We were not scheduled to arrive in Saigon until lunchtime, but from mid morning onwards, we sailed through a flotilla of ships of every kind.
Some were small and were rocking about on the choppy waters.
Others were large and were a little closer to us that we expected – until we spotted they were t anchor, that is.
It’s always interesting looking out over the balcony rail, speculating what’s what on board those ships. We love it.
But spotting something like this in the sea makes us wonder! I guess that’s shallow water?
Anyway, soon, we are sailing up the river – the Mekong? The Saigon? I’m not too sure which one!
All too soon, we spot our berth for the night. I say all too soon, because we were hoping to be a little closer to the centre than this, the container port.
Because though these enormous structures are fascinating to watch, actually, tonight we are meeting our friends and it would be so much easier if they didn’t have to trek out to the edge of the earth to find us!
The crew were looking forward to going shopping as well, but in case they didn’t have long enough to drive into the city, the shops have come to them. A small marketplace was set up on the quayside, ready for business!
So, it seemed sensible to take an orientation tour before going out alone, because there’s no doubt about it, things have changed hugely since that time.
Though we didn’t set off till well past noon, we packed a lot into the trip. We began at the Reunification Hall.
We had a tour of all the hidden depths.
Next, a stop by the Post Office and the Cathedral, from where we could see the Caravelle Hotel, where we’d stayed previously.
At this stage, things were much as we remembered, except that all around us were new developments, more traffic, more familiar brand names here and there.
But thankfully, some things remain. Our next stop was the history museum, were we had a brief tour of the highlights
and a short sampler of the Water Puppet Theatre. We’d spent a whole evening watching a show in Hanoi previously and recalled feeling a little underwhelmed to begin with but totally enchanted by the performance once we realised what was going on. This simple little show was fun, too.
Our next stop was the inevitable shopping opportunity – the lacquerware workshop. Was this the third of the trip? We couldn’t remember.
Here was slightly different though, because the designs are worked in eggshells, which look more like mother of pearl when finished.
People were getting a little weary by now and at each stop, more of them chose to remain on the bus rather than get off and see what’s what. Never ones to miss a chance to see somewhere new, my hero and I wouldn’t even contemplate that! The Chinese temple was somewhere we’d been before, too, and yet the place is so magical, so photogenic, we’d not refuse any offer to visit it again. It’s smoky with a haze of incense, rather dusty and grubby and all the more attractive for that. And it’s totally unassuming, being accessed by a simple doorway onto the street. If you didn’t know it was there…well, you’d never guess.
And a short ten minute stop is just long enough for me to scuttle around noticing things. Like this lady carefully packaging the incense sticks ready for sale.
We’d thought that was that, but no, there was one last blast of colour and life. Next stop was the commercial wholesale market. Oh my goodness.
We walked this one in single file, never stopping but keeping going, clicking cameras and spotting all kinds of funny things here and there.
It being a wholesale market, it was clear we weren’t there to buy, so no-one bothered us. Quite frequently in markets here, I wish I could simply be left alone, to wander and observe things happening. But it so rarely happens, because everyone wants to sell me a T shirt, a bag or a watch and I so rarely want to buy.
The quantities of goods on offer here was staggering. Here were a few stalls selling caps. Baseball caps by the thousand.
Next door was the ladies hat department and some children’s hats too. Piled high all round, of every colour and shape you could possibly want.
As we returned to the bus, those who’d chosen to stay on board asked “What did we miss?” How could I answer that question? I know that not everyone sees things in quite the same way as I do, but would “Oh a few plastic buckets and some baseball caps” do?
We returned to the cool white ship to shower and change and get ready to meet our friends. As we walked over the dockside to the gate, we heard a whistle. Ignoring it, we heard it again, so looked around. Though we were walking in a huge flat area and nothing was going on here at all this evening – no containers being moved or anything else – we were not walking in the marked channel.
We made it safely to the gate and waited in the hot, sultry air. Taxi drivers wanted to know why we were there; did we want a cab? No thank you, we explained. Our friends will be here shortly – and thankfully, shortly afterwards, they were!
We had a lovely evening with Tra Giang, Hoa and Simon and enjoyed an absolute feast of Vietnamese food in the best company.
The restaurant overlooked an artificial lake in one of the new, district 7 suburbs and yet again, we marvelled at the developments in this country over the last few years. We drove past Porsche and Mercedes Benz dealerships, through smart suburbs with fancy shops. Who’d have thought that in such a short time, a country could change so much?
We said our goodbyes at the dock gates and hoped we’d see one another again before too long. Tra Giang may be attending a film festival in Germany in the Autumn, she said, and Hoa and Simon travel extensively for business, so who knows? We’ll keep our fingers crossed.
What a lovely way to spend the evening, though. What a pity Tra couldn’t be there with us too!