Tuesday, May 19, 2009

VietNamNet - Touring Saigon and beyond in a Mercedes

As the Caravelle Hotel celebrates its fiftieth anniversary as a fixture in downtown Saigon, the hotel is opening the door on its first year as an organizer of tours.

Binh Tay Market in District 5's China Town.

Half day and day tours in Mercedes E-class vehicles leave from the hotel and go to the storied Cu Chi Tunnels and then into the Mekong Delta. Tour drivers speak English.

“Whether you’re here for business or leisure, there are several must-see attractions that define the character of this destination,” said John Gardner, general manager of the Caravelle. “Our concierge identified them and developed an itinerary and now we’re getting people out to see these museums, tunnels, landscapes and other spots,” Gardner said.

The HCMC Tour takes in Reunification Palace, the History Museum, Thien Hau Pagoda, Binh Tay Market, Notre Dame Cathedral and the Post Office. The tour also includes shopping at a lacquer factory.

The Cu Chi Tunnels Tour is 65 kilometers to the tunnel complex that is nationally considered hallowed ground.

During the war against Americans, Viet Cong soldiers used the tunnels as a staging ground for missions against the government of South Vietnam. Visitors on this tour can descend some sections of tunnel, fire automatic weapons and eat soldier food.

The My Tho Tour is a day trip into the Mekong Delta that includes boat rides to some of the region’s islands and river excursions to tropical gardens.

Americans Jason Landon Chain and Jordan Herbert Strauss said that they have toured Vietnam many times but the Caravelle’s My Tho tour was the most comfortable with the privacy afforded by the Mercedes and the two of them having both a driver and a tour guide. They said that although expensive, the tour offered classy service and flexible departure times.

The Caravelle tours range in price from US$130++ to US$240++

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