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City tour

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The city tour takes in Notre Dame de Saigon and Post Office, the War Remnants Museum and/or History Museum, Reunification Palace, Binh Tay market, and Thien Hau temple. Things start early in Viet Nam and the first stop on the tour is Notre Dame de Saigon and Saigon central Post Office at 8 – 10 am.

 

With the sun shining, it is the best time for photos outside the magnificent church. Besides, it is only open then and later at 3-4 pm. Then, you can admire the Post Office’s splendid architecture and spend a few minutes chatting with the old clerk inside. He has been there for two decades and many have written about him.

 

The visits to the Reunification Palace and War Remnants Museum are particularly worthwhile if you are interested in the recent history of Vietnam. Make it clear at the beginning of the tour that you need a good guide who can tell you about the various events that took place between 1859, when the French first occupied Saigon, and 1954, when they were thrown out, as well as the subsequent happenings in the South. In that period, there were major happenings in 1963, 1965, 1968, and 1973.

 

Leaving the memory of gun smoke and brutality behind, drive along Dong Khoi street, the busiest tourist street in the city. A drive along the former rue de Catinat will take you down to the Saigon River front before doubling back through Nguyen Hue Avenue to the City Hall.

 

Along the way, you can see silk boutiques, the oldest hotel in Vietnam, Continental, the Opera House, City Hall, and Rex hotel with its rooftop bar, and several cafés, camera and other shops. At that moment it flashes inside you that you’ll be back here some time.

 

From the Rex, ask your driver to drive along Le Loi Avenue to Ben Thanh central market. This 700m-stretch is now full of souvenir shops and you’ll be intrigued to know it was the precursor to privatization in Viet Nam before 1986, the epoch-making year when the “renovation” policy was adopted.

Nguyen Hue Flower Boulevard in downtown Ho Chi Minh City during Tet holiday

 

At Ben Thanh market, make sure you visit the back where fruits and flowers are arranged in spectacular style. Whilst the ladies are busy shopping inside, the men could nip into one of the cafés around the market for an authentic taste of Viet Nam.

 

The next stop on the program is Cholon where most of the city’s 500,000 Chinese live and work. To reach it from downtown Saigon, you have to take the 6km-long Tran Hung Dao.

 

Like everywhere else, the Chinese here are expert businesspeople. They are sensitive to market needs and have very good relations with their partners regionally and globally.

 

After visiting Lady Thien Hau temple in Chinatown do not rush back to the vehicle, but instead take a leisurely stroll through the neighborhood. The Chinese are very good at preserving their cultural identity and traditional vocations. Thus, you will see people making scissors, dragonheads, dance costumes, and, especially, traditional Chinese medicines, giving you some amazing photo ops.

 

Your city tour, if a full-day one, could also take you to the incense-making hamlet in Dist 11 and Giac Lam, the oldest pagoda in town. The French-built Phu Tho race track will provide you another happy photo opportunity.

 

But the life and history of a major city cannot be absorbed in one day. Ask your guide or driver; spend sometime with a hotel-recommended xe om (motorbike taxi) driver

 

Source: saigon-gpdaily.com.vn


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