1. Local life experiences in Saigon (full day)
Begin the tour with a visit to FITO - the first private Museum of Traditional Vietnamese Medicine in Vietnam, with an amazing collection of 3,000 items relating to the development of traditional medicine. Implements used to prepare indigenous herbs and objects commonly found in traditional pharmacies can be seen in the galleries, as well as ancient books and documents on traditional Vietnamese medicine. Afterwards, explore Ho Thi Ky - the largest flower market in Saigon, which supplies flowers to the city and some provinces in the south of the country. Founded in the 1980s, this is a rare place that retains the characteristics of old Saigon and has recently become a favored destination for travelers. Next visit Cholon, the Chinatown district of Saigon, to discover the area’s markets, shops, and the Cantonese Thien Hau Pagoda. Head back to the city center to visit Ben Thanh Market, where an incredible display of fresh produce is offered. Enjoy a stroll through the market exploring the variety of goods for sales. In the afternoon, visit the War Remnants (or History) Museum, and the former Presidential Palace. From the Palace, stroll to the major sights of colonial Saigon including the Old Saigon Post Office, Dong Khoi Street (formerly Rue Catinat), the Continental Hotel, Opera House and City Hall. Note: History Museum closed on Mondays.
2. Saigon Historic Landmarks and Hidden Charms (half day)
Highlights: See Saigon’s highlights on this revealing half-day city tour. Learn about Vietnam’s cultural past from older Saigonese residents and follow up by exploring some colonial buildings and hidden corners that exemplify the local culture and the city’s colorful heritage.
This tour begins at 08:30 or 13:00 and starts with a visit to the iconic Saigon Central Post Office built between 1886 and 1891. Based on the design of French architect Foulhoux, it has a unique vaulted ceiling with wrought-iron beams and columns reminiscent of industrial architecture,
which is now considered a symbol of Saigon and one of its most famous landmarks. Stop for a chat with Mr Duong (if he is available), who enjoys local notoriety for his professional love letter-writing skills.
Walk along Dong Khoi street, formerly rue Catinat, and pay a visit to Gia Long Palace – Ho Chi Minh City Museum to admire its beautiful architecture and learn about the history of the city through the ages. Continue to Le Loi Street to meet a local artisan who specialises in traditional engravings.
Next, stroll through the old central market before arriving at the city’s oldest colonial-era apartment, built in 1886, and see what the young creative Vietnamese are up to in their funky boutiques and coffee shops. Sit down at one of the stylish cafés and chat with a local resident who moved here in 1975.
· Optional (combined with half-day program): Enjoy a unique dining experience at NOIR; lunch in the dark before returning to the ship
Noir - Dining in the Dark: Of the five senses, sight dominates. Take away sight, and our other senses emerge to interpret the world from another perspective. Smell becomes more subtle. Taste becomes more acute. Hearing becomes more sensitive. Touch becomes more delicate. We invite you to experience a culinary journey through taste, smell, touch and sound. This is not simply dining, but rather a uniquely mind-altering experience where smell, taste, touch and hearing unite to bring you a completely new journey of the senses.
3. Cu Chi Tunnels and Vespa City Tour (full day)
Travel to the famous Cu Chi Tunnels in style on one of Les Rives’ luxurious speedboats, while learning about life on the river as you glide through the floating hyacinths. Explore the historic tunnels, from the weapons to underground bunkers. If you are feeling extra adventurous, you can even crawl through genuine Viet Cong tunnels and try the local cassava root, which the fighters sustained themselves on for years. After the blast from the past at the Cu Chi Tunnels, enjoy a traditional Vietnamese lunch right by the river and then relax as the graceful Les Rives speedboat takes you back to Saigon.
At roughly 1pm, you will be picked up on a restored vintage Vespa from Tan Cang pier to show you the best way to get off the beaten track in Saigon. While cruising through the bustling streets like a local on the back of a scooter, see the sites that you would never find on your own. Learn about Saigon life, such as the small family businesses in the big city, the Chinese community and their influence on medicine, Vietnamese customs and religion, and much more. Finish at a hidden, serene Buddhist Pagoda which has yet to be found by most tourists. At around 4:30pm, the tour comes to an end and you will be dropped off at the ship.