The traveller wakes up late after last evenings new year hangout. He heads out for a half day city tour that had been pre arranged. Now, all of the tour stops were within walking distance of our hotel, unbeknownst to us earlier. But it was good to have our tour guide nevertheless, and transit in an air conditioned vehicle.
First stop is the War Remnants museum. Telling the history of the French and American conflicts after WW2, it houses a number of artifacts, weapons and equipment. Poignant photographs taken during the war weave the narrative from North Vietnam’s point of view (Most documentaries normally tell the American side). The devastating effects of Agent Orange, the chemical weapon used by America are also displayed through pictures of victims.
Our next stop is the Independence Palace (also called Reunification Palace). This was the office and residence of the (US backed) President of South Vietnam. The architecture is a mix of Western and Eastern design principles.
Not seen in the above picture but shown below, is a tank on display near the main gate. One can imagine that momentous day, 30th April 1975, when Saigon fell and a North Vietnamese tank crashed through this very gate.
We explore the palace, its lavish reception areas where dignitaries met, conference and war rooms where surrender to the North would have been deliberated, underground bunkers and a roof top helipad for quick escape.
After our tour of the palace, it is time to visit the French-era Notre Dame Cathedral. The traveller is reminded of his visit to its counterpart in Paris back in ’16.
Opposite the street is the Post Office, still actively in use. A hassled backpacker is seen trying to parcel a pair of boots back home.
Our half day tour over, we grab lunch and check out a few more buildings, both old…
… And modern representatives of the new Saigon, financial and commercial capital of Vietnam.
In the evening, the organized chaos of Saigon’s traffic is on full display. Good opportunity to try out this thing called a time lapse video that my phone seems to have.
Soon the traveller finds himself in the backpacker district, Bui Vien Walking Street. This is a major nightlife hub and tourist attraction. Those who have visited South East Asia before will find similarities to Wan Chai in Hong Kong and certain streets in Bangkok. Here one finds cuisines of various kinds, pubs, hostels… And just a certain amount of vice tolerated by the authorities 🙂
The traveller samples Egg Coffee and Banh Mi (sandwich), both Vietnamese delicacies.
As the night goes on, this part of Saigon becomes even more alive, pulsing with music, dance and street performances… a satisfying end to a day full of exploration.
Pictures taken with my Apple iPhone SE