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A DAY IN SAIGON – YOUR ADVISE PLEASE

Submitted by Suellen (Oliver) Campbell (ACS)

Charles and I are planning a cruise to Asia next year (2018) that includes a one-day stop in Saigon along the way.

The ship will provide transportation to the city from the port with a short tour of the city included.

We have no interest in seeing the tunnels or areas outside the city.

I am wondering if any of the Saigon Kids who have returned in the past few years would recommend investigating the city on our own after the day tour is over?

I would like to find our old house on Phan Dinh Phung, if possible, but we want to be safe if we venture out on our own.

Is transportation still easily available these days?

Did you find the currency easy to calculate?

Are there any obvious pitfalls to avoid?

For all intents and purposes, my Vietnamese is non-existent.

Should we stick with the ship tour, or add our adventure?

Any suggestions are welcome and appreciated.

Thanks!

Suellen (Saigon ACS ’58-60)

14 comments to A DAY IN SAIGON – YOUR ADVISE PLEASE

  • Richard Peabody

    Suellen (Oliver) Campbell

    Are you by chance traveling on Regent Seven Seas Voyager from Hong Kong to Bangkok on April 8? My wife and I will be on the ship and looking forward to visiting Saigon again. I went to ACS in 1960 and then went to a boarding school in Dalat. Hope your on the same trip as us.

    • Suellen Oliver Campbell

      Sorry Richard. That is not our ship. It would have been a great opportunity to meet another Saigon Kid. Safe travels to you and your wife. Suellen

      • Margaret BUI-QUAN

        My name is Margaret and I live in Paris, France and was a Saigon Kid in 1963 to 1965.
        I am also interested in an Asia cruise with a stop in Saigon.
        can you give me your email address and date departure with the name of the company ?
        Thank you.
        Margaret

  • Marie (Perry) Wright

    Hi Suellen!….
    I went back to Saigon (and also went up to Hanoi) in 2003, and never ever felt anything negative. We drove up to Phan Thiet, and flew to Hanoi also which was a wonderful place to discover. The traffic is crazy everywhere, and Saigon is a busy busy place with lots to discover. It was great to go back to the Cercle sportif, and to find my old house on Tu Xuong (the owner was an architect, and there was a picture of Ho Chi Minh with him hanging in my parents’ old bedroom). I told the family that I had lived there in the 60s, and they could not have been more welcoming, inviting me to tour the house, and asking all about our time there in the 60s (61-65). I stayed in touch with their daughter for many years, and they repeatedly invited me to come and stay with them!…. I go back to SEAsia almost every year but primarily to Laos now, and have absolutely loved every visit….Sad that you only have one day, but I sure would not do any guided tour…I would get a taxi (they’re everywhere) and ask him if he knows where the old Phan Dinh Phung street is…most names have changed, but many people know the old names. The only thing to be careful of I think is pickpockets, as they spot tourists miles away…. Hope this is helpful!!….have a great trip!!!

  • sarah j rogers

    Do your own tour for sure. It is easy to walk around and find taxis. I have gone back twice and never felt a bit of negative vibe. You should be able to find your own house easily. Someone has a map with the old street names-Roy McDonald maybe? Ask on all the sites.
    The post office, Cathedral, Opera House, Continental Hotel, Central Market,Cerc Sportif and many other landmarks are all in the same place and make it easy for you to know ‘where you are”.
    Lots of changes to the Saigon we knew but still much the same and to remember.

  • Suellen Oliver Campbell

    Thank you all for the great advice. I am feeling more confident after reading your comments. Bob, I’ll be sure to look for the map. As usual, you and the Saigon Kids site are so very helpful! Will let you know how it goes.
    Suellen

  • Bruce T. Berger

    My brother and I went back in 2013 and had a great time. We found two of our old houses in Saigon. A lot of the street names have changed, but the numbers haven’t. The Vietnamese have a Tourist Security police presence to help ensure safety for visitors. We walked all over Saigon with no problem, except for an elderly Vietnamese woman who berated my brother for carrying his camera in a way that she felt exposed him to having it stolen. That’s a kind of problem we can live with. : ) Here’s a link to the blog I wrote about the trip. The entries for Saigon in the early part, and toward the end may be of interest to you. Enjoy your trip! http://backtoseasia.blogspot.com/2013/03/return-to-southeast-asia.html

