Sunday, December 16, 2012

December Holiday - Sunday: Saigon

Everyone on the Ship was up early this morning as the much-anticipated trip to Saigon was the main attraction. Unfortunately, the ghost in the cabin upstairs kept us awake again last night (and the Ship’s crew still can’t trace the source of the noise), so we were shattered when we woke! If it happens again tonight, I think I’m going to record the disturbance on my phone to prove that we’re not going mad!

So, it was breakfast in our room at 6.30 before heading off the Ship to the legion of coaches waiting to take us to this iconic city. Once aboard, the Tour Guide calmly announced that the journey time was around two-and-a-half hours - much to the vocal displeasure of the passengers. Still, it was a comfy coach, apart from the warmish interior! (nothing compared to the pressure cooker coming back though!!). Initially, the journey was slow, dusty where the scenery consisted of an endless row of small shops selling everything from cooking oil to mobile phones! We made good time and in fact the journey lasted less than two hours and as we approached the City, suddenly, the landscape changed. Clearly there is a shed-load of investment being thrown at Saigon - and it showed. Premium brand names such as Gucci and Hermes housed in gleaming shopping malls shared this reinvented city with big-name hotels who were either already open for business or were nearing completion. All of this new stuff perfectly complemented the older French architecture which itself, looked gorgeous!

Not knowing much about the city, Ann had researched things thoroughly and discovered that there was a voluntary group called Saigon Kids that exist to help travellers like us! They are a group of local volunteers who, in an effort to improve their English-speaking skills, volunteer their services as tour guides. Many cities around the world have a similar setup. Our Guide was a 20 year-old university student called Phoung who met us promptly in the foyer of the Rex Hotel. The deal is that they provide the tour, and you settle all the charges for museums, galleries, their food and drink and anything else that requires a payment. It’s a brilliantly simple concept - and for us, it worked really well given that we only had a couple of hours to look round. The tour was brilliant, but all three of us were suffering with the heat - more specifically the humidity - Phew, what a (real) scorcher!

After lunch with Phoung at a local coffee house, and after passing the Opera House and the Ho Chi Minh statue, we said our good-byes and used up the remaining time looking around one the massive department stores.

And if we thought it was hot on the tour, it was even hotter on the Coach - either the air conditioning wasn’t working or it was struggling to cope (I know we were!). On a building on the way back it showed the outside temperature was 44C (eeek!) - just a few degrees cooler than my armpits!!!

In spite of the temperature, we’re really glad we made the trip and have ‘put it on the list’ for a return visit sometime in the future.

Shots of Saigon

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Modern Saigon

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Municipal City Hall

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Notre Dame Cathedral

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The General Post Office

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More of the Post Office

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The Reunification Palace

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Inside the Reunification Palace

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Inside the Reunification Palace

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Inside the Reunification Palace - As it was in 1975

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Inside the Reunification Palace - As it was in 1975

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View from the Reunification Palace

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Inside the Reunification Palace - As it was in 1975

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The Presidential Taxi!

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Telex and Fax Machines!

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The Opera House

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Statue of Ho-Chi-Minh, father of the nation


A day at sea tomorrow and the it’s Da Nang.