witnessed the growth of the city from the past to the present, has brought benefits for the city and the citizens, beautifies the city to help to develop tourism. Especially, it is from this river that Uncle Ho left for finding the new way to release the country in the ship named The Admiral Latouche-Tréville in 1911. Now, we will go to discover this river and help you get useful information for your next trip to Ho Chi Minh City.

I. Overview of Saigon River

To get more detailed knowledge about Saigon River, the important role of the river to the development of Ho Chi Minh City in particular and Southern Vietnam in common, we will start to learn general information about this river.

Overview of Saigon River
Source: @rethyravindranath

1. What River is Saigon on? 

Saigon River’s upstream is in Hon Quan district, Binh Phuoc province (a province in Southeast Region in Vietnam). Before flowing to the East Sea, it flows through 3 provinces of Vietnam including Tay Ninh, Binh Duong and Ho Chi Minh City. It is also considered as the border to separate Binh Duong and Ho Chi Minh City. 

When flowing to Den Do Cape belonging to Nha Be District, a suburb district in Ho Chi Minh City, Saigon River merges with Dong Nai River to form Nha Be River and then divides into 2 river branches named Long Tau and Soai Rap before flowing to the sea through Can Gio Gate.

2. How Long is the Saigon River?

The total length of the Saigon River is 256 kilometers from the upstream to the Can Gio Gate and the section flowing through Ho Chi Minh city is 80 kilometers long. If you see in maps, the river lies in the north of the city and nearly flows according to the length of the city and forms a natural border with Binh Duong Province. It is this feature that the Saigon River in the past became an important route to connect two ends of the city when the transport was not as convenient as now.

3. How Deep is the Saigon River?

  The deepest area of the Saigon River of the section in Ho Chi Minh City measured is about 20 meters and the width changes from 225 meters to 370 meters. With such depth, it is suitable for small ships, boats, and yachts to operate. In the past, the French Colonists also used the Saigon River as the main route to tranship exploited natural resources from Southern Vietnam to French big ships in the East Sea by barges, or small ships. 

II. History of Saigon River

History of Saigon river

Along the length of history, Saigon River has always played an important part in the development of Ho Chi Minh City or in other words, Saigon River is a partner always accompanying the city. 

When Ho Chi Minh City was only a small land in Southern Vietnam called Gia Dinh in the seventeenth century, the only way to reach to Gia Dinh was sailing on Saigon River. It was at this time that the Vietnamese government – Nguyen Dynasty made a decision to open and develop commerce. Gia Dinh became one of the main trade ports in Vietnam in a fast way at that time thanks to the interlaced system of rivers and the advantageous location near the sea. The main route to Gia Dinh from other provinces is sailing through Can Gio Gate to Nha Be River and then taking a right turn into the Saigon River to reach Gia Dinh.

From the eighteenth century to the first half of the twentieth century, it was the peak period of Saigon and the role of Saigon River along with that became more and more significant. Under the control of the French Colonists, Saigon became the first trade port in the Far East. Every day, Saigon welcomed hundreds of ships from China, Malaysia, the Netherlands, and Portugal which stopped to load on Vietnamese agriculture goods and silks. The French Colonists also built a port on Saigon River called Nha Rong Port to make it become an essential stop in the trading routes from Europe to Asia. 

For the elders in Ho Chi Minh City now, they still remembered luxurious images of Saigon in the previous. It is the reason to make Saigon having the name “The Pearl of The Far East”.

III. Highlights of Saigon River

Highlights of Saigon River
Source: @thaooo_ntt

View from above, Saigon River flows calmly with a lot of winding sections looking like a soft scarf. The main color of the river water is red because it is rich in alluvial; however, the color may change according to the color of the sky and the sun. On sunny days, the color is blue, you may even see clouds reflect themselves on the river. 

Although at present the road and transportation have also developed much, people may still use boats to travel between districts since Saigon River flows through almost districts in Ho Chi Minh City. Therefore, tourists absolutely may see the whole city by sailing a boat along the Saigon River.

Not only inside the city, but Saigon River also connect Ho Chi Minh City to other provinces and other attractive destinations such as Cu Chi tunnels, a well-known historical attraction in the suburb of the city. Or you may also sail along Saigon River to reach Mekong Delta to discover provinces in the south pole of Vietnam.

IV. What to Do at Saigon River?

What to do at Saigon River
Source: @thaodienhighlight

1. Take a tour on Saigon River

The most interesting thing tourists had better do when visiting Ho Chi Minh City is visiting the city by boat on the Saigon River. It will be a memorable memory for any tourists. The river encloses the city softly from the suburb to the urban. Staying on the boat, you may have time to see the city. The scenery on both banks changes from large fields to small old houses in fishing villages along the river to floating markets on the river and to the center of the city with skyscrapers, parks, riverside restaurants, entertainment centers. 

