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In 1991 Billy and Akaisha Kaderli retired at the age of 38. Now, into their 3rd decade of this financially independent lifestyle, they invite you to take advantage of their wisdom and experience.

Saigon City Center

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli

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Saigon was originally part of the kingdom of Cambodia, then it was absorbed by Vietnam in the 17th century, captured by the French in 1859 and served as the capital of the Republic of Vietnam from the mid 1950's until it fell to advancing North Vietnamese forces.

Saigon, also known as Ho Chi Minh City as it was renamed in 1975, is considered to be the heart and economic center of Vietnam, and its Vietnam's largest city. About 70% of all tourism to Vietnam, more than 3 million people, come through Ho Chi Minh City.

It is a pumping, thriving, animated city with over 8 million inhabitants.

New buildings are seemingly everywhere

New buildings are seemingly everywhere

Most of the tallest buildings have been constructed in the last decade and a half. Some fear that the old charm of Saigon, the Pearl of the Orient, is taking a back seat to the modernity of today's world.

Sun Wah Tower

Sun Wah Tower

A landmark of the city of Saigon, Sun Wah Tower boasts 22 stories in a prime office block. With each building in a race to be the tallest in the city, the Sun Wah lost its status of being the tallest in the mid 1990's. The building houses prestigious tenants including global bankers, insurance companies, airlines and foreign trade organizations.

New Vietin Bank building under construction

New Vietin Bank building under construction

In the deep blue mirror-like windows of this skyscraper, you can see a reflection of Saigon's modern skyline.

Also under construction

Also under construction

More buildings continue to be built in the city, changing its skyline forever.

One of the complaints city dwellers and city planners alike have about the new skyscrapers is the demolishing of the older trees it took in order to build these new structures. The trees cooled the areas down, added beauty and color. Now certain areas seem stripped of its earlier charm.

 

Me Linh Point Tower

Me Linh Point Tower

This business center has 21 floors and was built in 1999. It houses mostly offices and major hotels such as the Renaissance, the Sheraton, the Legend and the Park Hyatt are all within walking distance.

Outside our 7th floor residence at Compass Parkview

Outside our 7th floor residence at Compass Parkview

One of the world's youngest major cities, Saigon holds a rich and dramatic history. It is a city of metamorphoses and blends the old with the leading edge. Below is another side of Saigon.

Notre Dame Church, a piece of the past

Notre Dame Church, a piece of the past

Built between 1863 and 1880, the city's main church reflects the French flavor still prevalent in this historical city. All materials used in construction of this church were imported from France, with the outside wall of the cathedral made with bricks from Marseille. The stature of Mary did not arrive until February, 1959 and from then on, the cathedral was called Notre Dame.

The Hotel Majestic

The Hotel Majestic

During the Viet Nam war, Ho Chi Minh City was abuzz with spies. Many of them slunk through the back doors of this famous building, The Hotel Majestic. Opened in 1925, the Majestic was the city's finest hotel, but during WWII, the Japanese Imperial Army used this structure as a military barracks.

This building is steeped in history and is still one of Saigon's famous landmarks.

Bitexco Financial Tower

Bitexco Financial Tower

A Vietnamese company named Bitexco owns this skyscraper with its 68 floors above ground and 3 basements. The design was inspired by Vietnam's national flower, the lotus, and is often called "The Lotus Building." The tower was officially inaugurated in October of 2010.

Inside Bitexco

Inside Bitexco

The ultra modern inside of the Bitexco building. There is both office space and retail space here with the retail placed on the lower floors and the office areas taking the 7th floor to the 64th floor.

The Lotus building is seen from many vantage points throughout the city

The Lotus building is seen from many vantage points throughout the city

There is a casual dining area on level 50 and fine dining on level 51. The Saigon Skydeck is open to visitors for about $10 a ticket, or tell the concierge people at Bitexco that you would like to go to Restaurant EON and they will guide you to the appropriate elevators. You can enjoy a couple of Vietnamese ca phe sua das, ice cream or a fine pastry and check out the view of the city.

On the right hand side of this building you can see Vietnam's first heli-pad located on the 52nd floor extending 22 meters out from the main structure.

Each of the 6,000 glass panels that you see on this building was individually cut to unique specifications because each floor is different from the next.

View of the Saigon River from Restaurant EON

View of the Saigon River from Restaurant EON

You can see the concrete sprawl along the Saigon River from level 51 of the Bitexco Financial Tower. There is still river village life along the river, it's just not here at this location. Book one of the Saigon River tours for a different view and feel of the city.

