The difference in being old
Ho Chi Minh City Travel Blog› entry 8 of 19 › view all entries
The day before disembarking in Vietnam we discovered that it was going to be quite a chore to get into Saigon. We actually docked the boat outside of Vung Tao, which is south of Saigon and as the river there is not very deep we had to use the tenders to go from the ship to the port and then take a shuttle from the port to the city. We did some research on ways to get to the city on our own...but in the end decided that the best way was to take a tour. The "on your own" tour was all booked up, so we had to sign up with the rest of the old people for the "Discovery Ho Chi Mihn City" tour.
As an aside, I need to clarify what I mean by "old people". In Kim's world you can be 95 and not be an old person. You can also be 31 and be a very old person. The old people I am referring to are the ones who constantly complain about every single thing, who find no happiness in what they are doing and who make you wonder why they are even there at all.
Brian and I are not entertained by complaining, so we choose to ignore it and enjoy our own trip to the fullest!
Our tour departed at 6:10 a.m. which meant that we had to be ready for the tender at 5:30 a.m. In case anyone had any question, this is an ongodly hour, especially on a cruise ship! :) The tender is the small boat that takes us from the ship to the port. As I watched the Princess crew meticulously prepare to unload 3000 people into several small boats and meticulously ensure that the walkway was clear, well-marked and very safe, I smugly thought to myself, "clearly they have never taken a boat trip in Thailand! :)
Our tour guide was An Nguyen and he was fantastic. When one of the old people pulled me aside and said, "he's not very good is he" I promptly replied, "we think he is fantastic and we are enjoying his presentation very much!" :)
The drive from Vung Tau was almost 3 hours, it was only 56 miles, but with the traffic and the windy road it took almost 3 hours.
Everyone rides motorbikes and scooters here. No matter what type of motorbike you ride, everyone calls it a Honda. There are no traffic rules to speak of, no lights, no signs, nothing. The guidebook tells you to cross the street you just step out and slowly cross and allow the bikes and cars to go around you. This is true not just of crossing the street, but driving on the street, passing another car, turning left, or whatever maneuver you are trying. It is quite a sight!
Saigon sits on the Saigon river, which is actually quite large and can accomodate boats and ships that are huge, just not ours. It is a huge city and it is undergoing a lot of building and growth.
An gave us quite a bit of historical, cultural and other information, which we really appreciated.
The city of Saigon is very crowded, but they have made an effort to plant several parks throughout so the city has some greenery. The actual name is Ho Chi Mihn City, so named after "reunification" of the Vietnamese people. Ho Chi Mihn was actually a famous chef who trained in France before becoming involved in Communist politics. He died before the "reunification" and the city was named in honor of him. The people all call it Saigon, so I don't think the re-training camps were as affective as they would have liked.
We saw the Palace, the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Continental Hotel, Chinatown and the Historical Museum.
We took photos of the Continental Hotel for my Grandpa and tried to figure out where the Camp Martin POW camp was. It was impossible. The city has completely changed in 60 years and there were a number of complexes that fit the description he gave us. I took photos of several of them, just in case. I asked our tour guide and he did not know, but he is going to some research for me and gave me his email so I could get his findings.
This is a place I definitely want to return to, the people are friendly, it is a bustling city with a true sense of commerce about it.