Once known as “the Pearl of the Far East”, Saigon is the economic heart and the most populous city of Vietnam. The city owes much of its form and character to the French colonists, with regimental grid of tamarind-shaded boulevards and European architectures.
Saigon bustles with forward-looking energy in glittering skyscapes, street vendors, boutique shops and open-air cafés. With over ten million people and about seven million motorbikes, Saigon is the city on the move. Despite its modernity, it maintains a strong link to its past. Our sightseeing tour in this dynamic city takes in vestiges of its past, including many historical landmarks and more.
Your own personal guide and driver will transfer to Dong Khoi Street, a French boulevard in the downtown, to visit some of the most attractive French colonial-era buildings from the late 19th and early 20th century. See the splendidly restored exteriors of the Saigon Opera House, and the Notre Dame Cathedral with red brick edifice and twin spires constructed from materials imported from France (entrance is available when services are being performed). Then head across the square to the Saigon Central Post Office, the building was constructed when Vietnam was part of French Indochina in 1891. A short drive will take you to the iconic Reunification Palace, the former Presidential Palace and the headquarters of the South Vietnam Government.
After lunch, continue onto the elegant Ho Chi Minh City Hall (former Saigon City Hall or Hotel de Ville de Saigon), which is one of the city’s most stunning colonial monuments. Though the elegant colonial building is not open to the public, it is popular for its great photo opportunities, especially at night when the building and its grounds are lit up.
Along the way, sit down with your guide at a local coffee place to experience Saigon’s famed “caphe sua da” and take in the daily life of Saigoners. Visit War Remnants Museum, which contains exhibits relating to the first Indochina War involving the French colonialists and the American War, for a vivid perspective of the wars through the eyes of the Vietnamese. Then drive to the Chinatown for the beautiful Thien Hau Pagoda, which was built in 1760 by the Cantonese community to honor the Goddess of the Sea.
End the day with a visit to FITO Museum, which provides an insightful look into the history and application of traditional medicine in Vietnam. The museum is a beautiful house that stores and displays nearly 3000 artifacts documenting traditional Vietnamese medicine, including medicinal herbs, tools, as well as wooden paintings and books.
Upon request, Incense Travel can arrange meetings with artists and special-interest lecturers, touring with historians, dinner at a local family, private cooking class in Saigon, restaurant and spa reservations, performance tickets and exclusive access to local activities.