08.00 : Meet at the port.
Saigon is not only sightseeing, but about street markets, where bargains are struck and deals are done; the pavement cafes, where stereo speakers fill the surrounding streets with a melodious thumping beat; and the sleek new cafes and pubs, where tourists chat over beer, pretzels, coffee and croissants. Today you will have a sightseeing tour in Saigon which includes visits to:
Cholon (China Town) with Thien Hau Pagoda. Cholon is in District 5 and is a maze of narrow streets, bustling with people. Most of Vietnam's ethnic Chinese live here and they are the largest single ethnic minority group in the country. Merchants began to settle in Cholon in the 1770s, although many ethnic Chinese fled the country in 1975.
The Thien Hau Pagoda is one of Cholon's must-sees. It is dedicated to the goddess Thien Hau, protector of the sea. Photographers are spoilt for choice with the ornate decoration inside the pagoda and the statues of Thien Hau. It is popular with worshippers (the air is always heavy with the smell of incense) and there are regular festivals during the lunar calendar.
Notre Dame Cathedral: The twin towers of the Notre Dame Cathedral have been a familiar landmark in Ho Chi Minh City since the 1880s. In front of the cathedral in a small garden is a delicate statue of the Virgin Mary. The interior of the cathedral is rather plain, unlike most French cathedrals, with no stained glass but it is a cool escape from the heat outside.
Former Post Office: Across from the Notre Dame Cathedral, the vast Post Office was also built in the late 19th century in European style. The interior has hardly been touched since it was built and is dominated by a huge portrait of Ho Chi Minh. The building always seems busy but most people are just visitors rather than customers.
Former Presidential Palace, the Reunification Palace, which is beautiful in its ugliness, a 1960s monstrosity designed with the help of Soviet architects. Most people will remember the image of a North Vietnamese tank crashing through the gates on 30 April 1975 signifying the fall of Saigon. The tank still graces the front lawn. Rooms open to the public remain exactly as they were in 1975, showing where important meetings were held during the war, as well as some of the private quarters of the president and his family. Most fascinating are a series of underground tunnels housing a telecommunications centre.
Vien Bao Tang Lich Su Historical Museum: Located just inside the entrance to the Botanical Gardens and Zoo, the Historical Museum houses a collection of arte facts covering the last 2,000 years of Vietnamese history including items belonging to ancient cultures such as Dong Son, Oc Eo and Cham. The museum was built in 1929 and the collection assembled by the Ecole Francaise d'Extreme Orient.
16.00 : Transfer back to port