  • Larry Duthie

    Hi Suellen,
    My wife Roz and I went to Saigon in 1996 (and we plan to go back in the spring of this year or next. So, do remember that this advice is 20 years old. She found the central market amazing, and I certainly enjoyed seeing it again. But as in the past, you want to go there early, before it gets steamy hot and odorous.

    Then grab another taxi and head to your old house. Ours was within walking distance of downtown, and I remembered the way. But when we got to the corner that I remembered as ours, it was not there. Instead there was a three-story building that had been built into what had been our front yard. An Australian company was the tenant. Later, when I looked carefully at the photo I took, I could see that our old house was still there, tucked closely behind the new building.

    We had a gin-tonic in the Continental’s courtyard. The place had not changed a bit. But I think it has been torn down and replaced. You’ll be amazed at the high-rise buildings. Ho Chi Minh City is one of Asia’s booming places now.

    I agree with others who say to ditch the tour. You’ll be with a pile of tourists and be surrounded by folks selling trinkets. We went to the Circle Sportif, which is now a People’s Center. Still looked the same, but scruffier. And there is a second pool next to the one we hung at.

    If you have time, go to the big Buddhist temple at the edge of town. We hired cyclos to pedal us out there, but they may be a thing of the past. Some of the best photos I took were in the smokey interior of that bustling temple.

    I also went to Hue and Hanoi with Richard Turner, also a Saigon Kid, and if you find yourself there, do tour the Ho Chi Minh Museum. Fantastic.

    Have fun!

    Larry

    We felt comfortable everywhere, and we found the people delightful. Everyone wanted to walk with us and practice their English.

  • Georgene Mattson Assur

    I visited Saigon and Hue last January and hoped to find my old house and other landmarks I could recognize. So much has changed – so crowded now. The population in Saigon has gone from 1 million in 1963 to 10 million now. Crossing the streets in Saigon is tricky. You must raise your arm and step out into oncoming traffic which does not stop but goes around you. Scary at first but quite empowering once you get the hang of it. It took a few days! The zoo is the same (sadly for the animals, very little improvement) and the swimming pool and tennis courts (Cerce de Sportif) are still standing, being used, and unchanged. I think that was the most exciting discovery for me because I spent so much time there. It took us 3 hours of walking around in circles until we found it – the address is not helpful as the complex is behind other buildings. Anyway, if you want to go there, find the Water Puppet Theater and go behind it. I was delighted to be in Saigon and would go back if it were not so far away! Have a wonderful trip!

  • David L. Cutler

    Suellen, what was your address on Phan Dinh Phung? I was there from 1960 to 1962 and lived at 172 Phan Dinh Phung? I’ve looked for it on Google Maps, but I don’t think it’s there anymore. Good luck on your trip!

  • Franklin Stoddard

    Suellen, So glad you are going back. I think you will find Saigon as one of the safest and friendliest places for Americans. (Well, as Georgene mentioned above, crossing streets can be stressful. lol I just had a beer or two to give me the courage) In 2009, we dealt with both local currency and with U.S. in Vietnam. For a day in Saigon you may not even have to exchange money. Just play it by ear. Most folks seem to like the dollar. If you want to go somewhere, just talk with a taxi driver ahead of time and figure out the cost. When we were there, we did find out, that we had to tell the driver when to turn, etc. because I do not think many can read a map. Please have a wonderful visit to Saigon and let us know how it went. Frank

  • Steve Pryplesh

    Suellen,
    I was in Saigon 59-61 and visited in 2004. I used a current map and an old one to guide the cabbie with the new street names.
    I lived half a block from the EDV BOQ near the PX. The house did not look at all like it did. The whole block was now shops and an upward addition to the house.
    Concur with Frank on talking to cabbie in advance.
    Steve

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