Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral
With them we visited Notre Dam Cathedral, Central Post Office, Reunification Palace, War Remnants Museum, Jade Emperor Pagoda, City Hall and Opera House. All located in downtown in District 1. We first took a cab to Notre Dam Cathedral , a km away from our hotel. It was built in 19th century by French colonialists. The interiors of the basilica do look a bit similar to its namesake in Paris but is not as ornate. In front of the cathedral there is a Virgin Mary statue which is said to have shed tears in 2005 causing thousands of people to stop at the basilica. As per our guides, later it was discovered that there is a small hole on the top of the statue, and some rain water must have passed down coming out through the eyes. Across the street from the cathedral lies the Central Post Office, the largest PO in Vietnam. The building looks beautiful from outside. Its architect is the famous Gustav Eiffel who also designed Eiffel Tower and Statue of Liberty.The cathedral - post office area seemed to be popular for taking wedding photos. We saw at least four wedding couples getting their photos professionally clicked over there. The boulevard outside the cathedral is quiet picturesque and a popular walking street. We decided to come back there later in evening.Walking distance from post office is the Opera House, another city landmark built by the French. It is open to the public during events/shows. Next our guides took us to a road-side kiosk to try Vietnamese milk tea. They had a wide variety of flavours, mostly fruit based, served both hot and cold. All four of us tried different flavours and they all tasted amazing. We then took a cab to War Remnants Museum. Few museums drive home the brutality of war so effectively. There are disturbing photographs of US war atrociwties. The are photos and news clipping showing how widely the war was opposed within US and by the world. It is unbelievable that this war continued for more than 20 years, under four different US Presidents. A section displays pictures of children horribly effected by Agent Orange, a bio-chemical used by US during the war. You will also see some of these effected Vietnamese in person, selling handmade souvenirs inside the museum. The museum closes by 12 noon, so reach there early enough to be able to go through most of the exhibits. Entry fee is 15,000 VND.
Phúc Kiến Temple (Chinese Temple)
After purchasing the entry ticket to the ancient town, we walked to Phuc Kien Temple - it was built by the Chinese in 17th century as an Assembly Hall but later converted into a temple dedicated to the goddess of sea who protects sailors. It is a photogenic monument with ornate gate and colorful courtyard.
Bai Dinh Temple
It would have been an incomplete trip if I didn’t head to Bai Dinh, the biggest complex of Buddhist temples in the Ninh Binh Province in Northern Vietnam. The architecture is very traditional which can be seen in the design pattern followed on the outside as well as the interiors. The intricate interior work full of wood carpentry, stone work and embroidery is said to be selected from local handicraft communities. You can spend hours appreciating the magnificence of this place. When you exit you will be won over by its tranquility. The temple has a new complex which includes many structures built over 7 years. The old temple is located in small caves below the new temple along the mountain. You have to climb up a series of stone steps to reach it.
A sophisticated, chic joint in a converted Chinese temple, Temple Club serves delicious cocktails and Vietnamese fusion food. templeclub.com.vnCHEF LUKE NGUYENRESTAURANT: NgonSIGNATURE DISH: Vegetarian Pho BrothA Vietnamese-Australian chef, Nguyen first opened the Red Lantern in Sydney in 2002 and offered a modern Vietnamese cuisine, with the help of a bunch of family recipes. It became an instant hit. Now, his Vietnamese restaurant in Frogtown offers a mix of Fresh- Vietnamese food in a farm-to-fork concept.BALIThe Tip: Revealing Bali’s best side are raw food restaurants, vegan establishments, and organic markets when youwant to cook your own meal. Relax, you’re meat-proof.