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The Heat Is On In Saigon

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On the Vespa tour of Ho Chi Minh City.

On the Vespa tour of Ho Chi Minh City.

Southeast Asia Travel Day Eight: We had breakfast early and then had to check out of the hotel before our tour this morning. We almost didn’t book this Vespa tour… so very glad we did! It made up for the shortcomings in yesterday’s tour and then some. If we had only gone on yesterday’s and not today’s, I’d have said I didn’t really see much in Saigon. Luckily, choosing to ride all through Ho Chi Minh City on a motorbike was the best thing we could have done. The experience itself was pretty thrilling. Add to that, all the sights we visited and we really got an opportunity to see and feel the vibe of the city.

The tour was with Vespa Adventures and there were 10 in our group plus our guide, Yu. We each had a driver—all we had to do was enjoy the ride and not fall off. My driver was Gai and she was definitely skilled at manipulating the bike through some pretty tight situations. I have video I’ll try to post later. It’s too difficult to just describe how crazy the traffic is; combining all the motorbikes and cars is intense for an outsider.

Visiting the bird park.

Visiting the bird park.

We started out at what is known as a bird park. Residents bring their birds (in cages) to socialize and learn how to sing and fly from other birds. I thought this was pretty unique and certainly something you don’t see in the states. There’s a little outdoor café there and people sell treats for the birds like grasshoppers and crickets.

Next we visited the monument for Thich Quang Duc. He was the Buddhist Monk who burned himself to death at a busy intersection in Saigon. He did this to protest the persecution of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese government on June 11, 1963. This was a pretty powerful moment. Our guide Yu, turned us around from the monument and showed us the exact spot where it happened. One person can make a difference. The photo of this tragic event was seen around the world; for the first time bringing worldwide attention to what was happening here.

Thich Quang Duc, a Buddhist monk, burns himself to death on a Saigon street June 11, 1963 to protest alleged persecution of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese government. (AP Photo/Malcolm Browne)

Thich Quang Duc, a Buddhist monk, burns himself to death on a Saigon street June 11, 1963 to protest alleged persecution of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese government. (AP Photo/Malcolm Browne)

 

The monument to Thich Quang Duc.

The monument to Thich Quang Duc.

We visited three more beautiful temples, each as different as they were alike. We did have to remove our shoes at one of them, as is the custom, showing our respect.

A temple courtyard in Saigon.

A temple courtyard in Saigon.

 

Inside one of the Buddhist temples in Ho Chi Minh City.

Inside one of the Buddhist temples in Ho Chi Minh City.

Natural medicine being assembled at one of many city pharmacies.

Natural medicine being assembled at one of many city pharmacies.

At a pharmacy, we were able to watch natural medicines being assembled for a variety of ailments. Many are delivered to customers and then brewed into teas by the person in search of a cure.

Pho 24 was our stop for lunch. I can now say I’ve had authentic Vietnamese Pho soup. Pho soup is basically a fresh clear broth with noodles, meat and seasoning. I prefer Pho Ga (chicken). It is both delicious and filling.

 

The flower market in Ho Chi Minh City.

The flower market in Ho Chi Minh City.

After talking with our guide, we made a little change in our tour and she took us through a fish and flower markets. In the flower market we also went down a maze of alleys and were able to see some of the small rooms and apartments people call home. I’d guess most of these tight alleys couldn’t be more than three feet wide.

 

We were supposed to go through the highway tunnels out to a spot for a great view of the skyline, which we did—as it started to pour. We pulled over long enough to put on rain ponchos and then continued but didn’t stop at the spot due to the rain. It was a typical tropical downpour and didn’t last long.

Our group taking a refreshment break during our tour.

Our group taking a refreshment break during our tour.

Our last stop was near what was the U. S. Embassy during the Vietnam War. From that spot we could see where the last helicopter lifted people to safety from the roof of the Embassy. It was another powerful moment personalizing history to childhood memories.

The last helicopter to leave Saigon as the city fell in 1975.

The last helicopter to leave Saigon as the city fell in 1975.

 

The top of the old U.S. Embassy where the last helicopter flew people to safety during the fall of Saigon.

The top of the old U.S. Embassy where the last helicopter flew people to safety during the fall of Saigon.

The Vespa Tour made the trip to Ho Chi Minh City complete. It’s a must do for anyone wanting to get a great, short introduction to the city.

All Aboard. In the afternoon we were driven to the port and finally boarded the Ponant ship, Le Soleal for the actual Broadway On The High Seas 5 cruise. We had the always annoying (but mandatory) safety drill (this one was especially bad) followed by dinner.

The first concert of our cruise was given by two-time Tony Award Winner, Christine Ebersole. It was magical. The perfect start to many wonderful performances we’d be blessed with on this year’s BOTHS5 cruise.

 

Christine Ebersole gave the first concert of Broadway On The High Seas 5.

Christine Ebersole gave the first concert of Broadway On The High Seas 5.

 

Christine Ebersole with special guest Norm Lewis.

Christine Ebersole with special guest Norm Lewis.


1 Comment

  1. Pat says:

    Wonderful tour! I would have loved to see the flowers they had. Really enjoying your photos.

    Like

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