Day 2 - Ho Chi Minh City (B,L)
Experience the dynamic Ho Chi Minh City, still called Saigon by the locals. There are many ways to explore the bustling city of Ho Chi Minh, however none is as exhilarating as on the back of a Vespa scooter! Our professional drivers will drive you around Ho Chi Minh City, while you take in the sites. Enjoy a local lunch before you depart on your vespa tour.
Head to 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.
Moving then to the remarkable Reunification Palace and the previous CIA Office before a drive down Dong Khoi Street (it means “people’s revolution”). Pass by the historic Opera House (now the Municipal Theatre). You may recognize the square from the film based on Phil Noyce’s “The Quiet American”.
Pass 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. Enjoy a delicious lunch at one of the best restaurants in Saigon, Monsoon, serving up all delicacies from Indochina.
In the 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.
The rest of the evening at leisure.
Overnight at the Park Hyatt.
Meals: Breakfast at hotel. Lunch included. Dinner Independent