Red roofed Ben Thanh Market in the center

Red roofed Ben Thanh Market in the center

Named Ben Thanh after the port by the Gia Dinh citadel, the original market was destroyed in 1870. The market you see in the photo has been here for about 100 years and was renovated in 1985. It is one of the major tourist attractions of the city selling handicrafts, textiles, ao dai, souveniers and local cuisine. It is also a major hub for the network of city buses that serve Ho Chi Minh City.

Cu Nhac Circle

Cu Nhac Circle

Across from Ben Thanh Market and seen in the previous photo is Cu Nhac Circle. This area used to be a swamp and Mr. Cuniac proposed filling the swamp and creating this area. Cu Nhac Circle is named in his honor.

Outdoor cafe in Saigon

Outdoor cafe in Saigon

There are smart outdoor and indoor cafes all over Saigon. Having a coffee and getting together for a chat is a commonplace activity.

Skyscrapers and business buildings

Skyscrapers and business buildings

Fashionable buildings make up the downtown section of Saigon with its wide streets and garden areas.

Saigon Opera House

Saigon Opera House

Here is another example of French Colonial architecture in the downtown area mixing the old with the new. Built in 1897 by French architect Eugene Ferret and initially criticized as being too ornate, this 800 seat building was used as the home of the Lower House assembly after 1956. It wasn't until after 1975 that this building was again used as a theater, and it was restored to its original look in 1995.

The Caravelle Hotel, just behind the Opera House, was opened to the public in 1959. It has been featured in novels and was a noted location of communication in the Vietnam War.

Entrance to the Caravelle

Entrance to the Caravelle

On the morning of August 25, 1964, a bomb exploded in room 514 on a floor that was occupied mostly by foreign journalists who were all on war assignment. Nine rooms were damaged and windows blown out of several cars parked in the street but there were no fatalities.

In 1975, after Saigon had fallen (or "liberated" depending on whether you are from the North or the South of Vietnam), the hotel was taken over and operated by the government. It was renamed Independence Hotel and kept this name until 1998 when the Caravelle name was relaunched. 

 

View of the street from the Opera House

View of the street from the Opera House

You can see the heli-pad at the Bitexco building here in the center of the photo. The streets are pleasant and nearly car free.

Union Square

Union Square

Union Square is a landmark in the Central Business District. It was originally a new part of Vincom Center, the shopping mall across the street, but was later sold and is now an independent mall in a prime location. Home to a wide range of foreign luxury brands, it also carries a mix of everyday brands from Vietnam and beyond.

It is a new building built in the French style to blend in with the city center.

A patch of green

A patch of green

In the center of the photo to the right is Lion Brewery famous for its German cuisine and freshly made brew done in the German style.

Another French Colonial style building

Another French Colonial style building

All of the Central Business District showcases beautiful buildings whether modern or French Colonial style.

Saigon Grand Hotel

Saigon Grand Hotel

This hotel is in a restored colonial building only about 50 meters from the Saigon River. The General Post Office, Notre Dame Church and the Reunification Palace are all within walking distance.

Ho Chi Minh City Stock Exchange building

Ho Chi Minh City Stock Exchange building

Officially inaugurated in July, 2000, trading commenced 8 days later with 2 equities listed. Today the exchange has 342 listings including stocks, funds and bonds.

Building after building

Building after building

Another beautiful building peeks out behind 2 trees.

Saigon Central Post Office

Saigon Central Post Office

Designed and constructed around 1886 - 1891 by the famous architect Gustave Eiffel (the one who constructed the Eiffel Tower in Paris), this has long been the busiest post office of the country. Made to look like a 20th century railway station in Europe, it has ornate furnishings, pattern tiled floor and massively high ceilings.

Check out the 2 large hand painted maps on either side of the interior walls. One reads "Saigon et ses environs 1892."

The HSBC building

The HSBC building

The Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation the founding and principal member of HSBC first opened an office in Saigon in 1870. It is now the largest foreign bank in Vietnam and calls itself "the world's local bank."

If you are ever in Saigon, it's worth your time to take several walks downtown and wander between the blend of the old and the new. Saigon is making a statement that it's ready for business and wants to be a part of international economics.

For more stories and photos of Vietnam, click here

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About the Authors

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli are recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on topics of finance, medical tourism and world travel. With the wealth of information they share on their award winning website RetireEarlyLifestyle.com, they have been helping people achieve their own retirement dreams since 1991. They wrote the popular books, The Adventurer�s Guide to Early Retirement and Your Retirement Dream IS Possible available on their website bookstore or on Amazon.com.

Retire Early Lifestyle appeals to a different kind of person � the person who prizes their independence, values their time, and who doesn�t want to mindlessly follow the crowd.

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