Hello Fellow Travelers:
Welcome to our world of business information, museums, adventure, birding, botanical gardens, good eating and fine wines. This newsletter provides you with “The Welge Report for Ho Chi Minh nee Saigon.
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Recognition: We extend special thanks to the people who manage and/or own the institutions, museums and restaurants featured in our guides. In some instances we have relied on their descriptions and photos.
Ho Chi Minh nee Saigon
Birding Opps: Info for our birding friends. In and near Ho Chi Minh nee Saigon, you can see these species: Siamese Fireback, Germain’s Peacock-Pheasant, Great Hornbill, Blue-rumped Pitta, Bar-bellied Pitta, Banded Broadbill, Woolly-necked Stork, Gray-Headed Eagle and the Green Peafowl.
Richard Sutton writing at Surfbirds (http://www.surfbirds.com/trip_report.php?id=2174) provides an interesting journal on area birding.
Wings Bird Tours (http://wingsbirds.com/tours/vietnam/) does a creditable job showing you the birds.
Alcoholic Beverages: Beer is the beverage of choice and here is your report (http://www.vietnamonline.com/az/beer-drinking.html)
PublicTransportation: This is your site for public transportation (http://www.vietnam-travel-guide.net/ho-chi-minh-city/transport/)
Business Information: Here is help in regard to your business: (http://pathfinderbuzz.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/guide-book.pdf)
Day One: Your first stop is the Reunification Palace – M-F: 7:30-11, 1-4:30, 135 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia Street, District 1
You can tour the Presidential quarters and see the period furnishings. The basement has the telecommunications center, a war room and a video room.
The F5E plane that bombed the palace is here as is the tank that crashed the gates ending the American war.
The Saigon Central Post Office - 2 Công xã Paris, Bến Nghé, was constructed when Vietnam was part of French Indochina in the early 20th century by Gustave Eiffel.
Inside are two painted maps that were created just after the post office was first built, the first one located on the left side of the building is a map of Southern Vietnam and Cambodia titled ‘Lignes telegraphiques du Sud Vietnam et Cambodge 1892′ which translates to ‘Telegraphic lines of Southern Vietnam and Cambodia 1892”
The second map of greater Saigon is titled ‘Saigon et ses environs 1892′ translating to ‘Sai Gon and its environment 1892.
Cuc Gach Quan – L & D: Daily, 10 Đặng Tất, Tân Định, Quận 1, 84 8 3848 0144 is very popular for many reasons.
Located in a charming French colonial house Cuc Gach Quan provides a relaxing atmosphere where you’ll enjoy Vietnamese specialties such as fish in a clay pot, sea bass with a passion fruit sauce, vegetables cooked with ginger or lemongrass and chilis and their own homemade soy sauce.
Your wine is the ’11 Stellenbosch Vinum Africa Chenin Blanc. For dessert a must is the black bean ice cream.
The War Remnants Museum – Daily: 7:30-12, 1:30-5, 28 Vo Van Tan, Ward 6, District 3, 84 8 3930 5587 is a grim war story.
The museum has a series of rooms in several buildings that contain military equipment such as a UH-1 Huey, a F-5A fighter, a BLU-82 Daisy Cutter bomb, a M48 Patton tank, an A-1 Skyraider and an A-37 Dragonfly attack bomber.
Unexploded ordinance is stored in the corner of the courtyard. Another building has “tiger cages”. Exhibits include graphic photography that shows the effects of Agent Orange, napalm and phosphorus bombs.
A visit to the Saigon Notre-Dame Cathedral – Daily: 8-5, Bến Nghé, tp. 84 8 3822 0477provides a much needed change of scenery.
The entire cathedral was constructed with materials brought from France; the red bricks came from Marseille. Most of the original tiles still bear markings from France, although many new tiles have replaced ones damaged during the war.
The prominent twin bell towers were added in 1895 along with six bronze bells. In 1962 the cathedral was upgraded in status and the name changed from Saigon Chief Cathedral to Saigon Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica.
Prepare your mental state for a wonderful dining experience at The Deck Saigon – B,L,D: Daily, 38 Nguyễn Ư Dĩ, Thảo Điền, 2, 84 37446632
Share the roast duck watermelon cashew salad or the pan-seared foie gras with a chili fig compote. Have a glass or two of Veuve Cliquot.
Your main is the char-grilled lamb filet or the sautéed sea bass with the balsamic teriyaki sauce.
Your wine is the ’07 Prunotto Bric Turot Barbaresco and dessert is the hot chocolate fondant green tea ice cream.
Day Two: The perfect start for your day is breakfast at The Opera – B,L,D: Daily, Saigon Park Hyatt, 2 Lam Son Square, District 1, 84 8 3824 1234.
All of the classics are available plus some dishes you probably haven’t tried before. Cousin Hue suggests the banh beo which is a steamed rice cake with shrimp, green onions and chilis or the congee with fried Chinese doughnuts.
Your first stop today is the Cu Chi Tunnels – The 75-mile long complex of tunnels at Củ Chi has been preserved by the government of Vietnam, and turned into a war memorial park with two different tunnel display sites, Ben Dinh and Ben Duoc.
In order to combat better-supplied American and South Vietnamese forces during the Vietnam War, Communist guerrilla troops known as Viet Cong (VC) dug tens of thousands of miles of tunnels, including an extensive network running underneath the Cu Chi district northwest of Saigon.
