people and cultures – inspiring journeys
sharing meaningful discoveries in Asia

South Vietnam: Saigon and the Mekong Delta

Ho Chi Minh City

Still called  SaiGon in District 1, here is a typical evening out in front of The Rex Hotel.

Vibrancy is everywhere and everyone is busy going somewhere or doing something. This is a city that does not sleep.  The heart of District 1 is where most visitors will be based. The Rex Hotel, famous for its rooftop bar is a great place to watch life below. The hotel itself has gone very upscale these days.  I actually miss the old ambience even when some things did not work well.   But coming out of The Rex, turn up towards the Opera House– yes, another replica.  The French did leave nice architecture as well as croissants.  Just opposite the Opera House is The Continental Hotel, the hangout of The Quiet American, book written by Graham Greene, and later made into a movie- set in Saigon during the 1950’s.
Walk down from The Continental down Dong Khoi Street, known as the Champs Elysees of Saigon- taking you down to the waterfront and The Majestic Hotel.

A short walk in other direction from The Continental on Dong Khoi Street will bring you to Notre Dame Cathedral and the Saigon Central Post Office built by the French in the late 1800s.  Step inside the gothic and renaissance style building and see the two huge painted maps, one showing Southern Vietnam and Cambodge, and the other showing Saigon City in 1892. A large portrait of Ho Chi Minh looms over the booths selling stamps.

Reunification Palace
is another short walk beyond Notre Dame and the Post Office.
When a North Vietnamese tank crashed though the main gates on 30 April, 1975, Saigon fell to the North marking the end of the war.
A visit into this Time Bubble is a must for any first time visitor to Ho Chi Minh City.
For report, Click Here.

Museum of Vietnamese History
also worthwhile to visit- set within the Botanical Gardens offers an introduction to early history and the Vietnamese dynasties.

Accomodations in Saigon:

The Continental for nostalgia opposite the Opera House:

The Majestic-   overlooking the Saigon River:

Loads of other small, comfy, reasonably priced hotels in Saigon District 1 – see online hotel sites.

Travel Onward:

The Mekong Delta:   CLICK HERE

Train Travel in Vietnam:

Ho Chi Minh’s Tan Son Nhat airport  (SGN)  is located 6km from the city center and is ever expanding handling domestic and international flights and there are plans for a whole new international airport.
All major cities of Asia can be reached with direct flights.

Phnom Penh and Siem Reap are short hops by plane and it is also possible to travel overland by bus,
6 hours to Phnom Penh and another 5- 6 hours on to Siem Reap.

Flights to Vientiane in Laos connect to Luang Prabang on Vietnam Airlines or Lao Airlines.
To explore southern Laos, check into direct flight to Pakse on:

Indochine  – a stunning Film
Another flavour of what Vietnam was like under the French, watch this film which starred Catherine Deneuve. Set during the 1930’s-50s, the film tells the story of a French plantation owner and of her adopted Vietnamese daughter during the nationalist uprising.
Click for the Trailer:

A Heart Touching Musical

I have to include this link to one of my favorite musicals which originally opened in 1989 with Lea Salonga. This Cameron Mackintosh production was revived again in London and went on to Broadway after 25 years with Eva Nobelzada as the new Kim and has continued on world tours.  It’s the tragic love story of Kim, orphaned after her village is bombed, and who falls in love with an American GI hoping for a better life, but gets left behind after the Fall of Saigon. It’s a story of the cruelty of war which tears mankind apart, families scattered, children abandoned and the sacrifice made by women. A story of many other real Kim’s and victims of all sides in the tragedy of war.

The beautiful music by Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil sets thetone for an amazing cast.

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