Wednesday, 2 April 2014
02.04.2014 - 02.04.2014
There was a significant layer of fog and pollution across the landscape as we wound our way up the Saigon River. There wasn't a perceivable sunrise and the lack of clear light precluded any reasonable photo captures on the way in. We assembled in the Cabaret Lounge for our four-hour tour of the city. I was last here in 1971 and was frankly amazed at the changes that have taken place since then. High-rise towers, clean streets, beautiful parks and gardens all amidst chaotic traffic. The city has a population of nine million and there are reported to be over six million motor scooters.
Our coach was spotlessly clean and beautifully appointed, the drive most skillful (we didn't hit anything) and our tour guide one of the best we've experienced. He made it very clear how long we had at each stop and where to meet to board the coach. The whole tour went without a hitch.
We visited the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Post Office - a structure that looks like a railway station but is so much more than just a Post Office. Banks, travel bookings and thousands of opportunities to spend money on exquisite and unique souvenirs. Next stop was the National Museum of Vietnamese History where the country's long and turbulent history is presented in a collection of historic artifacts. Next was a visit to the Jade Emperor Pagoda where local folk made their offerings to the deities quite oblivious to the 'rude foreigners' - I always feel uncomfortable entering and photographing these places.
We were taken to the Minh Phuong Lacquer-ware studio where we observed the artists at work and then we were led into an Alladin's Cave of amazing treasures. The range of lacquer-ware ranged from exquisite dainty vases to complete dining suites, occasional tables and wall hangings of incredible size. To round off the tour we visited the "Reunification Hall" formerly the Presidential Palace. There was also a brief stop at the Rex Hotel made famous as the media briefing venue during the American War. Back to the ship to cool off and enjoy some lunch.
We started watching this afternoon's movie "August: Osage County" but after about 20 minutes couldn't see it heading anywhere so we left. Went up to Deck 9 to watch the river traffic and later the start of the slow cruise down the Saigon River out to the South China Sea.
There was an Italian theme in the dining room and we enjoyed a little too much fine food. I had jokingly ordered two sweets and felt obliged to eat both when they arrived. No show for us tonight, Jenny's too tired and I have almost 300 images to study and this blog needs to be written and posted.
A day at sea tomorrow as we sail towards Ko Samui in Thailand. There's an image of a floating 'market' vessel making a 'home delivery' to a larger ship whilst under-way on the Saigon River. You'll find it on my 365 Project http://365project.org/tonydebont/365/2014-04-02
Cheers .. Tony