Guide to District 4: Ho Chi Minh’s former Mafia hotspot

Guide to District 4: Ho Chi Minh’s former Mafia hotspot

The infamous District 4 of Ho Chi Minh City is the smallest district in Saigon and was once a Mafia Hotspot which was run by the notorious crime boss Nam Cam in the 80s and 90s. This area which was once a dreadful place to be in has now become a dynamic and culturally rich area that is worth exploring. This district is a perfect amalgamation of old Saigon slums and that holds true to the traditional Saigon culture and the new high rise buildings that show a promising future. The whole aura of this place is very different from the neighbouring districts and should definitely not be overlooked during your trip to Vietnam.

Where is it?

District 4 Ho Chi Minh's former Mafia hotspot
Image credits: Google Images


District 4, which is technically an island is connected to the city by the ‘Rainbow Bridge’ which is named after the arched underbelly. The Saigon and Ben Nghe rivers along with the Te canal separate the island from the rest of the city. The iconic Rainbow Bridge is a beautiful reminder of Vietnam’s colonial past as it is the work of the one only Gustave Eiffel. This side of the bridge is all about narrow houses and interwoven alleyways thus showcasing an interesting and vibrant part of the country without much of the modernity in the picture.

History of District 4

 

History of District 4
Image credits: Google Images

This district was one of those places that nobody wanted to associate with whether it was for business or otherwise. Nam Cam- The Godfather of Saigon, who reigned this mafia hotspot in the 80s and 90s filled the streets of District 4 with gambling dens and brothels. This is one of the poorest areas of Saigon which a crime hotspot slum area. As terrifying as it sounds, even restaurants refused to deliver food or conduct any sort of business in this area because they were afraid of being robbed for just stepping foot on this island. In 2003, Nam Cam was arrested and thankfully, now there are little to no signs of any mafia legacy.

District 4 is also home to the ‘Dragon Wharf’ from where Ho Chi Minh (aka Nguyen Tat) began travelling the world which started off with his journey to France on the steamer in 1911.

The Food Scene
Image credits: Google Images

 

More than anything else that you could possibly do here, exploring the cuisine is the best way to bless yourself with some truly authentic Vietnam food. If you like seafood, you are in for an absolute treat. You can find the city’s best seafood on Vinh Khanh Road which is also the official food street of the island. The streets are lined with vibrant food stalls on both sides with the iconic steel tables and plastic stools laid in between where you can enjoy a scrumptious meal as you watch local musicians, street dancers who breather fire and do a bunch of cool things come together to entertain the crowd. The most famous dishes in Vinh Khanh Road are piping hot seafood soup, snails and frog’s legs. You can hear cries of ‘mot! Hai! Ba! Dzo!’ which means ‘One! Two! Three! Cheers!’ all around you and it pumps up your spirits instantly. This is definitely not a place to look for a fancy and quiet dinner date but it is a ton of fun to just walk around and enjoy some delicious food and chilled beer and just have a fun evening.

Shopping in District 4

Let the size of this island not fool you because it has 2 of the best markets in the entire city. The New District Market is for all things fashion. You can find unique designs sold in boutique stalls that are set up during the weekend. One of the most fun things to do in this area is to have interesting photoshoots in a neon-lit diner or a futuristic subway carriage. These photography sets are spread across the entire area so you can pick your favourite and instantly make your Instagram game stronger than ever.
Shopping in District 4
Image credits: Google Images

The other interesting market is the Xom Chieu Market which is just five minutes away from the New District Market. This is nothing like the former and does not really have anything too fancy to offer but if you are looking for locally produced goods or spices, this is where you need to be. You can also witness how the locals shop and just spend an authentic day with the locals.

What is the future of District 4?

What is the future of District 4Image credits: Google Images

District 4 has beautifully recovered from its scary past and is slowly transforming into a very chill island with just the right amount of modernisation seeping in. The idea to showcase the past whole also developing to become a better district is a beautiful thing to witness. You can find some designer boutiques like the Buzz Boutique which are making their way into district 4. You can also see small businessmen from the neighbouring areas making their way into the island by setting up themed cafes and modern co-working spaces. You can also find some elite apartment complexes popping up. With that being said, the tradition and heritage of the old Saigon remains visible even through the modernization. This perfect balance of traditions and modernisation is what makes District 4 so unique.

If you’ve read this far, you must be pumped to check out this very cool island on your trip to Vietnam. If the logistics are bothering you and you are still unsure of what to book and how to book, get in touch with globally trusted travel companies such as Pickyourtrail. You can either visit their website and pick your favourite Vietnam tour package or craft your own itinerary and get everything booked instantly in one go or you can get in touch with their in-house destination experts who will help you with customising your itinerary based on your interests and they care of the bookings and visa as well. Now, get ready to chill for a couple of days in a mafia hotspot! What an iconic travel story to remember, isn’t it?