Tao Dan Park

An ideal urban green space, Tao Dan Park covers 10 hectares of Saigon and is home to over 1,000 big trees. Early in the morning the Tao Dan Park is filled with people exercising, walking, and practicing tai chi. Look for the replica of Nha Trang's Cham tower and Hung King Temple, both perfect for photos. On the east side the park is populated with interesting statues.

zooImage source: thedriftbackpackershostel.com

Located in Saigon's District 1, Tao Dan has long entertained residents and vistors to Ho Chi Minh City. Feel the serenity of the lush green space as you go for an early morning or evening stroll. Bask under the shady trees in the afternoon. Given that Saigon's busy Truong Dinh intersects Tao Dan Park, you wouldn't know it by the fresh air and sense of calm the park radiates.


Saigon Botanic & Zoological Garden

The Ho Chi Minh City Zoo and Botanical Gardens are an age-old part of the modern city’s rich history. As Vietnam’s most populous and prosperous city, Saigon is an omnivorous creature of the rambunctious sort. And it’s an animal that's growing fast.

Home to a whopping 13 million inhabitants, it is changing so rapidly that buildings seem to grow of their own accord, fed by sunlight and rain, while new streetside businesses open seemingly overnight. There is excitement in this expansion, however, it comes at a cost: more development means the city’s already scarce natural spaces are being swallowed up whole. Even innocent roadside trees are sacrificed to make room for this monstrous expansion.

Video source: JodyHongFilms

Though there’s no shortage of food, culture, or history, stay here for longer than just a few days and it gets easy to forget the natural splendor of the rest of the country. From the magnificent multi-colored rice fields that dot the mountains of Sapa in Ha Giang Province to the breathtaking waterways weaving amidst the infamous limestone cliffs of Ninh Binh Province, or the fresh and fertile valleys of the country’s Central highlands – plus so many others – there’s no denying that Vietnam’s got lots of green to go around.

zooImage source: Saigon Zoo

Unfortunately, that's not the case for Saigon. Though there is much to wish for, the situation is not totally bleak. Fortunately, city dwellers have the Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens--a place where nature and history have been enshrined in a way that is bittersweet but necessary.

The HCMC Zoo and Botanical Garden: A Brief History

The Saigon Zoo of today is teeming with history. At 150 years old, it stands as one of the oldest zoos in the world, and a time capsule for some of the country’s most impactful eras. Commissioned in 1864 by the French Admiral Pierre de la Grandiere, the zoo, like many other colonial artifacts sprinkled throughout the city, reeks of an era of global European Dominance through colonialism, industrialisation, and the exoticism of people, artifacts and animals. The zoo has stood through two of the countries most defining periods of war– the fight for freedom from French oppression, and the American-Vietnamese War.

zooImage source: Saigon Zoo

Originally, the zoo was designated by the government for conservation efforts. As poaching, trophy hunting, and the illegal animal trade started to take a toll on the regions endemic species, the Zoo was created to help conservationists. The intention was for a space to learn about and breed animals found in the surrounding countries. Five years later in 1869, the breeding grounds opened its 20 hectares of exhibits and gardens to the public. At that time, the young zoo boasted just over 500 animal species.

During the mid-1920s, the Saigon Zoo  underwent a period of great expansion. It incorporated another 13 hectares from the northern bank of the Thi Nghe canal, ushering in a new era of history, flora and fauna in the park. A botanical garden featuring a wide variety of plants from far-off places was added. Exotic cacti and aloe vera, bonsais and unfurling ferns, magnolia and banyan trees, allowed visitors to meander through the foliage of the world without the boundaries of cages and bulletproof glass.

zooImage source: assets.com

During the same time, the Hung Kings Temple was erected to commemorate fallen soldiers who fought to free the country from French Colonial rule. The temple sits at the entrance to the zoo and is hard to miss with its Chinese inspired architecture of upward curled tiers. The aesthetic intentionally defied the architectural norms that defined most landmarks erected during French colonial rule.

Over time the zoo developed a well-intentioned effort to emphasize conservation and education. Between the 1980s and 2000s, many planning strategies were implemented to help improve the living conditions of the animals, though visitors from Western Countries might find it hard to believe.

zooImage source: dulichhoangviet.vn

The Zoo of Today and Tomorrow

At the intersection of the wide, Parisian-esque Le Duan street and tree-lined Nguyen Bien Kiem, the Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens are recognizably the green jewels of the city. Upon entering two large yellow stone and cast-iron Victorian-era gates, you are transported from the rush of the city into an earthly escape where suddenly you are transported to the heavenly nature that the country is well known for.

Just a take a few steps past the Hung Kings Temple and Vietnam Museum of Natural history, and the garden hits your senses. Nearly 260 species of matured plants cast a visual overgrowth of biodiversity that feels age-old. Pathways meander through gardens of different sorts, ponds filled with lilies and lotuses and other local and exotic plant species.

zooImage source: wikimedia.org

The familiar unfurling branches of ficus benghalensis hide amidst dense shrubbery. Thickets of bamboo reach for the sky from a melting pot of green with speckles of white, purple, and pink flowers peppered throughout. The songs of birds ring out into the air, creating a meditative stillnessan absolute rarity for Saigon.

