Ships, Planes, Trains and River boats taking us through Asia, Middle East, Africa, Baltic, England, Paris and Amsterdam through to Budapest...

Friday, April 4, 2014

15 Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

There was always confusion about where we were going to dock today.... Was it going to be Phu My or was going to be down town.... Then word came through that we were going to dock at the industrial docks about 45 min out of town... But luck prevailed and we did dock right in the middle of town. 
This meant we had the long and scenic sail down the Mekong River.... We got up early and the first thing that hit you when you walked out the door was the smell ... not a nice smell... but a smell that reminded you that you were in Asia....  Along the banks we passed rice fields, a lot of vegetation and a lot of industrial and shipping areas... we passed cargo ships, all types of fishing boats, barges pulled by tugs laden with what looked like dirt or sand...  even saw a small boat providing boat to boat service  selling vegetables..
Eventually the city started to loom in front of us as we zigzagged up the river with the captain sounding our horn warning the straying boats ahead to keep out of our path....
We had a tour booked with Smile Tours and eight of us made our way around the city under the expert guidance of Thuan (Ton).  The thing you noticed in Vietnam is the motor cycles on the road.... people population is 9,000,000, motor cycle population 5,000,000.... and they were all on the road today...  Masses and masses of bikes.... We were given an analogy when we arrived back in the afternoon from friends who did a motor bike tour... Their driver said “you will be safe driving in Vietnam as long as you stay in school”.....  Think of a school of fish and how they all swim in formation ...that is exactly what the groups of motor bikes look like... deviate from this group and you run the risk of having an accident....
Always thankful in these parts for air conditioned vans our first visit was to China Town.  We visited the Binh Tay Markets and the Thein Hau Temple for the Goddess of the sea.  Here was our first experience in crossing the road.... Rules are simple... once you start walking don’t stop, the motor bikes will weave their way around you .... Now that was scary, you walk and don’t look cause that bike heading for you will not hit you....
Then we headed to the Notre Dame Cathedral built by the French ... There are many signs in the architecture where they tried to create a little Paris outside of France. The most amazing thing was to see brides and grooms dotted around the street having their photos taken with the cathedral as their back drop..... now when I said around the street I meant in the middle of streets regardless of the traffic... though Vietnam have these people dressed in green who serve as security and in really busy areas they also take on the role of directing traffic... if that is possible.  Actually... the weddings are not for another 3 months... They are just getting in early with the photos.
Next to the Cathedral is the Old Post office, beautiful inside and out.  We loved the old telephone booths with the clocks above giving the time in many different cities.
Next stop was the War Remnants Museum, a very confronting version on how the Vietnamese perceived the war. The images were very moving and you see how all sides suffered the consequences.
We left the museum to visit the Lacquer Factory.  The factory was set up to employ those with handicaps that would otherwise find work hard to obtain... We watched as they carried out the beautiful intricate work.  The artwork is created with the use of eggshells and mother of pearl mosaiced on a piece of timber then lacquered and polished to give a wonderful smooth and shiny finish... If you look at the pictures above, we would have loved a piece like the one they were working on, unfortunately they had none completed.... In true marketing form they tried to sell us an unlacquered piece claiming that some people like the natural look ( It’s the shine that makes them impressive ) ....  After seeing we were not interested in anything else they did make the last ditch effort in offering to deliver a finished product to our hotel.... Unfortunately they would have to bring it by fishing boat to somewhere out in the South China Sea.
Driving back through the city you notice the many parks and green areas they have.... and so beautifully maintained... and it is unfortunate that the Saigon River that weaves it way around the city is so dirty looking. Next we found a garden square surrounded by the many French inspired buildings that include the Town Hall and other high class hotels.  We were told that in front of the Town Hall was a canal that lead all the way down to the Mekong river. This was filled in by the French to create Vietnam’s own Champs Elysees.  Around the corner they have a very grand Opera House.
We were starting to feel a little peckish now but before lunch we visited a shop where we sampled some Vietnamese Tea (cold) and Vietnamese Coffee ( hot )... remember I mentioned that smell when we woke up this morning .... it was like we were drinking it... warmed up Mekong River water ewww!!  We sat on what looked like kid’s furniture and we did get to sample some yummy dried or should I say sugared fruit... at least it took the coffee flavour away...
Now for some real lunch... next stop was Pho 2000 a noodle restaurant whose claim to fame is that President Clinton ate there ... We had the $10 Clinton special.... Spring Rolls, chicken noodles washed down with 333 beer.....  Well we can say that this was one of Bill’s better decisions as the food was delicious.
Our final hours in Ho Chi Minh were spent at the Ben Thanh Markets... anything your heart desires at really cheap prices... Had to laugh as our guide tried to tell us we should be careful what we buy at the markets as a lot of the stuff is not made in Vietnam... but in China !!  we told him that we are used to that!! One purchase we did make was Weasel Coffee....  Coffee Beans fed to Weasels..... Excreted by weasels..... Cleaned, roasted, ground and brewed... who’s coming to our house for dinner!!
We exited Ho Chi Minh the same way we entered it, but with the blue skies and a little clear conditions it was much prettier....


  1. Hi Jo. Followed your progress up the river on the bridge cam. That was great docking right in the city. Have posted some grabs on CC
    David..... Kiwi Kruzer

    1. thanks david... I hope you all know that I read all your comments usually off line hence why I don't answer a lot...