Saigon (HCMC), Vietnam
We arrived in Saigon--Ho Chi Minh City--for the last few days of this amazing adventure, and what an adventure it has been! From the misty French colonial city of Hanoi, to beautiful Ha Long Bay, the temples of Angkor Wat, the history of Cambodia and Phnom Penh, the floating villages and small towns up and down the Mekong River, to the bustling big city of Saigon. Our stay in Saigon has us spending two nights at the Sofitel Plaza and one night at the Park Hyatt, both within easy walking distance of all that we want to see in the city.
We toured the former Presidential Palace, now known as Independence Palace or Reunification Palace. This was the site of the end of the Vietnam War, during the fall of Saigon in April 1975, when a North Vietnamese army tank crashed through its gates. Another significant landmark from this era was the War Remnants Museum, known for its vast collection of artifacts from the Vietnam War. In addition to US military vehicles, the museum has exhibit rooms containing graphic photography from the war. Our Vietnamese guide indicated that very few Vietnamese ever visit the museum due to the painful memories it provokes.
Saigon is also famous for the Ben Thanh Market, one of the oldest and most iconic structures in the city. This market was reminiscent of the Grand Bazaar in Instanbul, although on a smaller scale. It was interesting to visit, but difficult to get down the aisles without hearing repeated pleas to "shop here... do you want to buy this shirt... how much you pay... you like this, I give you good price." Somehow, we managed to shop there without actually buying anything.
I was very impressed with Saigon. It was a big city much like any other big city in the world, with first-rate shopping, historical landmarks, and excellent restaurants and cultural attractions. We were able to catch a show at the Siagon Opera House, a Cirque du Soleil-like act called "My Village," where acrobats used long bamboo poles to act out their story. It was very well done. Another important note, we felt completely safe in Saigon (as well as Hanoi) and felt genuinely welcomed by locals wherever we went. Vietnam is still climbing out of difficult financial times and is hoping for a thriving tourist industry. I would not hesitate to visit again.
Goodbye Vietnam, and thanks for all the fish!
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