Ho Chi Minh,
City Center/ District 1
NileGuide Expert tip:
Do as the French colons did and start your walk at the north end of the street at Notre Dame Cathedral.
Few byways exemplify the changing face of Saigon over the past century or so more than Dong Khoi. One hundred years ago it was known as Rue Catinat, a tamarind-shaded thoroughfare that constituted the heart of French colonial life. Here the colons would promenade between Notre Dame Cathedral at the north end of the street to the river, stopping along the way at chic boutiques and perfumeries.
The departure of the French saw a dramatic change in tack for the street. Renamed Tu Do (freedom) its rambunctious string of seedy bars became regular haunts for a generation of lusty young GIs. It retained its downmarket edge even after reunification and another name-change but is now back to something of its former glory. Slick boutiques and modern shopping centers now line the street, but if you look hard enough you can still detect a semblance of old Saigon in the weathered but still proud architecture of many of the buildings.