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moehre Saigon - A travel report by Thomas
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Saigon,  Vietnam - flag Vietnam -  H÷ Chí Minh
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moehre's travel reports

Saigon - Gateway to Vietnam

  12 votes
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The bustling south Vietnamese metropol was the starting point of our two and half week tour through Vietnam. It is a great place to touch down and make the first steps on vietnames soil.


Saigon travelogue picture
The shape of the country and the location of its two metropols (Saigon and Hanoi) suggests a journey starting at one end and moving to the other. We touched down in Saigon and traveled north - the other way around would have been perfectly fine as well. We had 3 weeks time - so we had to decide what to see and what to miss - a hard choice. After the economic reforms and the opening of Vietnam in the 90s Saigon (or Ho Chi Minh City) has become once more the economical centre of Vietnam. Myriads of Motorbikes make street crossing alone an adventure. The markets offer a wide range of everything - exotic fruits, fresh seafood, vietnamese conical hats, clothes, silk, chop sticks, cheap electronic junk, squeaking children shoes and so on. One can visit the places described of Graham Greene's The Quiet American (after acquiring a cheap non-official copy of the book from one of the street dealers) or sit on the terasse of the Rex Hotel where regular press meetings during the American-Vietnamese war took place. Even though Saigon has not the variety of sights to offer like Hanoi it is a destination in it self and the starting point to explore the Mekong Delta (which we didn't manage because of the lack of time) or making excursions to the tunnels of Cu Chi or the Cao Dai temple.

Favourite spots:
On top of the Caravelle Hotel near the Opera is the Saigon Saigon bar which offers a good view over the city. Ben Tanh market in district one or Binh Tay Market in Cholon (china town) for its overwhelming atmosphere, scenses and goods.

What's really great:
Saigon travelogue picture
The vietnamese people are gentle and open minded. Even the hawkers are (relatively) friendly and relaxed. The food is just outstanding - vietnames cusine is (very simplified) a mixture of chinese and french. The sound of the iceman - actually the ice was often lousy but they have a very specific honk or jingle - I'd just loved that sound.

Sights:
Saigon's main official sights can be explored within a day: the City Hall with uncle Ho in front, the Opera House, the Notre Dam Cathedral, the Post Office (!) and the Reunification Palace (rather go to the post office! the Palace is just ugly concrete).
In Cholon (China Town) the market, pagodas and assembly halls of the chines minority are interesting.

Accommodations:
Hotels are relatively cheap in Vietnam. Two person can stay for appr. 20US$ in a good nice clean room with a/c and private bath.
We booked our hotel in Saigon in advance and stayed at the Windsor Saigon for a little more but got a suite and a good location to explore the city.

Restaurants:
Saigon travelogue picture
Temple Club - that place is a little hidden but just cool (book a table in advance it's typically crowded)
Lemon Grass - good choice of regional food and popular.

Other recommendations:
Saigon travelogue picture
Outside Saigon we visited the main Cao Dai temple in Tay Ninh. Which is a real strange place. Cao Dai is a religion founded in the early 20th century as a mixture of Christianity, Buddhism, Taoism and Islam (does not seem to be such a bad idea after all - but one can argue whether the result can be seen as a success model). Soem of the saints may be familar to you: Victor Hugo and Winston Churchill. The temple seems to resemble a cathedral from outside, however world literature's comments are the following: The Walt Disney Fantasia of the East (Graham Greene in The Quiet American) and This cathedral must be the most outrageously vulgar building ever to have been erected with serious intent (Norman Lewis in A Dragon Apparent).
On the way back to saigon are the Cu Chi tunnels - which served the Viet Minh / Viet Cong as operating base and hiding place during the Vietnamese wars against the french and american - very impressive to see the inventiveness - a real must.

Published on Wednesday July 7th, 2004


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Mon, Mar 26 2007 - 09:02 PM rating by biya67

I have long wanted to visit Vietnam- a great and informative report with wonderful pictures- thanks for the great information- it will be very useful!

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