Our Vietnam trip has been planned by our longtime friend, Bill Dudziak, and a Vietnamese tour-guide, Nguyễn Loc. (Loc arranged for Trinh to take us on the Can Gio tour.) We will be traveling in Vietnam with Bill and his wife, Emily, and friends of theirs, Bob and Annie Cooper, with Loc as guide and interpreter. So far, Loc as proven to be a fantastic guide. Actually, it might be better to say that Loc has been a fantastic host! His love and enthusiasm for his country and his work is contagious.
Bill and Emily arrived early Thursday morning after traveling more than 24 hours from their home in Florida, but they were ready to hit the streets of Quận 1, that is, District 1, the central business and tourist part of Saigon.
We first walked to the Museum of Vietnamese History which has exhibits from antiquity through most of the 20th Century. After spending an hour there, we wandered through the Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens where Dale’s favorite activity was teaching the kids there to “give me five.”
We wandered past the local Communist Party recruitment center for District 1, but decided not to join.
In fact, it’s hard to believe that this really is a communist country, given the capitalistic and entrepreneurial spirit of its people, on display everywhere you look. I wonder how many people find the irony I do in this scene with the statue of victorious revolutionaries in front of the Saigon Central Post Office and the next-door McDonald’s?
The Saigon Central Post Office, built in 1886-91, dates to the French Indochina colonial period. Here’s its interior with Vietnam’s “Uncle Ho” Chi Minh looking on. He is to present-day Vietnam what George Washington is to Americans.
Across the street from the post office is another relic of French Indochina, the Notre Dame Cathedral, currently under renovation.
Bob and Annie arrived Thursday night and Friday afternoon Loc took us all back to District 1 on a walk past the Ho Chi Minh City Hall, another French colonial building,…
… then down the esplanade of Duong Nguyen Hue…
… to its terminus at the Saigon River and the iconic Bitexco Financial Tower.
I must say that this is not what I was expecting downtown Saigon to look like.