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Saigon as the city is still frequently referred to is Vietnam’s largest city. It is a fast-paced city full of contrasts as street vendors selling fruit and vegetables can be seen next to glitzy western-style bars and boutiques. Saigon’s history is only 300 years old. In 1859 the city was captured by the French and became the capital of Cochin china. From 1956 until its dramatic demise in April 1975 it was the capital of the US-backed Republic of Vietnam. Today Ho Chi Minh City is very much the heart of Vietnamese business and entrepreneurs. And yet the city still retains its connections to the past, particularly in Cholon, Saigon’s Chinatown. Here dozens of elegant temples and pagodas can be seen. The French also left their mark with some fine colonial-era buildings such as the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Central Post Office.
Pick up/drop off your hotel
In the Morning
The Reunification Palace: This is one of the most important buildings in the city. Here on April 30th 1975 the ‘American War’ officially ended when tank number 843 of the North Vietnamese Army crashed through the gates of what was, at the time the residence of the President of the Republic of Vietnam.
War Remnants Museum: Formerly known as the Museum of American War Crimes, this is a poignant display of the futility of war. Some of the black and white photography in the ‘Requiem’ exhibit is particularly touching, dedicated to both foreign and Vietnamese journalists and photographers who perished during the conflict. The courtyard outside contains the spoils of war, namely rusting jets, tanks and cannons captured from the American military machine.
Notre Dame Cathedral and Old Post Office: Built between 1877 and 1883 this is one of the best examples of classical French colonial architecture. Remarkably every stone used in its creation was shipped from France to Vietnam. Her two 40m towers, topped with iron spires dominate the city’s skyline. The Old Post Office is another example of French colonial architecture and is also the country’s largest post office.
At approximately 1pm we shall take lunch at a local restaurant.
In the afternoon
Giac Lam Pagoda: This is Saigon’s oldest pagoda, dating back to 1744 and one of the finest in Vietnam. Inside 98 pillars and 113 statues and a myriad of mini-Buddha vie for your attention. Don’t miss the amazing Tree of Wandering Souls where people pray for their sick relatives by writing the names of their loved ones on slips of paper and then attaching them to the tree.
Cholon & Thien Hau Pagoda: Cholon actually means Big Market – a claim that is well justified as Vietnam’s largest market, the Binh Tay is situated here. The district is home to the city’s 400,000 Chinese and has many beautiful temples and pagodas.
Ben Thanh Market: This bustling market is very popular with tourists, primarily due to its central location. It has a wide selection of goods ranging from fake Nike shoes to beautiful silk Ao Dais.
The tour finishes at approximately 6pm when you will be transferred back to your hotel
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