In July 2014, John and I went to Saigon for a few days.
One of the highlights of our time there was The Sights Tour with XO Tours Vietnam.
The Sights Tour includes a fun motorbike ride to the most popular tourist attractions in Saigon, a lot of info at each destination, a sugarcane smoothie, local fruits to snack on, and several photos taken by the staff.
Our tour guides picked us up at our hotel, and then drove us to the tour meeting spot between the Central Post Office and Notre Dame Cathedral.
This is also a popular place for couples to take their pre-wedding photos.
And for tourists to have their photos taken with the soon-to-be bride and groom.
The first stop on our tour was the Saigon Central Post Office:
The building was built in the 19th century, when Vietnam was under French rule, and was designed and constructed by the famous architect, Gustave Eiffel.
It is said that Eiffel was inspired by a train station when designing the interior.
I love these old wooden phone booths:
And people still use them for making phone calls.
Notre Dame Cathedral is across the street from the post office.
The cathedral was built between 1863 and 1880 and the two bell towers were added in 1895, each 190 feet high.
Notre Dame Cathedral is still used for worship and weddings.
The Our Lady of Peace statue arrived from Rome on February 16, 1959.
Rumor has it that in October 2005, the Virgin Mary statue shed tears.
The phenomenon attracted thousands of people but the Catholic Church claims the statue did not shed tears, no matter how many eyewitnesses said she did.
Independence Palace, also known as Reunification Palace, was the home of the President of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War.
It was also the site of the end of the Vietnam War when a North Vietnamese Army tank crashed through the gates.
The building now functions as a museum.
There is a busy intersection in front of the palace and our guides decided we should all jump for a photo in front of it.
After several tries, we managed to capture a couple of “good enoughs”.
Those girls were a hoot!
Our next stop was the Venerable Thich Quang Duc Memorial.
Thich Quang Duc, a Vietnamese Mahayana Buddhist monk, burned himself to death on Thang Tam Street on June 11, 1963.
Quang Duc was protesting the persecution of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese government.
From the memorial we could see down Gia Long Street.
At the end of the Vietnam War, Dutch photojournalist, Hugh Van Es, took one of the best-known images of evacuees boarding an American helicopter from the roof of 22 Gia Long Street.
It was reported that the photo showed Americans on the roof of the US Embassy, but it was really an apartment building for the employees of the CIA, a half a mile from the US Embassy.
The last stop of the Sight’s Tour was the Thien Hau Pagoda, a temple located in Chinatown.
The temple is dedicated to the goddess Thien Hau, the Lady of the Sea.
It is believed that Thien Hau can travel over the oceans on a mat and can ride clouds to save people in trouble on the high seas.
For that reason, the goddess is mainly worshipped in seafaring Chinese communities.
Thien Hau is not a deity of Taoism or Buddhism, but she has been brought into connection with figures and themes from both.
Thien Hau Pagoda is also well-known for the large incense coils that hang from the ceiling.
Some are so large, they can burn for almost a month!
John and I enjoy learning about different cultures and religions and appreciated all of the information our guides offered us on the tour.
XO Tours is a highly ranked motorbike tour company in Vietnam and I now know why.
Not only did we learn a lot, but we had a blast riding through the city on a motorbike in the Motorbike Capital of the World!
Thank you, Khanh Pham and Friends . . . we loved every second!
We also went on the Seafood Trail Night Tour with Saigon Street Eats. You can read all about that HERE.