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Good Morning, Vietnam

Jeff Linamen

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Southeast Asia Travel Day Seven: We were fortunate to be staying at the beautiful Intercontinental Asiana Saigon. We got a good night’s sleep and enjoyed a breakfast at leisure to start the day. This morning everyone boarded buses for an all day tour of Ho Chi Minh City. The older population and those in northern Vietnam still refer to it as Saigon.

Notre Dame Cathedral

Notre Dame Cathedral

Our first stop was at Notre Dame Cathedral. While an overwhelming majority of the population is Buddhist (over 90%), the Catholic cathedral is still a popular location for wedding photos because of the beauty of the building as a backdrop.

Near the cathedral is the historic Saigon Central Post Office. We met an 85-year-old man that goes there daily to help anyone that needs assistance translating letters. He offers his time as a free service from the goodness of his heart.

Saigon Central Post Office

Saigon Central Post Office

 

This gentleman helps with translations every day.

This gentleman helps with translations every day.

Reunification Palace

Reunification Palace

Next, we visited the Reunification Palace. Formerly known as Independence Palace, this was the location of the final assault during the Vietnam War; where a tank crashed through the gates at 11:30 AM April 30, 1975.

This spot was of personal significance to me– linking history to my childhood memories of a war I was well aware of; but didn’t understand, while I was growing up.

 

April 30, 1975

April 30, 1975

 

The gates of the Reunification Palace.

The gates of the Reunification Palace.

 

Inside a temple in Ho Chi Minh City.

Inside a temple in Ho Chi Minh City.

Following lunch in a large garden restaurant, we visited a small temple, tucked peacefully into the chaos of the city.

I have to say I was a little disappointed in the tour. Even though we visited a variety of locations, I didn’t feel like I’d gotten any real feel for the city. You can’t absorb everything in such a short time but it’s nice when you can get enough of a taste to feel the essence of the city and its people.

 

Incense coils hanging from the temple ceiling.

Incense coils hanging from the temple ceiling.

 

Power lines in Saigon.

Power lines in Saigon.

Michael and I were both amused by the way electric service was maintained. Need power? Just run another cable… and another and another. Throughout the city you see large bunches of tangled wire stretching from pole to pole.

After a break back at the hotel, we were bussed out to Binh Quoi Village for the big welcome dinner. Everyone (200 plus) on the Broadway On the High Seas 5 cruise were together for the first time, celebrating the kick off of the actual cruise. The ‘village’ is a beautiful park and pavilion decorated with Chinese lanterns and colored lights. We were greeted with drinks and appetizers as we strolled down a path past a wide variety of artisans demonstrating their crafts, a clever puppet show and Chinese dragons leading the way to the center of the village.

The path through the village.

The path through the village.

Candles floating in the water near the pavilion.

Candles floating in the water near the pavilion.

As part of the entertainment, we were treated to two numbers from the musical Miss Saigon as teasers for what we’d see on board. Liz Callaway, the original Ellen (Chris’ wife) in the Broadway production; was joined by Lindsay Mendez on the wonderful duet, I Still Believe. Then Norm Lewis who played John on Broadway, energized the audience with his dazzling performance of the anthem, Bui Doi.

Local talent filled the rest of the evening; a pleasant backdrop as people mingled and relaxed under the stars.

Liz Callaway

Liz Callaway

 

Lindsay Mendez

Lindsay Mendez

 

Norm Lewis

Norm Lewis

 


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