The transition from plants to animals can be nauseating. Though the zoo has made efforts to boost the living conditions of its nearly 600 resident animals, it is easy to see their distress. Elephants sway back and forward in anxious repetition, otters scratch at their irritated fur and rarely do you see an exhibit with adequate space for creatures meant to be mobile.

zooImage source: assets.com

A Case for Calling the Saigon Zoo a Necessary Evil

However depressing the animals' visible state may be, it is not all bad.  The zoo has made a slow, imperfect yet vital transition to a place of conservation and education. In the 1990’s the Zoo joined the South East Asian Zoo’s association as part of a coordinated international effort to share resources and regulations for animal conservatories in the region.

zooImage source: jamessweetloveabroad.com

A ten-year plan to upgrade the animal’s living conditions was implemented in 1993 and completed a decade later. More importantly, in 1999 the conservation and education department of the Zoo spearheaded efforts to educate the younger generation on the importance of protecting endangered species. Currently, the zoo hosts over three thousand school children a year.

As the children of this city enter an era where many of these animals may not exist in the wild, we must support this cracked window view of nature as a necessary evil.

zooImage source: steemitimages.com

HCMC’s Zoo and Botanical Garden Remains a Must-See

Though many people criticise the zoo for its treatment of animals, it still has much to offer in terms of public education, history, and conservation. Not to mention that the Botanical Gardens are easily the most beautiful scenes of nature of any park or green space in the city, making it a great destination for people feeling a bit caged. As the city struggles to protect its few green spaces, we have to care for what little we have.

So, go ahead, see the Zoo for yourself! I would suggest starting with the botanical gardens first, and if the animals in cages are upsetting, feel free to skip them all together (That’s usually what I do). Overall, regardless of its flaws, the HCMC Zoo and Botanical Gardens remains a place to see in Saigon.

zooImage source: assets.com

Banner Image source: hibs.edu.vn


Take a Bite Out of Suoi Tien’s Fruit Festival

Suoi Tien Park will hold its annual Southern Fruit Festival expecting 50,000 daily visitors at this enormous yearly event. There will also be a taste of traditional Vietnamese music with groups of acoustic musicians serenading every fruit lover.

suoitienImage source: Suoi Tien Park

And let’s not forget the competitions. This year, get ready for the Fruit Bartender Contest. This family-friendly show will pit mixologists and fruit connoisseurs against one another to find out who can make the best fruit drink in Vietnam.

Come for the Fruit and Don’t Forget the Park

And perhaps best of all: this beautiful festival will take place in Suoi Tien Park! For over 22 years, this singular destination in breezy District 9 has been serving up fun for young people, families and couples with over 150 attractions and rides.

suoitienImage source: Suoi Tien Park

Once you’ve had your fill of fruit, take a stroll around the theme park to check out all the different sights and sounds that help make Suoi Tien one of the city’s premier destinations for young and old.

With beautiful Buddhist pagodas dotting Suoi Tien’s landscape and a water park, the fearsome Crocodile Kingdom (over 25,000 crocodiles lived here at last count, and you can feed them!), Snow Castle, countless different rides and a new, 360-degree, 8D cinema to keep the entire family occupied, the Southern Fruit Festival will be one event you don’t want to miss.

suoitienImage source: Suoi Tien Park

The beautiful and unique texture of rambutan; the subtle creaminess of jackfruit; the fresh citrus zing of pomelo. Now you don’t have to take a trip to the Mekong Delta to get the freshest fruit available, because Suoi Tien Park is bringing all of it to Ho Chi Minh City.

A Time-Honoured Tradition

With so many beautiful and delicious fruits to choose from in this region, it’s hard to pick a favourite – but trying them all is half the fun! Now, just in time for summer, Suoi Tien Park and the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Tourism are working together to showcase all of these succulent varieties in style at the annual Southern Fruit Festival.

suoitienImage source: Suoi Tien Park

Suoi Tien Park’s Southern Fruit Festival has been dazzling guests for 12 years, and year 13 will be no different. Award-winning and nationally celebrated, this festival of all things fruit will give you a literal taste of what Southern Vietnam has to offer.

Over 50 stalls will be showcasing and selling more than 150 types of fruit grown in the South. These fruits will come from all over this vibrant region: only here you can taste Hoang Gia grapefruit from Vinh Long, Vinh Kim guava from Tien Giang and custard apples from Tay Ninh.

suoitienImage source: Suoi Tien Park

Plus, every piece of fruit at this festival will be 30 percent cheaper than fruit you buy at traditional markets! Go ahead and eat your fill at the festival, and be sure to bring home a few bags of nature’s candy for later.

If there’s a particular variety or fruit you’ve always been curious about but have never gotten around to trying, take a stroll in Suoi Tien’s Magical Garden, a beautiful exhibition of strange, rare and giant fruit all ripe and safe to eat. There’s no better way to spend an afternoon than at the Suoi Tien Southern Fruit Festival.

Family Fun and Games

Eating delicious fruit won’t be the only activity on offer at the Southern Fruit Festival. With these natural delicacies holding such a special place in Vietnam’s culture, exhibiting the broad array of Vietnamese fruit art will be one great way to celebrate.

suoitienImage source: Suoi Tien Park

The fruit art exhibition will certainly be a sight to behold: dozens of artists will contribute their ode to fruit with huge paintings and sculptures.


120 Hanoi Highway, D9 | +84 8 3896 0260 | info@suoitien.com | suoitien.com/en/ 

Southern Fruit Festival: June 1st to June 11th | 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Fruit Festival Tickets: Adults: VND 100,000; Children: VND 50,000

Banner image source: Suoi Tien Park