Tuesday, April 26, 2016

24 April - Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) - Vietnam

Once again we woke this morning to find the captain had quietly parked the Golden Princess in a busy port which serves as the main import/export hub for Ho Chi Minh City formerly known as Saigon. I was really looking forward to visiting this city for a couple of reasons. First I wanted to see the development that has taken place since the Vietnam War (called the American War here) ended in 1975, and second because of the long occupation of the area and the city of Saigon by the French, the city was renowned for its tree lined boulevards and elegant buildings. So, we signed up for a tour “The Best of Ho Chi Minh City” to see as much as possible as we could in a single day. And what an amazing day it was. HCM City is still an elegant and beautiful place and the new development going on is turning it quickly into a high rise citadel which will one day rival Hong Kong or Shanghai. It already has a population exceeding 10 million. For a nominally Communist country, capitalism appears to be rampant and I’m not sure it is benefiting the average Vietnamese very much. Our visit included the Presidential Palace which was the scene on 30 April, 1975, captured as an unforgettable image, of a lone North Vietnam tank driving up the boulevard and knocking down the iron gates. We also visited a lacquer work factory, the Opera House, Notre Dame cathedral and a beautiful Chinese temple. 

Lunch was provided on the tour and accompanied by a fantastic performance of an ensemble of Vietnamese dancers and musicians. After the performance we were encouraged to join the performers on stage for photo opportunities and to play tambourines and castanets. Almost a party atmosphere and very enjoyable.

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