Ho Chi Minh City
We arrived at the port of Phu My which is the gateway to Ho Chin Minh city on Monday, 14 March.
Hot conditions prevailed as we made our way to the coach at 7.30am for our first excursion – Best of Ho Chi Minh City. We drove through the Mekong Delta, the “rice basket” of Vietnam. It took about 1-1/2 hours, following the Saigon River where we had a very enjoyable full day’s tour.
Droves of bicycles and motorbikes are everywhere and you cross the road at your peril! The air is filled with the sounds of honking horns. When you cross in the pedestrian crossing, they swarm all around you, so you raise your arm and don’t stop walking!
The first stop was at the Minh Phuong Lacquer Factory where we saw the art of the lacquering process, one of the country’s most popular exports. We watched a man using tiny pieces of duck shell to make a pattern. Amazing! Of course we had to buy a piece to take home. We then watched a performance of Vietnamese water puppets and visited various other historic sights. We enjoyed some time spent in Cholon (Chinatown) historically filled with opium dens and brothels. Today it is filled with restaurants, temples, jade stores and medicine shops. Lunch was a delicious buffet at one of the city’s top hotels.
By the time we got back at 5.15pm, we grabbed a quick pizza and had an early night!
Tuesday, 15 March and we are now in the south central coast of Vietnam, 256 miles north of Ho Chi Minh City.
Just a half day excursion today, the highlight of which was a visit to see the artisans at work at a Silk Embroidery workshop. The girls begin their apprenticeship at 13 years of age and after 7 years they are qualified. But they spend the next 5 years with an experienced sewer before they are on their own. Each one sits under a strong light (most wear spectacles) and work a 10-hour day in silence. Their work is exquisite; after copies of original drawings are made they start with an outline and each person designs their own work. If an error is made, they start again.
We purchased a framed embroidery at what we thought was a very reasonable price of $US49, but the larger works cost thousands of dollars.
Apart from the workshop, we were a bit disappointed with this tour. The tour guide did not speak good English and we lost a lot of time at the first stop which involved a 70 step climb to the Cham Tower. We also did not realise that there would be 90 more steps to see the Long Son Pagoda. We probably need to read the fine print a bit closer on future tours! Anyway, to make up time we were a bit rushed towards the end and we were nearly trotting to keep up to get to the Cho Dam Market.
Alex found a shirt, so we had some fun doing some bargaining, but other than that, there was not anything else worth buying. Lots of cheap trinkets and just more of the same!
Vietnam is a good holiday destination, as long as you don’t mind the high humidity. Great value for money. Very friendly people.