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Published: March 18th 2014
Iconic Mid Century Modern Building, not used since early 1970s, except as museum.
After overnight on board La Marguertie and a wonderful farewell feast from our chefs and crew, we packed our things, sang a little karaoke one more time, and headed off to bed knowing we would be up early for our disembarkation. We docked at My Tho Port, a tie up alongside the river really, about 1-1/2 hours from downtown Saigon (only the North Vietnamese call it Ho Chi Minh City). Here the Mekong is a true working river, like the Mississippi in the U.S., with rice barges, tankers and fully laden barges jockeying for space along it's throughways and shorelines. The drive into the city was interesting. There are, like in Mumbai or Nairobi, millions living in abject poverty, next door to beautiful new glass cities. The government here refuses to acknowledge these squatters, who live without electricity or water, using the river as their life, but the government can't keep up with them, closing them down and they pop back up again, the shanty towns, the cardboard people. Once in the center of this vibrant city, you are a world away from that, and all you see is the electric life of a city full of growth and ambition and
Gorgeous furnishings used for state affairs, entertaining the Kennedys and Johnsons pre-war era.
history and politics. We stayed at the Sheraton Saigon here, a new and gorgeous hotel, we were in the Tower section, with a bountiful buffet breakfast each morning, actually unbelievable! The rooftop bar was gorgeous and had a nice mix of appetizers and foo foo drinks that made us feel very close to home a world away. The view from there of the river and city was remarkable. From the hotel we were within easy walking distance to most of the highlights of the city including the museums, parks, monuments and wonderful restaurants. We dropped our things and headed out on our bus for a tour of the Presidential Palace, which is a gorgeous mid-century modern building with ornate furniture, last occupied by the last president who left at the beginning of the "American War." Then we saw the Central Post Office, reminiscent of a great French train station and right across the street from Notre Dame Cathedral. From here you could see the famous building where the last of the helicopters flew US sympathizers out at the end of the war. The building is about to be torn down, that bit of history means nothing to the Vietnamese government,
Central Post Office
Still in use as a post office, several phone booths inside, small souvenir store. Gorgeous building.
I suppose. Then we saw a very old pagoda in Cho Lon (China Town) and the Thien Hau pagoda. Our stay here was long, but the incense in the shape of spirals was on my Christmas card this year! Last was a visit to the War Remnants Museum, one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions. I had to leave this place, it was entirely slanted in the Viet Cong's favor and they waved their victory in our faces, demeaning our fight to keep Vietnam free. After a sumptuous lunch at the hotel, we headed off to the Thanh Market(Central Market) for some serious shopping. Our guide showed us the trick, which is to shop around the numbered stalls around the outside edge, where the prices are fixed and you don't get hassled so much. Inside they grab at your arms, and if you like to bargain, go for it. I was not comfortable inside and would pay a little more to have a price tag. I got a lovely pair of "RayBans" for $5 after losing my sunglasses the day before. A group of 7 of us got together to go out to a nice restaurant for our farewell
Inside Post Office
You must go inside to experience the post office, it is worth the effort to get there while it is operating.
dinner, it was a short cab fare (taking your life in your hands here!), and a gorgeous old house in a fancy neighborhood by the river. It was a lovely farewell to some fast friends who will keep in touch, I am certain.
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