Fully experiencing Saigon (actually called Ho Chi Minh City now), arguably one of the big city names from the news that I grew up with during the Vietnam War, we began with a sailing down the Saigon river that was a lot like a European river cruise. At the port of Saigon we stepped back into history as a shoreside ceremony focused on the illustrious Russian navy of yesteryear. Getting off the ship, we went to Saigon’s heart, shopping with chefs at the local market. On our last day, I hired a driver for a tour of highlights at his discretion. It’s interesting the things locals want to show us, even in a land where people live in an entirely different situation than I have ever experienced in this lifetime.
A major source of pride for my driver, city hall draws locals and tourists mainly due to its central location. “It’s big and flashy “explained the driver and the reason for a stop on our tour.
In what looks like the American equivalent of a standard office building is Independence Palace (aka Reunification Palace) which was the home of the President of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War (and when there was a North and South Vietnam)
Also significant, Independence Palace was the site of the end of the Vietnam War during the Fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975.
Like other highly-populated areas in this part of the world, some of the most interesting memories will come from street scenes; the local population going about their daily lives.
Not surprising, many locals wearing surgical masks because of ‘the motorcycle exhaust’ said our local guide.
It would be remiss of me not to mention the experience of visiting a communist country; commenting on daily life there and the people of the past and present along with their hopes for the future. After all, not all that long ago we dug deep into the social, economic, political and religious world of the Middle East on a trip to Egypt and Jordan with another luxury travel company, Abercrombie & Kent. Different here, in a Communism vs Islam sort of way the peoples of both nations have entirely different reactions when asked to talk about the topic.
Vietnamese people I talked to simply did not have very much to say about life under Communism. When they did, their comments were limited to the job they were assigned for their lifetime, the weather and other safe topics that did not require a comment on their thoughts about the leadership in any way. This will be in interesting topic to reflect on, after the experience, so look for more on that later.
Unexpected: Pleasant immigration officials at every checkpoint. To enter Vietnam requires a Passengers Landing Card which we presented at checkpoints entering and exiting the country. Usually just a cursory check was made as we came and went to Halong Bay, Da Nang and Saigon. Initially, the procedure was a bit different though.
Requiring a ‘face to face’ immigration inspection on the ship, Seabourn passengers were called deck by deck to report for the procedure. At that point, Vietnamese immigration officials matched us with our passport that was surrendered to Seabourn at embarkation and verified our identity then sent us on our way.
Here is more on our tour of Saigon-
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- Facebook will feature each day’s post here as well as a variety of photo galleries created as we sail. Encouraged: Your questions and comments.
- Instagram lovers will see one post a day that summarizes much of what we saw and did in the last 24 hours.
- Pinterest boards for each port of call are already set up, ready to be filled with photos as time permits, subject to bandwidth limitations we may encounter along the way. Also to be created and published perhaps with a bit higher priority, food and wine photos.
- Twitter has been populated with prescheduled tweets throughout the day that will be updated with events and happenings around the ship and ashore as the occur. Follow @OrlandoChris, @SeabournCruise and the tag #SeabournFoodAndWineCruise.
- Tumblr will be all about food and wine with multiple posts throughout each day.
- Google+ posts will recap the day at its end
- Exposure Photo Storybooks will no doubt come after sailing and be more reflective of the entire experience, as usual. Different this time, multiple storybooks focusing on culinary events as well as destinations visited along the way.
- Chris Cruises In Progress– takes readers directly to a list of all Seabourn Food And Wine Cruise posts.
- 2016 Seabourn Food And Wine Cruise Journal- will be stuck to the top of the list here at ChrisCruises.com while the event is in progress, all the daily posts, in order, travel journal style
- Your Questions Answered. Have questions as we sail? Email Chris@ChrisCruises.com for answers anytime