Ho Chi Minh Square is located in central Saigon, District 1. It is in front of Ho Chi Minh City Hall.
Bitexco Financial Tower is the second tallest building in Vietnam at 264m at the top of the spire. Viet Nam’s tallest building is Hanoi’s Keangnam Hanoi Landmark Tower at 349m.
Saigon Opera House opened on January 1 1900. It is an example of French Colonial Architecture.
Saigon Central Post Office opened in 1891 during the French rule.
Saigon Independence Palace, or as it was first called, Reunification Palace, was finished in 1966. It replaced the Norodom Palace that used to be home to the French Governor. It was the home of the South Vietnamese president until the fall of Saigon in 1975.
Ha Long Bay has many caves on different islands, one of the biggest cave systems is Hang Sung Sot on Bo Hon island..
Hang Sung Sot cave on Bo Hon island was discovered by French explorers in 1901 and they named it “Grotte des surprises-the surprise cave”sin French. The name persists, but now in Vietnamese. The cave system has two chambers and it is outfitted with easy to walk trails and steps, so it is mostly easy walking after you climb up the stairs from the pier to reach the entrance to the caves.
The caves are full of both stalactites (extends from the cave ceiling downward) and stalagmites (from the bottom up). There are also formations called flowstone which is a more sheet like formation of calcite and other minerals left when water flows down the walls or on he floor of the cave.
Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, was made the capital on April 21, 1782. It replaced Ayutthaya as the capital. Ayutthaya is located about 85km North of Bangkok, about an hour drive. Today only the ruins remain of the former capital. The first kingdom in Thailand was known as Sukhothai. It was founded in 1238 and was the most powerful under King Ramkhamhaeng in the 14:th century. Sukhothai later became part of the Kingdom of Ayuttaya which ruled Thailand and most of S/E Asia including Laos and Cambodia at the time. The Kingdom of Ayutthaya also later came to include the Northern Kingdom of Lanna.
In 1765 the Kingdom of Ayutthaya was attacked by Burma and the two kingdoms were at war until the Burmese had to withdraw to fight a Chinese incursion into Burma by the end of 1767. The Thai King, Taksin could then regroup, regain control of the country and form a new capital, Thonburi. The successor of King Taksin, General Chakri later moved the capital to Bankgok and became King Rama I.
The house of Chakri still rules the Kingdom of Thailand and today it is through the ancestor of King Rama I, Maha Vajiralongkorn, known as Rama X. Thailand was named Siam until 1937 when the name was changed to the Kingdom of Thailand.
Home of the Kings since 1782, Grand Palace is a sprawling compound that also used to house the King’s court and his majesty’s government as late as 1925.
The temple “Wat Pho”, or as it’s official name is “Wat Phra Chetuphon Wimon Mangkhalaram Rajwaramahawihan” is located just South of the Grand Palace and is also known as “the Temple of the reclining Buddha”. This temple is one of the temples on a list of six Royal temples that are of the highest class of the Royal temples. The temple has the most Buddha images of any temple in Thailand and one of them is the 46m long reclining Buddha. It is also one of Bangkok’s oldest temples and is believed to have been built sometime during the rule of King Petratcha 1688-1703.
Suvarnabhumi Airport is the home of Thai Airways International Public Co., ltd. doing business as Thai. The airline was formed in 1960 and it was a joint venture between the domestic carrier Thai Airways Company and Scandinavian Airlines (founded in 1946), SAS which owned a 30% stake in the joint venture. SAS was providing assistance with personnel training, operations, management and marketing – all with the intent of building a national Thai airline within the shortest timeframe possible. SAS held a stake in Thai until 1971 when the the Thai government bought out the remaining 15% and the carrier became a governmentally controlled National airline.
MahaNakhon or as it has now been renamed “King Power MahaNakhon” was designed by a team that included German Architect Ole Scheeren. When it was completed in 2016 it was the tallest building in Thailand, topping out at 314 m. It has since been pushed down to the second tallest building by another building in Bangkok, Magnolias Waterfront Residences at ICONSIAM finished in 2018 and topping out at 317 m.
If you spring for the ticket to go up in MahaNhakon a stunning view of Bangkok and the Chao Phraya river awaits you.
Sukhumvit area of Bangkok is nowadays an upscale neighborhood with many foreigners having made it their home. Thea area has plenty of upscale shopping malls, top notch hotels and restaurants. Sukhumvit Road is one of the longest road in Thailand as well as one of the longest roads in the world.
Ha Long Bay in the Gulf of Tonkin in Northern Vietnam is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Vietnamese legend has it that the bay was formed when a Dragon fell to earth. There are just under 2,000 islands and rock formations in the bay and most all are uninhabited. Halong Bay is on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage sites. You can easily get there from Ha Noi and most of the companies that are allowed to operate boats in the bay also include transportation from Ha Noi.
The cruise company does a pretty good job of entertaining the guests when nature alone is not enough to fill the time. One popular event is the “make your own spring roll”. There is a demonstration to follow along in to show you how to roll it and then you may try your hand at making a spring roll.
Once you have mastered the technique of spring rolling, you get to eat your creation as an appetizer at dinner.
Being a vegetarian or even vegan in Vietnam, is in my experience easy. The pork is of course used a lot here, as in most S/E Asian countries, but good vegetarian options are readily available. If they are not on the menu, most kitchens will change dishes so as to be vegetarian/vegan if you just ask. For the Ha Long Cruise companies, just notify them in advance and they will have your options available.
One of the excursions takes you to The beach on Ti top island (named for Russian cosmonaut Gherman Stepanovich Titov). This is one of the few beaches in Ha Long Bay that is now open to visitors. It used to be a “free for all” but the local government had to step in to make sure that the area was not totally destroyed by tourists that had no regard for the fragile environment. Today there are only a few beaches where the boats are allowed to take tourists that want to go swimming. This restriction obviously mean that the most accessible beaches get overrun by people and the obviously takes away ,most of the enjoyment of the beach trip. The boats are also only allowed to anchor up in certain areas and after an accident in 2010 they are put in the same areas so as to have help nearby should anything go wrong.
Long way to Ha Long…
Long way to Ha Long, is if the company that takes you there from Ha Noi doesn’t take the toll road to get there. The long way (about 190km with lower speed limits) adds a lot of time and may take as long as three to four hours. The toll road (150km) is much faster, about two hours. The scenic value of the slow road does not make up for the added time. I did not know this in advance, so I wound up on the slow road going there. Going back I changed to the toll road which is a better choice.