Content to have shaken off colonialism and the deprivations of hardline socialism, Vietnam has taken significant steps towards a market economy by opening its frontiers to tourism, trade and investment. Though it was weakened by the long and painful war of independence, the average standard of life is constantly improving, poverty is diminishing and the cheerful faces that welcome visitors bear witness to a new-found optimism. Scenic Luxury Tours and Cruises
Still another day of relaxation and ‘doing our own thing’ before meeting up with our Vietnam Tour Guide, named Man, this evening. Cyclo Riders had been called to take Greg and Deb, Lyn and I, to the American War Museum with a short city tour along the way. We passed through ‘Sunday morning’ streets without the chaotic traffic of the week, meandered along the boulevards of Ho Chi Ming City, past modern skyscrapers and through the old market area.
The price to get into the American War Museum is very small compared to the price that was paid for Vietnam to become unified under the gentle leader, Ho chi Ming. I had planned to stay quite a few hours at the museum to read the accounts of, what the Vietnamese call, the American War. The bells rang and the lights went out after an hour, signifying the 90 minute lunch period was about to begin and we had to vacate the building. I had only completed reading half of the downstairs accounts of the war that didn’t need to be had. Many of the stories were very confronting, and I didn’t even get to the personal accounts of how the war, and every other sort of war, affected this diverse country. I hope I can go back on Tuesday morning if time allows.
While walking back to our hotel, Greg was confronted by a guy with a stash of coconuts for sale. He offered to give Greg his load for a try. Then managed to convince him to buy a few coconuts to drink while walking along the street during a heavy tropical downpour. We found out the coconuts should have been no more than $1 but with ‘transaction fees’, Greg paid about $6 each – he got had! Poor Queenslander!!!
A booking had been made for 7 of us to turn up for another massage, three extras on yesterday’s victims. They don’t give out names but I had remembered my massage therapist was N19. I have a shoulder that still has stiffness in it from years ago and with a little encouragement, N19 spent a long time getting in deep and releasing the tightness substantially for me. Another 90 minutes of strong and useful massage – everyone came out new.
The Vietnamese say that the map of their country resembles the bamboo pole with huge baskets balanced at each end that they use to carry goods to market. One basket represents the Red River delta, the other the Mekong delta. Vietnam covers a land area of 33,378 sq km – almost as large as Germany.
This long, narrow strip of land, in places no more than 50km wide, has a dense population of over 88 million. There are three geographical regions. The capital, Hanoi has more than 3 million inhabitants, lies at the heart of the fertile delta of the Red River. The mountainous terrain of the centre is dominated by the port of Danang. The wide delta of the Mekong in the southern third of the country embraces Ho Chi Ming city – still known by its old name, Saigon – today Vietnam’s most populous city with more than 7 million inhabitants.
We had a 5pm appointment with our Scenic Tour Director who went through the geographic of the countries we will be visiting in the next 3 weeks and various other bits of information we will need to be aware of as far as drinking water, and where to eat when we have free dining. We chose our day excursions for the next few days as well. I have got to say that the meal we had tonight was the most tasty of any Scenic Welcome Meals. With small servings of delicious food for each course, I was provided for very well. A fun part of the meal was when we were giving a small sweat that had come out of a ‘hot ice’ container. After putting it into your mouth, great amounts of white steam come out of your nostrils and mouth. To see everyone enjoying the light-hearted method of ‘gelling’ the group added a bit of excitement to the evening.