Day 2 - Ho Chi Minh City By Vintage Vespa (B,L,D)
This half-day tour takes a unique look at familiar and not-so-familiar landmarks in modern-day Ho Chi Minh City, to reveal the city’s culture, architecture, religious practices and fascinating history. The tour begins in the cool early morning with a pickup at your hotel. Our first stop is Tao Dan Park to catch the bird lovers club (morning only, 0600 – 0900). Enjoy a local coffee while your tour guide explains about the history and practice of keeping birds in Saigon.
The next stop is the monument of Thich Quang Duc, a Vietnamese Mahayana Buddhist monk who burned himself to death on June 11, 1963 to protest against the persecution of Buddhists by South Vietnam’s Ngo Dinh Diem administration.
Then take a quick stop at the colorful Ho Thi Ky flower market before riding to the Funeral Home to get to know about Vietnamese funeral ceremonies & customs.
Roll through Chinatown to Nhi Phu temple built in the end of 17th century by Chinese immigrants from Fukkien Province. Although the exact construction date is unknown, an inscription on the pagoda's ancient bell dates the pagoda to pre-1765. Nhi Phu Temple is built in a “Khẩu” (gate) architectural style with an open yard in the center. Its roof is covered with tubular tiles lined with bas-relief mosaics made from broken ceramics, depicting the eight immortals of Taoism including apricot trees, orchids, bamboo and of course dragons and phoenix.
Continue with a short walk through the alley full of tailor’s supplies. Then back to Nhi Phu temple to return to district one by bike. On the way stop at a Chinese Medicine shops for an explanation about “Thuốc Bắc - medicine from herbs” or”Thuốc tàu – medicine from China.”
Leaving Chinatown, we drive through the tunnel to District 2 where we see downtown Saigon from a different perspective and we have a chance to see a developing Ho Chi Minh City.
Visiting a local market before heading back to District 1 for a twin set of neighboring landmarks: the Post Office, noting the architecture and in particular the map of Saigon that shows where this modern city has come from, followed by Cathedral of Notre Dame (“Our Lady”).
Moving then to the remarkable Reunification Palace and the previous CIA Office before a drive down Dong Khoi Street (it means “people’s revolution”) allows us to correct a modern myth. We reveal the place where, in 1975, during the dying days of the former regime, the iconic photograph was taken of a helicopter lifting people out of Saigon.
A stop at the historic Opera House (now the Municipal Theatre) lets us talk about the history the square represents from the time it was the main road into the Bat Quay, to the French invasion, to the filming of Phil Noyce’s “The Quiet American”.
The final stop is an outside view of HCM City People’s Committee (formerly Hôtel de Ville) which is one of the most photographed buildings in Vietnam - notable for its gardens, ornate facade and elegant interior lit with crystal chandeliers. End the tour at your hotel.
For lunch try some traditional Saigon fare at ‘Com Nieu Sai Gon’. Described by the celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain as “my favorite place in town”, watch as clay-pot-baked rice is ‘flung’ across the room by the unassuming waiters.
This afternoon step off the beaten track and take a stroll to the oldest quarter of the city (car at your disposal should you need it). Explore Saigon’s well-kept secret - Antiques Street (Le Cong Kieu), where genuine antiques are mixed in with genuine fakes: Aladdin oil lamps, carved wooden chests, Marelli copper fans, opium pipes, abacuses, etc. You can also find military cast-offs from the Vietnam War, and if you look hard enough, relics from the French Indochina era.
Follow a typical street to reach the Beaux-Arts Museum, a superb neo-colonial building home to various modern arts. Explore the art galleries surrounding the museum, where local artists gladly display their talent. A visit in Ho Chi Minh City would not be complete without a taste of its best ice cream - Fanny’s, a quaint little French atmospheric parlor, before continuing on to the trendy boutiques and shops of Thon That Thiep Street.
This evening, a private home dinner in Ho Chi Minh City is the perfect way to gain deeper insight into Vietnamese culture and cuisine. Located in suburban Ho Chi Minh City your host family will cook you a great meal, whilst here you can learn more on how the locals really live and eat and this intimate interaction is sure to leave you with lasting memories! Your escort guide will be a local university student which adds to the experience.
Overnight in Ho Chi Minh City