2. Ho Chi Minh Sunset Cruise Tour

Ho Chi Minh Sunset Cruise Tour
Source: christina.vn

The tours on the Saigon river are also divided into shorts tours at different times in days. The most popular tour maybe Ho Chi Minh Sunset Cruise Tour, which is well-liked by lots of visitors. 

The scenery on both banks is so stunning and astonishing when the sun sets that moment becomes a not to be missed moment for anyone who has a chance to visit Ho Chi Minh City. At that time, the sky is dyed with a mesmerizing purple and pink color of clouds and you will truly feel like staying in heaven.

  • Ho Chi Minh City – Vung Tau via ferry boat

Do you believe that? Yes, you may reach to Vung Tau – a famous beach city in Southern Vietnam from Ho Chi Minh City via ferry boat along the Saigon River. Vung Tau is located five kilometers to the east of Ho Chi Minh City and you only spend an hour and twenty minutes to reach this city by ferry boat from Bach Dang pier, Ho Chi Minh City. After that, you may enjoy extremely-fresh seafood and immerse yourself in the cool seawater.

Price: 200.000 VND on weekdays and 250.000 VND on weekends

  • Ho Chi Minh City – Cu Chi Tunnels

Cu Chi Tunnels is a famous historical destination in the suburb of the city. In Vietnam – America war, Cu Chi Tunnels is a secret base of the Vietnamese army with thousands of meters long. When visiting Cu Chi Tunnels, you will partly understand the life of Vietnamese soldiers during the resistance war. It takes you about an hour to get to Cu Chi Tunnels and an hour to discover the tunnels. 

Price: about 2.000.000 VND per person (including entrance ticket)

  • Ho Chi Minh City – Can Gio Mangrove Forest

Can Gio Mangrove Forest is an ideal destination for one who loves ecotourism. Can Gio Mangrove Forest is located forty kilometers to the southeast of Ho Chi Minh City and is a UNESCO protected park. There you can find diverse habitats such as mangroves, steamy jungles, wetlands, salt marshes, and palm-fringed islands.

Price: around 2.300.000 VND per person (including entrance ticket)

3. Visit Ho Chi Minh Museum at Nha Rong Port

Ho Chi Minh museum near Saigon River

One of the reasons makes Saigon River becomes a sacred symbol to people living Ho Chi Minh City is that in 1911, from Nha Rong Port, Ho Chi Minh president at that time was still a young man, left for finding the new way to release the country in the ship named The Admiral Latouche-Tréville. Now, Nha Rong Port is still open but almost for tourist boats. Coming to Ho Chi Minh Museum, you may see and read about the life of the beloved leader of the Vietnamese through images, books, artifacts.

4. Go for a Dinner Cruise

Saigon dinner cruise
Source: @beccamci7

Going for a dinner cruise is another amazing choice for tourists to have an interesting and romantic experience. There are a lot of cruises operating on Saigon River at night. From the deck, visitors may both enjoy delicious Vietnamese and other countryside cuisine and take a view of the city at night. The reflection of the lights on the water surface and traditional music dance performances make your night a romantic one. When the night falls, Ho Chi Minh City is far different from it in the day. The city is lighted up by a lot of sparkling colorful lights of signs, restaurants, bars, shopping malls, and high buildings. Under the black night sky, high buildings, skyscrapers shimmer sparklingly as huge candles.

5. Dine at a Riverside Restaurant

Dine on the restaurant nearby Saigon river
Source: mylittleplan.com

If you don’t have time to take a tour on the river or have dinner on a boat, dine at a riverside restaurant is a not bad idea. There are many riverside restaurants on both banks of Saigon River that you may find them easily once after a click. Some of them specialize in Vietnamese cuisine, the other do well at foreign cuisine, cocktails. You may have a pleasant experience when enjoying your meal and take a view of the river which is crowded with boats, barges, and cruises. 

6. A Boat Trip around the Thanh Da Peninsula

Visit Thanh Da peninsula near Saigon river
Source: @_timmy.9.7

Thanh Da Peninsula is a small peninsula on Saigon River which is suitable for families to go picnicking at weekends. The air here is fresh and the atmosphere is so peaceful that you will forget you are in the most bustling and biggest city in Vietnam.

V. Good-to-know Facts about Saigon River

  • The main and most important river of Ho Chi Minh City, it is also regarded as the gate of the city.
  • In the past, when the transport was not as convenient as now, Saigon River is the main route to connect Saigon with other regions.
  • On the river, the first trade port in the Far East was built by the French Colonists.
  • Thanks to Saigon River, the commerce in Ho Chi Minh City extremely developed and the city was considered to be the Pearl of the Far East.
  • In 1911, Uncle Ho left for finding the new way to release the country in the ship named The Admiral Latouche-Tréville from Nha Rong Port on Saigon River.
  • The natural border between Ho Chi Minh City and Binh Duong Province.
  • From Saigon River, you can travel by boat to Mekong Delta, Vung Tau, and a lot of provinces in Southern Vietnam.
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