Thailand & Vietnam Voyage
Monday December 2 to Tuesday December 3, 2013

Let's just call it Saigon

Following our 3 day tour of Bangkok we had another day at sea before reaching the next destination of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Our arrival was scheduled for noon on Monday December 2, so we were able to watch the daylight approach of the ship through the twists and turns of the Nha Be River and Saigon River to reach the Nha Rong Port in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City where Azamara Journey would dock for this two day visit.

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    The arrival time also gave us the opportunity to sit in on a morning “destination enrichment” lecture from guest lecturer Dr. Richard Farkas - a professor of political science at DePaul University in Chicago. We had attended a similar lecture of his on the sea day before reaching Bangkok and we had really enjoyed it, so it was our intention to catch his lectures before each port of call. At the end of this lecture he gave us some advice on how to cross the street in Ho Chi Minh City - information that turned out to be very useful to us for our time in the city. He also mentioned that most people in the city still refer to it by the colonial name of Saigon rather than Ho Chi Minh City - and that we did clearly notice over the two days.

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  • Monday December 2, 2013

    Cu Chi Tunnels and a walking tour of central Saigon

    For our first day in Ho Chi Minh City we had decided to make the trek out to see the Cu Chi Tunnels located in Ho Chi Minh City’s suburban district of Cu Chi. A 121 km complex of the tunnels has been preserved by the Vietnam government as a war memorial park. What is on display here is just a sample of the incredible network of underground tunnels throughout the country used by the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War.

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      The name of that war is so familiar to us, but we quickly learned in Vietnam that this war was known by a different name - the American War. The Cu Chi Tunnels were the base of operations for the Viet Cong’s massive Tet Offensive in 1968. Outside there was evidence of the American’s attempts to bomb the tunnels, with massive craters caused by bombs dropped from B52 bombers. Also on display were some of the gruesome booby traps used and depictions of how people lived and operated in these tunnels. The resolve of those who endured the tunnels is something that is hard to fathom. There is a 30 metre long section of tunnel that has been made larger for western tourist to experience. Gary made the walk through the pitch black low tunnel with his back horizontal at the top of the tunnel and sides feeling quite close and it was frightening - even at only 30 metres and adjusted in size to be easier for tourists. Once in the tunnel you have to continue forward - there is no turning back. It only occurred to Gary after that it could have been quite uncomfortable had some ahead of him panicked inside the tunnel. The person directly in front of him backed out at the entrance of the tunnel. Visiting the Cu Chi Tunnels is a sober but very worthwhile experience, particularly for those who grew up during the Vietnam War era as we had.

      Rather than head directly back to the ship after leaving the Cu Chi Tunnels, we had the bus drop us in a central location in Ho Chi Minh City - or Saigon as we now knew everyone here called it. It was here that we needed to heed the advice we’d heard earlier about how to cross the street. The roads were crammed full of people on small motorbikes - some with an entire family on a single bike. With 37 million motorbikes registered in Vietnam, it certainly appears to be the most popular means of transportation in the country. For anything other than a major intersection, the traffic lights were apparently a mere suggestion rather than an absolute to be obeyed for bike riders. If you waited for a break in traffic you would never get to cross the road. To cross the street, we just walked though the traffic - keeping a constant speed and trying to only look in the direction we were walking. That was the advice and that is what we did…and it worked - the motorbikes passed closely one side or the other of us. The key was keeping a steady pace so that the bikes could gage where to go. After the first time nerve racking time we high fived each other for not dying on the street. We will never forget the first time we crossed the street in Saigon. We wandered around and saw the iconic Rex Hotel - a location seen so often in news reports during the Vietnam War. Saigon looked very festive - the retail stores decorated for Christmas and it was enjoyable to walk around the town in the evening. There was a shuttle bus service back to Azamara Journey, so we took advantage of that once we were ready to call an end to our first day in Saigon.

  • Tuesday December 3, 2013

    The Mekong Delta

    The Mekong Delta was the destination for our second day in Ho Chi Minh City. We left the ship early to make the 72 km journey to My Tho - the closest delta town to Ho Chi Minh City.

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      Once there we took a tour on the My Tho River in a larger boat and then transferred to small boats that would take a maximum of four people for a tour along a narrow canal off of the My Tho River. The ride on the small boat paddled by one person at the front and one at the back was a fascinating glimpse at delta life and was certainly the highlight of the day in the Mekong Delta. The vegetation along both sides of the canal was dense and it wasn’t easy to spot the houses or shacks within the lush green cover. Our boat was not the most sea worthy craft on the water - Gary noticed the growing pool of water at his feet as we travelled along the canal. The proximity of My Tho to Ho Chi Minh probably make is this the most popular tourist destination for anyone wanting to see delta life - and at parts of the canal trip we clearly experienced the results of that with a total jam of small boats going in both directions. Keeping your arms inside the boat was an absolute must do - would have been easy to get hurt. That was an element of travel to this part of the world that we were now getting used to - safety was not at western levels. Not by a long shot.

      We are glad we made the trek down to the Mekong Delta - it was an enjoyable day and a nice way to close out this port on our cruise.

Ho Chi Minh City Image Gallery

One of the many fishing boats on the Nha Be River
The view of Ho Chi Minh City from the open Deck 10 of Azamara Journey
Legend has it that the eyes painted on boats protect them from monsters and evil spirits
Seeing people carrying all sorts of things on motorbikes was very common in Ho Chi Minh City
Sharing some tunes on the bike
A flavour of the traffic - motorbikes everywhere
Street scene on our route back to the centre of Ho Chi Minh City
Intersections with traffic cops like this one we suspect to actually make the commuters follow the traffic signals
Ho Chi Minh City Hall
Getting ready to cross the street . . .
Late night view of Ho Chi Minh City from the balcony of our room on Azamara Journey
Cargo boat barely looking afloat
Cargo boat on the My Tho River
Waterfront properties of the My Tho River
The Rach Mieu Bridge
Linda embracing the local Non La (leaf hat) for our canal trip in the Mekong Delta
Street scene on the way back to Ho Chi Minh City
Street scene on the way back to Ho Chi Minh City
About WHITEonline

WHITEonline is the digital home of Gary & Linda White. We’ve been married since 1980 and live just outside Toronto in Ontario, Canada. Linda was born and raised in Toronto while Gary was born in London, England and moved to Canada at the age of 11. We enjoy travelling and taking photos while we travel. WHITEonline provides the opportunity to share some of our photos & experiences.

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