The Roundabout Of Historical Figures
By Quynh Thu
Visit the city’s square on the bank of the Saigon River
Công trng Mê Linh (Me Linh Square), a.k.a. Vòng xoay công trng Mê Linh (Me Linh Square Roundabout), is not the biggest of its kind in HCM City. But it is an interesting place tourists to this city—especially those who wish to acquire some knowledge of Vietnamese history—should know about.
The traffic circle occupies a unique location in that it lies right on the bank of the Saigon River. In fact just a semicircle, however, Me Linh Square is a seven-way intersection which is the hub of six streets in District 1, the heart of inner Saigon.
The six streets which meet at Me Linh are all named after Vietnam’s historical figures, including (clockwise, from left) Ton Duc Thang, Ngo Duc Ke, Ho Huan Nghiep, Phan Van Dat, Hai Ba Trung and Thi Sach.
Among these, Hai Ba Trung (the two Trung Sisters) is a common name of Trung Trac and her sister Trung Nhi, who lived in the early first century. The two national heroines then led the Vietnamese people in their resistance war against northern invaders. Although the square is the starting point of Hai Ba Trung Street, one of the most hectic streets in town, it is nonetheless christened Me Linh. The name is the first base of the two heroines when they waged the war to regain national sovereignty. It is now in Me Linh District in northern Hanoi.
Meaningfully enough, lying next to Hai Ba Trung Street is Thi Sach Street. Thi Sach was Trung Trac’s husband who got executed because of his intention to organize a revolt against foreign invasion.
The following fact may sound strange to some, but it is explicable. At the center of Me Linh Square—which is a fountain by nature—is the statue of one of Vietnam’s most famous generals. Under the command of this general, Tran Hung Dao, Vietnamese people defeated three attempts to invade their country by the invincible Mongols.
Why not Hai Ba Trung but Tran Hung Dao? Well, the square is just opposite an extensive park along the bank of the Saigon River. The park is called Bn Bch ng (Bach Dang Wharf), so named to commemorate the Bach Dang River (a river crossing Quang Ninh Province and Haiphong) where in the 13th century Tran Hung Dao smashed the enemy. The statue was put up in the mid-60s perhaps for this reason.
Fed up with history already? OK. Some outstanding places surrounding the square are out there for your discovery. Me Linh Point which faces both Ngo Duc Ke and Ho HuanNghiep streets is a shopping mall itself. One street across on the left of Me Linh Point lies the five-star hotel Renaissance Riverside. Two streets across on the right is Ton Duc Thang Museum.
Directly opposite the statue of Tran Hung Dao toward the river is a coffee shop with a lot of ornamental trees. This is in fact the former mooring of one of the city’s first five-star hotels, the Saigon Floating Hotel which graced the Saigon River from 1989 to 2006.
If you are a backpacker, this may interest you. Next to the coffee shop on the right is the Thu Thiem ferry service. Ferries at this wharf will bring you across the river to visit Thu Thiem Peninsula where the new city of Saigon is being built. The ferry is still operational despite the commission of the Thu Thiem Bridge several years ago.
Now, it’s time to depart for Me Linh Square. But don’t go there during rush hours.