160914 Cai Be and Sa Dec

Cai Be is well known for the floating market of yesteryear. It was a very busy market when we were here in 2011 and had a quaint feel about the idea of doing all your market food purchases from boat to boat. Their boat was their stall. But people have moved off boats and onto motor scooters and brought about a major change in the way traders came to sell their wares. City or village folk are happy because they don’t have to own a boat to do their market purchases anymore. But if you’re on foot, be prepared to be shunted around with the sound of motor bikes and their horns. The wares haven’t changed – just the mode of purchase has. Our opportunity to visit local shopping and a busy market was to come in the afternoon at Sa Dec.

At Cai Be, we visited a coconut lolly factory, that also did puffed rice using the old style of a large wok with black sand in it. The rice is thrown into the sand, which is very hot, and stirred while it ‘popped’ ready for including in some coconut sweet. Fermented rice juice is often mixed with snakes and drank, very quickly as the taste is said to be rather ‘interesting’. We were served a morning tea of jasmine tea and some samples of the different coconut sweets that are made in the factory.

img_9304Our return to the Scenic Spirit by 11:00am was to allow us to go through the Safety Drill. To save a life if a ship sinks is of utmost importance, but
to have a different style and method of putting on a life vest on every vessel you travel in is absurd. Why not have the same design on every ship? But then, when in real life, putting on a safety vest is going to be a ‘never done this before’ moment regardless.

At smorgasbords, you don’t need to feel pressured into over eating but one tends to do just that on a Scenic trip. The food has been ‘top shelf’. Nothing extra is charged to your account apart from the use of the spa facilities or the ‘very top shelf’ wines. So food and drinks ‘flow’ profusely. And lunch is no difference apart from a probably lesser extent in the drinks area.

After a couple of hours cruising up the Mekong River, we anchor at the town of Sa Dec. Years ago, the French were very prominent in Vietnam, Architecture and even French bread rolls are quite noticeable. And of course romantic love stories are told when we visit the Chinese family home  of the main character in  the novelist’s work “The Lovers”, by  Marguerite Duras. The book won the Goncourt prize in 1984.

For many in our group, they hadn’t visited a ‘village market’ and it became a new experience to see live animals such as crabs, wound up in thread ready for cooking when the purchaser got them home and on the table for the evening meal. The fruit and vegetables looked very fresh too. Most of the ‘trade’ is done from the seat of one’s motor bike and so us ‘walkers’ had to get out of the way for transactions to be completed. We travelled in a Sam Pan which is a local type of water vessel used to carry ‘up market tourists’ on chairs, really just camping chairs, set in rows.

 

The usually refreshing towel on arrival back at the ship was the normal Scenic service one enjoys on these great cruises. After the evening meal, where I haven’t laughed so much for years, we were in bed asleep by 9:30pm.

160913 Saigon to Scenic Spirit

We have been blessed that early morning departures have not been too frequent – to date. Today’s wake up call didn’t need to be requested. We were awake, showered, packed and fed before 8:00am.

Our morning program for today before we leave Saigon, was a local walking tour and lunch. The walking tour took us from our hotel to the Opera House, on to the Notre Dame Cathedral, across the road to the Post Office and back to the hotel.

The twin spires of the red-brick neo-Romanesque Notre Dame Cathedral, built between 1877 and 1880, rise 40 meters over a square in the middle of the embassy district. The suburb Central Post Office, its metal framework designed by Gustave Eiffel, also looks onto the square. The Opera House (or Municipal Theatre), built at the beginning of the 20th century, is on a busy thoroughfare, along with art galleries, souvenir shops, the large department stores and the mosque.

Our lunch was at another restaurant, called The Refinery. It was up yet another disorganised, but with plenty of character, alleyway. Many tour groups come here for a delightfully filling lunch of four courses. The servings were on the ‘ample’ side. I managed to dispense with the main course by returning it to the waitress. (I need to stay using the clothes I have with me without having to purchase more at an ‘expanded’ size.)

Our transfer to the Scenic Spirit departed around 2:30pm headed for Mytho in the Mekong Delta about 2 hours drive away. Much of the journey is on a ‘freeway’. When we were here in 2011, each of the bridges were about 4 inches higher than the road, which meant we would have to stop, slowly get on and cross the bridge to stop and get off onto the highway again. Things have changed, a little, with some of the bridges having easier access and departure points. The road surface in the country areas is smooth with lighter traffic. After a comfort stop, there was just a short distance to the point to board the Scenic Spirit.

The Scenic Spirit is the newest and most modern passenger vessel on the Mekong. Launched in January this year, it is VERY luxurious with the main state room containing a private spa. The decor is far and beyond the social level of the people who live along the banks of the mighty Mekong River.

We only had 30 minutes to move into our room before the introduction to the ship by our Tour director, Paula. Paula worked in Africa as a Safari Director for many years before moving to Asia a few years ago. We met the Captain, the Hotel Director and various heads of departments from the 55 crew onboard.

Photoshop is sometimes a great invention animg_9208d I couldn’t help but imagine how a Vietnam family would walk through one of our garden club members garden.

If you’re interested in gardens and live near the Yarra Valley, click here to see the information, times and dates, for the Clubs Open Day in October.