Today, the plan is to travel by speed boat to visit the Cu Chi Tunnels and learn about the underground labyrinth of war-time passageways. In the afternoon, we have a chance to either explore Vietnamese history through its architecture, or check out Saigon on a vintage Vespa motor bike.
An early start of 5:45am is a sign of ‘things to come’. A long day sightseeing and experiencing the history played in the Cu Chi region during the American War. For a different mode of transport, we were taken by coach to a wharf where Scenic provided a speed boat with a 200hp motor on the back, and sped us along the Saigon River for 90 minutes. Fortunately, we arrived before the first of the 1000 visitors that venture through the region each day, and so the first part was without too much jostling with other tourists.
Our guide, Man, told us how the Viet Cong built tunnels to keep themselves away from the United States Enemy. The US contingent had so much heavy artillery against a meagre group of village people who devised booby traps to keep the ground forces at bay. There were over 1 million Viet Cong killed by US and allied forces during that devastating war. Having visited here before, I was already aware of the enormity of the devastation, but in the 5 years since that visit, there has been a marked increase in the planning of a “Vietnam for the future”.
Commerce and education are galloping along with most of the children eager to learn. Some students start school at 7:00am, finish the morning school at mid day and then do a 2nd school in the afternoon. They then go to an evening school for a few hours to learn foreign languages or develop subject areas in a more complete way. Such dedication!
Returning to Saigon by coach for lunch, we experience both country and village transport. And we see many motor bikes loaded with wares either going to the market or returning from the market and shopping precincts. There are so many shop fronts along the roads offering food for passers by. Others offer hardware or soft furnishings. A major seller is the motor bike companies as the market for them is huge.
Our lunch today was in a restaurant in the ‘back streets’ down near the Saigon River. Yes, the buildings along the way looked a bit ‘dodgy’ but the food we were served in the up-market restaurant that Scenic had chosen, was very tasty indeed. (Another 3-course meal).
This afternoon, 6 of our group ventured out on a Vesper Tour of the city. Just as we were being prepared for the ordeal, it started to rain and we left looking like people from another planet. Ponchos were provided and with motor bike helmets on our heads and pollution masks on, the wettest motor bike ride commenced. There were over 20 of us all up and after two hours of weaving in and out of the traffic, much of our time in pouring rain, 20 ‘drowned rats’ returned to the hotel around 5:00pm. Along the way, we visited a memorial, a Chinese temple, and an alternative health shop. The guide for the trip was rather animated the way he went about explaining the sights to see and experience.
Our evening meal was an excellent buffet provided at a nearby restaurant that Scenic use for accommodation as well. There was some renovations going on their when we made the bookings so ended up at the Park Hyatt Saigon.
Tomorrow, after a city walking tour, we transfer to the Scenic Spirit for our seven night cruise up the Mekong River towards Siem Reap in Cambodia.
Back in 2011, we did a trip to Siem Reap and on to Vietnam. Day one then, I got on the bus and realised that I didn’t have my video camera with me. History was repeated today when I realised, as I alighted the coach for our trip to Cu Chi Tunnels, that my video camera was still up in the room. Steps retraced, video gathered, return to coach. Red faced. Ahhhh!