by Ngoc Le
The best of the best: Ben Thanh Market, one of the two most popular landmarks in HCM City, according to a recent poll. — Photo Doan Tung
HCM CITY – HCM City has narrowed the list of its top attractions to 100 following a poll of visiting tourists in a campaign that lasted more than three months.
The 100 Excitements were short-listed from 150 candidates in 10 categories – places of cultural and historical interest, shopping venues, entertainment clubs, local dishes, cultural events, specialties, coffee shops, restaurants, boutique hotels, and city tour programmes.
The top two landmarks are markets – An Dong in District 5 and Ben Thanh in District 1.
They are followed by Can Gio District's Eco Park, "China Town" in District 5, the Cu Chi Tunnels, Vietnamese History and War Remnants Museums, the Reunification Palace, Central Post Office, and Notre Dame Cathedral.
Winners in the dishes category are banh cuon (wrapped steam rice pancake with meat), banh mi thit (Saigon-style sandwich), banh xeo (yellow pancake with shrimps and pork), ca kho to (braised fish in clay pot), canh chua ca loc (sour fish soup), cha gio (fried spring roll), com tam (boiled broken rice), goi cuon (fresh spring rolls) and goi ngo sen tom thit (lotus salad with shrimp and pork).
Aùo dai (women's traditional robe), cashew nuts, coffee, conical hats, dragon fruit, embroidered works, the Mekong Delta's Hoa Loc mango and Lo Ren star apple, lacquerware, and tea top the list of tourists' most desired souvenirs.
The most popular shopping venues include Ben Thanh Market, Diamond Plaza, Dong Khoi Street, Khai Silk shops, Tay Son Lacquerware, Miss Aùo Dai, Parkson, Saigon Co-op Mart, Sai Gon Square, and Tax Mall.
For entertainment, visitors prefer Bach Dang Wharf, the New World Hotel's Catwalk Club, Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theatre, IDECAF Theatre, Maxim's Discotheque, Nightspot Bar Sheraton, Opera House, the backpackers' area along Pham Ngu Lao Street, Rex Hotel's Rooftop Garden, and Caravelle Hotel's Saigon Saigon Bar.
In the category of eateries, Com Nieu, Mandarine, Maxim's An Nam, Ngoc Suong, Ngon, Pho 24, Song Ngu, Viet Nam House, Wrap&Roll, and Sai Gon Boat Restaurants came out on top.
Lotus, Continental, Duxton Saigon, Grand, Equatorial, Legend, Majestic, Park Hyatt Saigon, Rex, and Sheraton were voted the best in the category of accommodation.
"It is a necessary promotion for the city's tourism," the People's Committee deputy chairwoman, Nguyen Thi Hong, said, noting that though last year was tough for the industry, the city achieved its tourism revenue target.
Ben Thanh Market is a favorite destination for foreign visitors to the city because it is a traditional trading hub where buyers can talk and bargain with sellers and touch a fish or a bunch of vegetables, Nguyen Van Bay, a market represented explained.
"Designed in French-style architecture almost 100 years ago, the market is large with wide passageways leading to the four gates situated in the cardinal directions and has beautiful sculpture inside," he said.
"We will try to ensure security for visitors and train vendors how to serve customers," he said, adding that the market receives on average 100 international visitors every day.
Edouard George, president of Phoenix Voyages, said he loved the food in the city after working here for more than 20 years.
"I think Vietnamese cuisine is among the best in the world and a close competitor for its French counterpart."
"It's healthy and diverse and can be eaten at any time of the day. In fact, we can eat differently for the whole year."
"It does not involve too much oil like Chinese food and is not as spicy as Thai. So all Asians can easily enjoy Vietnamese food."
He said his favourite is goi cuon (fresh spring roll with pork, shrimp, rice noodle, and salad) since all its ingredients are fresh.
Turning to the landmarks category, he said the Reunification Palace, a part of the city's history and an iconic testimony to the fall of the Sai Gon regime, and the beautiful façade of the City Hall are his favourites.
"However, I think in future [authorities] should consider allowing guests to explore the inside of the City Hall," he said.
La Quoc Khanh, deputy head of the city's Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism and a member of the organisation board, said the campaign has succeeded in showcasing the city's unique cultural values.
"The 100 Excitements will boost the city's image in the eyes of travellers and tour operators alike," he said.
The poll would hereafter be held on an annual basis, with this year's selection to be based on tougher criteria and reduce the list to just five in each category, he said. – VNS