Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Monday: Arrival in Saigon

The canal was fairly narrow and had lots of traffic. This barge was riding low in the water.

On Sunday evening we gathered on the top deck for a farewell reception. All the staff were there. One of the French gentlemen had collected all our tips and handed them out. And we were treated to some authentic Cambodian music by two of the crew members, one on drum and one on a two-stringed instrument.

Our farewell dinner had a fancy appetizer of shrimp. Notice the size of the one with the head on. Shrimp are frequently served with heads in this part of the world.

Approaching Saigon, we realized that our lovely rural tour was over. Even the towns/cities we stopped in were nothing like this!

Dui helped us get a taxi to our hotel and even joined us part of the way to get near where he was going. We are on a small side street right off a main avenue with a park in the middle. Here is a view of our street. Our hotel is the Saigon Sports 3 Hotel, quite small as all of these are. But it does have six floors.

Walking out on our street for lunch, I noticed this tourist shop with a side business (or maybe it's the other way around?). We were able to send out all our laundry here in the hotel for $1.50 a kilo, a bit more for the part that needed ironing. It was back by the time we got back from supper.

We had lunch on the corner of our street, rice noodles with chicken and vegetables in broth for me, crispy noodles with pork for Dan. Each about $2 or a bit more.

We hung out in our room during the heat of the day, then walked down to the Cho Ben Thanh Market, just at the end of the main avenue. It was huge with many kinds of shops. We found the food section and ate at a tiny stall. We shared a plate of spring rolls and a Banh Mi -- pork sandwich in a fresh small baguette. Here is the woman putting our food together. You can see how the market stretches out behind her.

These drinks and other items were displayed, but we took a pass.

We walked back through the park, which was very nice. I especially liked the roots of this tree.

It was rush hour and the streets were packed full. There are lots of buses, quite a few taxis, and very few private cars. But there are scooters! Dui told us there are 91 million people in Vietnam and 45 million scooters. They call them all Hondas, no matter the brand.

As we neared our hotel, we saw these two young men loading a refrigerator onto a scooter. They laughed when I took their picture and drove off happily. It isn't as big as the fridges we have in the US, but it isn't a small apartment-sized one, either!

It's Tuesday morning as I write this. Dan has gone on a tour of the Cu Chi Tunnels, where the Viet Cong hid out and from where they staged the Tet Offensive. As the tour involved crawling into the tunnels, I decided it wouldn't be the best thing for me. I'll explore our neighborhood a bit. We head back to Chiang Mai early Wednesday morning. We've had a great trip, but we are ready to get back to our regular life there.

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