The Olympic torch kicked off the Vietnamese leg of its journey towards Beijing without incident on Tuesday night, according to the dpa .
The relay started after a ceremony on the steps of Ho Chi Minh City's ornate French colonial Opera House, as protests called for by Vietnamese political activists and bloggers were prevented by police.
The first of Vietnam's 60 torchbearers, Ho Chi Minh City vice mayor Nguyen Thi Thu Ha, carried the freshly lit torch away along the main downtown avenue of Le Loi Street, as Vietnamese and Chinese fans cheered her on, waving Chinese flags.
The torch then turned north along the city's elegant Pasteur Street and headed towards its destination, the city's military stadium, 13 kilometers away.
Cordons of police kept all but a handpicked crowd of a few hundred, mainly members of the Communist Youth League, from attending the opening ceremony. Details of the torch's route had been kept secret until the last minute by public authorities to discourage anti-Chinese protests.
Throughout the day, public displays were restricted to supporters of the August 8-24 Games in Beijing.
Chinese tourists and residents of Vietnam marched in small groups through major streets, exuberantly waving their country's flag. Lampposts and public spaces throughout the city were draped with banners bearing the Beijing Olympics logo and welcoming the torch delegation to the city.
Large numbers of uniformed and undercover police surrounded the city's Opera House and at its landmark Notre Dame Cathedral, both sites where activist bloggers, mainly students, had called for demonstrations.
Earlier Tuesday, at least six people protesting the Beijing Olympics were detained after a brief protest at the city's Dong Xuan market.
Two men hoisted banners with the words "Beijing 2008" and a design depicting the Olympic rings as handcuffs before being hustled away by dozens of uniformed and plainclothes police officers.
A desk officer at the local police station confirmed a police rapid reaction unit had brought in six detainees.
Larger demonstrations called for in Hanoi on the blogs of local democracy activists seemed not to have materialized. Police were present in unusual numbers at the Chinese embassy and at Dong Xuan market before the demonstration had begun.
Two Vietnamese who had planned to march from to the city's Hoan Kiem lake for a large protest said that police had arrested dozens of their number at Dong Xuan market, but the larger number of arrests could not be confirmed.
"Every time four or five of us would start to gather in a group to begin a demonstration, the police would surround them, push them into a police car and take them away," said one protestor, who declined to give his name.
Unlike other countries on the torch's route that have seen protests, the would-be protestors in Vietnam were concerned not with China's actions in Tibet, but with its claim to sovereignty over the Spratly and Paracel islands in the South China Sea. Vietnam also claims the islands, which may be rich in petroleum resources.
Widespread nationalist resentment of China's claims boiled over into rare spontaneous demonstrations by Vietnamese protestors in December in front of the Chinese embassy in Hanoi and the consulate in Ho Chi Minh City.