· See the history of Ho Chi Minh City in the Gia Long Palace
· Walk past the iconic Ho Chi Minh City Hall and Central Post Office
· Appreciate the French legacy at the red-brick Notre Dame Cathedral
· Watch where the Vietnam War ended in 1975 in the gardens of the Reunification Palace
· Witness how Vietnam officially remembers its recent conflicts in the War Remnants Museum
The best of Ho Chi Minh City reveals itself in this introductory trip. You will, in the company of your private guide, experience its past and culture at some of its best sights.
Seat of Rulers
The Gia Long Palace has a lengthy history as home to Ho Chi Minh City’s rulers. The former seat of French Governors, a Japanese general and South Vietnamese President Ngô Đình Diệm, it now hosts the Ho Chi Minh City Museum. While much of the network of bunkers and tunnels – that lead eventually to the Reunification Palace – are not open to the public due to flooding, you can go around the gardens to see the interesting horticultural addition of military hardware, which includes the F-5 jet used to attack the Reunification Palace – then the presidential mansion of South Vietnam – in April 1975.
Vietnam’s history as part of the French Empire left it with public buildings professing a distinctly European air. These have been overlaid with a Vietnamese character over time though, as you will see outside the Ho Chi Minh City Hall, completed in 1908, where a recent statue of the eponymous Vietnamese independence hero stands outside. While that building is not open to the public, the pink Central Post Office, this time dating from the late 19th-century, has a sumptuous interior worth investigating. Finally, you will want to see Notre Dame Cathedral. Built using bricks brought over from France, it was the site of what some – though not the Catholic Church – believe was a miracle in 2005 when the statue of the Virgin Mary outside the Cathedral shed tears.
Impact of War
Walking around the Reunification Palace, your guide will be able to tell you the story of the old presidential mansion. Built on the site of the old Norodom Palace, after it was bombed by some rebellious pilots, its capture in 1975 marked the end of the Vietnam War. From there it is not far to the War Remnants Museum. Housed in the old building of the US Information Service, it gives the official Vietnamese narrative of the wars which ravaged Vietnam from 1945 to 1975. With an impressive array of military hardware in the gardens, there are also poignant reminders of the horrors of war among the exhibits.