Soldiers used these underground routes to house troops, transport communications and supplies, lay booby traps and mount surprise attacks, after which they could disappear underground to safety.
The Cu Chi tunnels are part of a Vietnam War memorial park in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), and they have become a popular tourist attraction.
Your lunch today is a little confusing but we’ll explain. Quan 94 – 84 Đinh Tiên Hoàng, Đa Kao, 1, 839101062 is the location that you are looking for.
There is an imposter who stole the name located at 94 Đinh Tiên Hoàng, Đa Kao, 1 which was the original location.
Order cha gio cua (crab spring rolls), mien xao cua be (cassava noodles sautéed with mushrooms and crabmeat), whole roasted crab, and when available, deep-fried soft-shell crab with tamarind or sweet chili sauce.
It’s time to smell the flowers and see the animals at the Saigon Zoo & Botanical Garden – Daily: 7 AM-8PM, 2B Nguyen Binh Khiem Street, District 1, T.P., 84 8 3829 3728
The Botanical Garden has a vast array of flora and fauna including 20 different orchid types, 32 species of cactus and 34 species of bonsai in addition to trees, plants and ferns some of which are as old as the gardens.
The zoo exhibits a diverse range of animals including monkeys, tigers, hippos, lions, elephants, turtles and snakes. There are also rarer animals such as the white tiger.
The Giác Lâm Pagoda – Lạc Long Quân, Tân Bình, 84 8 3865 3933 was built in 1744 and is one of the oldest temples in the city.
Upon entering you will more than likely be met by a monk who will guide you around the temple. The monk points out details that you would have overlooked.
Giac Lam Pagoda has 112 historic statues, made from wood with gold coatings painted onto the exterior. In addition, there are seven bronze statues.
All of the statues, tables and the relic tower are hand crafted. The oldest statue is one of Gautama Buddha on a lotus seat that dates back to the 18th century.
Catch a show at the Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theater – Daily: 5, 6:30 & 7:45, 55 B Nguyen Thi Minh Khai St, Dist 1, 84 8 39302196
Traditional Vietnamese Water Puppet Shows remain one of the cultural draws for travelers to Ho Chi Minh City. They originated in the sodden rice paddies of the Red River Delta in North Vietnam.
They show the culture, traditions and folklore of Vietnamese life. You’ll see the puppets acting on a ‘stage’ of water accompanied by live old-fashioned music played on authentic instruments.
Shows are performed entirely in Vietnamese which is not a problem as the puppet gestures are obvious enough to keep you enthralled.
The musicians are often positioned to one side of the stage adding in sound effects and songs as the puppets, dragons, fairies and other ornamental figures dance across the stage.
Let your eyes and imagination take in this Indochine/Art Deco fantasia while you’re sipping on a caipirinha. The Temple Club – L & D: Daily, 29 Tôn Thất Thiệp, Bến Nghé, 84 8 3829 9244 is your oasis for dinner.
Start with the mi-quang soup. It’s a Danang style broth with yellow noodles, peanuts, shrimp and crunchy rice crackers.
Mains include shrimp in tamarind sauce, grilled monkfish in dill and garlic, Peking duck salad with papaya and crispy noodles.
Your wine is an ’11 Coppola Diamond Cab-Merlot and for dessert head downstairs for ice-cream at Fanny.
Day Three: Start your day with breakfast at the Ben Thanh Market – Daily: 8 AM, Lê Lợi, Bến Thành, 84 8 3829 2096
It was built by the French in 1870, and it is the oldest surviving market and a symbol of Ho Chi Minh city. It’s also a transportation hub. You should sample some of the Vietnamese dishes such as: banh cuos, banh beo, cha gio and hu tiu.
Nearby is the Fine Arts Museum – Tu-Su: 9-5, 97 A- Pho Duc Chinh, District 1, 08 38-294-441
The 1st floor contains domestic and international art displays. The 2nd floor has paintings and sculptures by Vietnamese and non-Vietnamese artists.
Some leading Vietnamese artists of the last 50 years whose paintings are displayed here include: Trinh Cung, Do Quang Em, Diep Minh Chau and Nguyen Gia Tri.
The 3rd floor holds a collection of historic arts ranging from 7th century to early 20th century, featuring Champa, elegant Funan-era sculptures of Vishnu, the Buddha and other revered figures (carved in both wood and stone), and earlier civilizations such as Oc Eo from the archaeological site in the Mekong Delta.
More statuary can be seen on the grounds and in the central courtyard.
For lunch today Cousin Hue suggests Dong Pho – B,L,D: Daily, 57 Ho Xua Huong Street, District 3, 84 8 3930 7665
The classic Vietnamese Pho (white noodles in broth with chicken or beef) is their signature dish.
Other popular choices are: steamed rice cakes with shrimp and shallots, Vermicelli spring rolls with scallops and shrimp, fermented pork skin and fried mussels.
Your wine is the ’02 Cocdado de Oriza Gran Reserve and dessert is their flan.
It’s time for a boat tour or the Saigon River. Several options are available.
Some include the Mekong Delta, the Cu Chi tunnels, secret city canals, villages and markets. Other offer music and dinner.
Until next time, best wishes and happy travels,
Dick & Dee Welge
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