U.S. President Barack Obama visited a century-old pagoda as his first destination after arriving in Ho Chi Minh City on Tuesday afternoon, part of his ongoing trip to Vietnam scheduled for May 22-25.
The Air Force One carrying the U.S. president landed at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in the southern metropolis at around 4:00 pm.
The visiting U.S. head of state had finished delivering his speech in front of 2,000 Vietnamese people in Hanoi on the morning of the same day before leaving the capital for Ho Chi Minh City in the afternoon.
President Obama visited the Jade Pagoda at 4:30 pm to pay tribute to and admire the cultural traditions of Vietnam.
The Jade Pagoda is fully known as Jade Emperor Pagoda, or Chua Ngoc Hoang in Vietnamese.
Also known as Phuoc Hai Tu or Da Kao Pagoda, the temple is situated on Mai Thi Luu Street in District 1, the financial and commercial hub of Ho Chi Minh City.
The monument was temporarily unavailable to visitors and Buddhists until the visit ended.
Many local citizens could not hide their excitement as they gathered on the sidewalks and at the cafés near the pagoda at around noon to see the president in the flesh.
Street blocks were erected on Mai Thi Luu Street hours before the arrival of President Obama and those residents living in the vicinity were required to close their windows and not to take any photo during his presence at the venue.
Locals welcome the motorcade of U.S. President Barack Obama on Mai Thi Luu Street in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City.
According to Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper reporters, a van carrying secret service agents came to the pagoda prior the president’s entry to carry out preparations and tighten security.
All reporters, along with their equipment, were thoroughly checked by the agents and detection dogs before entering the place, while all Wi-Fi and mobile signals in the area were blocked.
President Obama and the delegation of U.S. officials had a brief conversation with several Buddhist monks.
The U.S. head of state then headed to the main hall of the monument to pay his tribute.
As he left the venue at around 4:50 pm, President Obama did not forget to smile and wave at Vietnamese citizens from outside the pagoda.
Besides the pagoda visit, the U.S. president’s agenda in Ho Chi Minh City includes attending an event that is focused on both the two countries’ commercial ties and entrepreneurship, and hosting a town hall with members of the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI).
After that, Obama will end his Vietnam visit and leave the southern metropolis for Japan for a G7 summit on Wednesday afternoon.
U.S. President Barack Obama waves at Vietnamese citizens after visiting the Jade Pagoda in Ho Chi Minh City on May 24, 2016. Photo: Tuoi Tre