History weighs heavily on Vietnam. For more than a decade, news reports from a war that racked the country portrayed it as a brutal abyss. Yet, only thirty years after the war's end, Vietnam's considerable attractions, including its astonishing physical beauty, rich traditional cultures and exuberant people, have emerged from the shadows. This excursion provides the opportunity to explore snippets of the American presence during the Vietnam War, and the new life of Saigon after that war.
Leaving the port, drive past the site where the fortress-like US Embassy was located from September 1965 to April 29, 1975. The memories of the structure is etched in history as the site where thousands of desperate South Vietnamese, attempting to evade capture by the communist forces from the North, fought their way up the steps to the rooftop and into waiting American helicopters. Next, pass the City Square and view some of the former American BOQs and BEQs, including the Saigon Department Store, and the Rex, Caravelle and Continental Hotels. Stop at the War Museum and view countless graphic exhibits, artifacts and photographs, as well as American planes, tanks, bombs and helicopters on display.
Following lunch in a local restaurant, continue past the former residence of General Westmoreland located on the outskirts of Saigon, as well as one of the American Field Hospitals. On the way to the Cu Chi Tunnels, pass the former Saigon Airport where, in the 1970s, thousands of soldiers poured out of planes as the American presence in Vietnam continued to grow. At Cu Chi, explore the extensive tunnel system with its store rooms, sleeping quarters, kitchens, hospitals and schools. Vietnamese resistance fighters constructed the 120-mile-long underground maze, where thousands of fighters and villagers could hide during their long struggle for independence.