Seeing Saigon

Trip Start Jan 28, 2013
Trip End Mar 02, 2013

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Flag of Vietnam  , Hồ Chí Minh,
Monday, February 18, 2013

Today we (Lucy, Ira, Bob, and I) hired a private van through the ship to explore Saigon by ourselves (as opposed to joining the ship organized excursions). It's kind of expensive ($700 for the van of 6 people), but we would have a lot more freedom than the big groups.

We left the ship at 8am. It turned out that we got a private guide as part of the deal, in addition to the van. He’s a young guy, around 27 years old, named "Long". His English was pretty good.

We went to quite a few places in Saigon but it’s difficult to reiterate what exactly we did or where exactly we went. Let me see …. We saw the Notre Dame (which was a much smaller imitation of the real thing in Paris), the Opera House (another much smaller imitation), the famous Caravelle hotel, the Ho Chi Min museum (just the outside), the post office, etc. We walked along the supposedly most expensive shopping street (“Dong Khoi”) and poked our heads into the various stores. The prices of the silk things were much more reasonable than what we saw in Singapore or even Thailand. We went to China town and drove around. We went to a market places and did some cursory shopping. We visited a famous temple. Then Long took us to a Pho (noodle) place for lunch, per our request. It was supposed to be the best Pho place in Saigon for the local people. Upstairs had air conditioning (barely). The noodle was good! But the environment left much to be desired – the first thing that greeted us on the table was a couple of small cockroaches crawling on the dishes on the table …. Oh well! The noodle soup was freshly cooked so we were fine.

After lunch, we went to another temple, the jade emperor temple. Apparently the 9th day after the Chinese New Year is the day when people would all come to visit the jade emperor, so it was very crowded. I really had no desire to fight the crowd, so I waited in the yard. Ira said that was his favorite place for today’s trip because it was real. I guess that’s true. But it was too hot and too crowded for me. Then Long took us to a market, which is similar to the Silk Street Market in Beijing, except that it had more things with local flavor, and it also had a food section that sold fresh produce. We did not spend too much time there. After that, Long wanted to take us to see a factory and store that do the lacquer stuff, and we did not want to go. We pretty much exhausted what he had to show us, and we still had time to kill, so we went back to that Dong Khoi street. Lucy and I (accompanied by Long) enjoyed some more shopping (did not buy much though), while Bob and Ira enjoyed coffee somewhere. We met up at 2:30 and came back to the ship by 3. As we walked up the gangway, we were told there were vendors on the dock (behind those containers). Lucy and I made a quick trip there – pure junk J

After a hot shower and some rest (playing games on the iPad), we did laundry and went onto the deck to enjoy our sail-away. The ship left the dock shortly before 4pm. It was to sail for more than 2 hours in the river before getting to the ocean. Ira and Fran also came out to their deck next door – we chatted and took photos together, watching the ship sail, until it got dark. Then we went to the Horizon lounge on the 5th floor for some cocktails, before meeting at Prime Seven for dinner, at 7pm. We had a good dinner and good company. After dinner, we dispersed. I watched the juggler show again – really liked the juggler guy from Canada, very entertaining.

Tomorrow is another sea day, before we arrive in Da Nang on the 20th. It’ll be another do-nothing day. Maybe I’ll have enough energy to do some exercise. We still need to decide exactly what to do in Da Nang. I don’t find any of the excursions that exciting. And I especially do not enjoy touring with a big group …. Would love to do some shopping and looking-around on our own …. We’ll see.

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