Ho Chi Min City (Saigon)
3.2.20 - 3.2.20 90 °F
I was off the ship by 0830 for the two hour drive to Saigon. I was supposed to fly home today, through Hong Kong, but changed to flights to tomorrow via Tokyo. With the extra day, I booked a hotel next to the airport and a four hour private tour of Saigon, which was well worth it. With you own car and driver, you can cover alot of ground quickly.
The first stop was Independence Palace. Independence Palace, also known as Reunification Palace, built on the site of the former Norodom Palace, is a landmark in Saigon. It was designed by architect Ngô Viết Thụ and was the home and workplace of the President of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. It was the site of the end of the Vietnam War during the Fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975, when a North Vietnamese army tank crashed through its gates. The palace is only a tourist attraction now, but has been carefully maintained and preserved.
We then did a swing by of the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Post Office, The Rex Hotel, and a lacquer box factory. Officially Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of The Immaculate Conception, it was established by French colonists who initially named it L'eglise de Saïgon, the cathedral was constructed between 1863 and 1880. The name Notre Dame Cathedral has been used since 1959. It has two bell towers, reaching a height of 58 meters (190 feet).
The Post Office building was constructed when Vietnam was part of French Indochina in the late 19th century. It counts with Gothic, Renaissance and French influences. It was constructed between 1886 and 1891 and is now a tourist attraction. The Rex Hotel was made famous during the Vietnam War when it was hosting the American military command's daily conference, derisively named Five O'Clock Follies by cynical journalists who found the optimism of the American officers misguided. Its rooftop bar was a well-known hangout spot for military officials and war correspondents.
The last stop was the somber, but well done War Remnants Museum. It does a good job at documenting the war in Vietnam, albeit with a current government perspective. For those of us who lived through that era, it brought back many emotions. Operated by the Vietnamese government, an earlier version of this museum opened on September 4, 1975, as the Exhibition House for US and Puppet Crimes. In 1990, the name was changed to Exhibition House for Crimes of War and Aggression dropping both "U.S." and "Puppet." In 1995, following the normalization of diplomatic relations with the United States and end of the US embargo a year before, the references to "war crimes" and "aggression" were dropped from the museum's title as well; it became the War Remnants Museum.
From there it was back to the hotel and an early morning wake-up for the trip home. All in all it was a fantastic trip.