When I walk up early on our last full day in Saigon, it is still surprisingly silent in the port. Very slowly traffic gets going, a rooster crows on the boat next to ours.
At 8:30 the bus is waiting to take us on a tour through the city. Saigon has some remarkable must-see buildings, such as the Notre Dame Cathedral and the timeless colonial Central Post Office, just next to it. I had read before about the public writer still working there. And there he was, Mr Duong Van Ngo. Even on his advanced age, he is available every weekday to help people with their letters and translations. He speaks fluent English and French. So imagine you have a relative in the US and you want to write him a letter but don’t speak any English, this fine gentleman can take care of that for you.
The Post Office building is popular for wedding photography
Inside the Central Post Office
The fantastic last public writer in Saigon: Mr Duong Van Ngo
Phone booths in the Central Post Office
Afterwards we go to the History Museum of Saigon, which is not so exciting. It showcases items from the different periods in Vietnam’s history. While we wait for the water puppetry performance I cross the street to have a look at the zoo. A couple of kids climb over the wall, easy breezy. There is not too much I can see from my viewpoint but it is interesting how they do it.
Is there a touristic country where Tintin isn’t popular?
Visiting the zoo for free
The water puppetry performance was not really what I expected but still respect for the people behind the curtains mastering the puppets and telling the story.
We stop briefly to take pictures at the Reunification Palace where the President of South Vietnam lived and worked during the Vietnam War. We notice the security guards dressed in green. Their job is to help tourists in their crazy city, with things such as helping to cross the street. Note they are only present in the very touristy places.
After lunch we head to the famous REX hotel with a couple of other journalists. During the Vietnam war its rooftop bar was a popular hangout for war correspondents and military officials. It does offer a good view over the city, comfy sofas and very expensive coffee. Next up was a visit to the famous Ben Thanh market where I was already going crazy after 5 minutes, being hassled continuously by sales people.
View from REX hotel: the Hotel de Ville de Saigon
Happy with my expensive but oh so good Vietnamese coffee
To return to the ship we decided to walk back, despite of the long distance. There is no way in learning to know a city better than to cross it by foot. This colourful city offers a lot to please the eyes.
A deep breath, and across we go
Photos: Mike & Véronique