WE HAVE just sailed into Phu My, the port that services Ho Chi Minh City or, as the locals still call it, Saigon.
After a long and protracted war between North and South Vietnam, or what they called the American War, it finally came to an end in 1975 when the National Liberation Front (North Vietnam) rolled into Saigon in their tanks and took over the Presidents Palace. As the tanks crashed through the front gates of the palace, American helicopters took off from the roof signalling the end of the war.
The Americans had turned Saigon into a bustling city with a huge nightlife and it still goes on today.
With a population of over nine million, Saigon caters for everything from its central Ben Thanh market full of copy tee shirts, watches and everything else in between, to a sophisticated nightlife full of clubs and more. It has it all.
Must sees are the Reunification Palace, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Central Post Office (which was designed by Gustave Eiffel, who also did the tower in Paris) and the Chu Chi Tunnels, where the Viet Cong had an underground network of hospitals and accommodation for troops where they could hide during the war. The tunnels were hand dug and would just fit a small Vietnamese, but not the much bigger allies.
A warning if you visit the Museum of American War Crimes, expect a far different story of war than what we see in the West. The hundreds of graphic photos of the destruction of war tell a very horrific story from the communist viewpoint.
Saigon is a great city to visit with its wide streets. A hangover from its French Colonial influence that still lives on today is the freshly baked bread/croissants for sale on the streets each day, together with the Vietnams love of coffee.
Armed with our purchases and experiences we return to our ship to head further down the coast.
We have arrived in Singapore and what a city. On tour, I take the cable car that takes you high up over the city. Operating since 1974, it provides panoramic views from Mount Faber to Sentosa Island.
The island has become a major tourist attraction with Universal Studios, Maddam Tussauds, S.E.A. Aquarium, comic book characters and a 4D simulator ride plus a massive casino complex, to mention just a few.
If you want something different then head for the Gardens by the Bay. It’s a collection of green gardens from around the world but the big highlights are the Flower Dome, a massive structure featuring flowers from around the world but laid out in such a way it has an eye popping effect. The dome keeps its flowers and visitors cool no matter what the weather outside.
Next is the Cloud Forest, which is again under a weather tight dome. You are greeted by a huge waterfall, an incredible array of plants and puffs of cloud that drift across the multi-story display.
But the real highlight for me was the Super Tree Grove. You must visit during the evening. As the sun goes down, the super trees come to life. Their massive man-made structures are covered with vertical gardens that glow and shine as thousands of coloured lights raise ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ from the large crowds gathered to witness the event.
And of course, no visit to Singapore is complete without dropping into Raffles Hotel, home of the Singapore Gin Sling. But be careful, they will set you back nearly $40 a class.
Returning to our ship we are joined by another large contingent of Aussies, who had joined the ship for the last part of the journey to Sydney. We now set sail for Darwin so we will be at sea for the next four days and the Aussies will party, party, party.
To be continued…
Until next time,