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Published: October 19th 2018
Our first port in Vietnam was in a tropical resort town called Nha Trang. The town is in the southern part of the country and heavily visited by Russian and Chinese tourists. It’s easy to see why they choose it for it’s beautiful beaches and luxury hotels. Maybe we need to reconsider the location of our annual Caribbean winter vacation.
Our first stop was at the Long Son Pagoda. Worshiping was underway at the temple so we made a quiet pass by the sanctuary and then took the 152 steps up to see to the giant white Buddha seated in a lotus blossom. Not only is this a really cool Budda we got a really cool view of the city.
The day also included a stop at PoNagar Cham Towers; a UNESCO World Heritage Site built between the 8th and 12th centuries and was built for Hindu worship. This was a spectacular site that transported us back in time and learning how it was built was equally impressive.
Of course we made the mandatory stop at the Dam Market (think cheap “brand name” textiles with some very passionate vendors); we did a token cruise through the stalls then quickly escaped
to find a café serving drinks. We grabbed two local beers which we were surprised to find cost us a total of about $2.50 Canadian (40,000 Vietnamese Dong) and were also amazingly refreshing on this crazy hot day; win win!
After the beers/market we took a walk across a bridge where the River Cai meets the South China Sea. From here we got a scenic view of Nha Trang's harbour with it’s blue fishing boats (tourist boats are white) and the city in the background on one side and our cruise ship anchored out in the ocean on the other.
Before returning to the pier to be tendered back on board we stopped at a beach restaurant for another refreshment. This beach was one of the public beaches in the city (hotels have private much like the Caribbean) and while the public beach was pretty it wasn’t the cleanest.
Our second port stop in Vietnam was our gateway to Ho Chi Minh city (still called Saigon by the locals). We got to town in the morning so our first stop was for Vietnamese coffee on the rooftop of the Rex Hotel. This stop fit in nicely as one of
the rooftop stops we like to make in cities we visit. We opted to have the coffee in the way it is readily served to the Vietnamese; slow drip filtered at your table with sweetened condensed milk. The Vietnamese are known for coffee; they are actually the second largest exporter of coffee behind Brazil. One of their specialities is a bean that first passes through the digestive system of a weasel. Needless to say we didn’t try this roast and stuck with the standard Arabica.
Our day included a stop at Heavenly Lady Pagoda; another Buddhist temple; Andra was inspired to make a wish at this stop. After making the purchase she was guided through the process of writing the wish on a wish paper, attaching it to an incense coil then lighting it and hanging it; the coil will hang in the temple and burn for 7 days allowing the smoke to rise to the heavens as the Gods work to grant her wish. The wish was secret so don’t bother asking but Chris thinks it has something to do with ice cream. 😀
Probably the highlight of this day was the Trishaw ride we took through Chinatown. Only
tourists do this but sometimes it’s fun to be a stupid tourist. Traffic in Ho Chi Minh is pretty crazy. 10 million citizens with 7 million scooters and motorbikes on the road with little regard for traffic lines, lights and signs. Crossing the street let alone driving seems like you are taking your life in your hands. But what a phenomenal way to experience what it’s like to be part of that traffic. Scooters and motorbikes are the vehicle of choice here and they transport everything on them ( large boxes, entire families, chickens, dogs, kegs of beer…you know, stuff we put in the trunk or on the roof of our vehicles…well excluding the family).
The city is a mix of French and Chinese architecture which makes for a cool mix of buildings. The architectural history here is amazing, modern building’s beside colonial French buildings beside Chinese Buddhist influences beside cluttered market streets.
Of course we had to eat some Vietnamese spring rolls and some Pho so we stopped at Ben Than Market for lunch. We then made our way to a lacquerware workshop where we learned all about the art created by this process ( we resisted
buying the gorgeous $10,000 USD chair as our luggage is quite full); we finished our day at the War Remnants Museum which shared in gory detail the horrors and atrocities of war (holy reality check).
Ho Chi Minh certainly was a highlight. A 5 star day.
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