March 27, 2014 – Saigon – Mekong River Cruise
Today we had a river cruise scheduled which was once again something I learned about in school. Our tour bus drove us to the delta port of My Tho where the Mekong River begins. The river starts in the Tibetan Plateau and is 2,795 miles to the Mekong Delta and the South China Sea. The river has what they call Nine Dragons that fan out covered with green rice paddies and orchards of coconuts, mangos, pineapples, and bananas.
From here we boarded a motorized boat to get to our paddle boat. We paddled through the jungle which was thick with vegetation you could barely see the sky. We then stopped on a small island and saw some handmade things being sold by locals. It was quite an experience. After a short ride through the Delta, we then boarded a motorized boat once again and went back to our tour bus to the pier.
March 28, 2014 – Saigon – Private Tour
We schedule a private tour today so that we can see more things without having to deal with 40 other people. Saigon began as a small fishing village; then it was rebuilt by the French in the mid 19th century. Modern day Saigon has a population of more than seven million people and is the largest economic center of Vietnam. We visited the Huyen Khong Monastery inside a cave which was cool. After that, we just drove by the beach and visited some stores that sold marble stone statues.
Today we had a half day tour scheduled for the city. Da Nang is a beautiful city considering all the conflict that happened years ago. It was a major US Marine base during the Vietnam conflict, Da Nang was a strategic air and seaport, and most of the brutal fighting of the war happened there. We visited Cham Museum it housed the most extensive collection of Cham art in the world, dating back to the fifth through the 16th century. After a visit to the museum, we stop at the Han Market for a little retail therapy. The last stop was driving to Marble Mountain. This mountain was made up of five hills, each representing one of the five elements of the universe: water, wood, fire, metal, and earth. Our tour guide said that both Vietnamese and the Cham used these mountains to build shrines, so it’s picturesque with numerous grottoes, caves, and pagodas. The caves were also used by the Vietcong to hide during the war.
Today we arrived in Vietnam and began our day with a short drive from the ship to the junk pier in Ha Long city. Once there we boarded the junk boat called Phuong Hoang, this was one of the wildest boat rides we’ve ever been on. To get out of the pier, all the boats were bumping into each other hence their name Junk boats. We began our cruise in the bay which is located in the Gulf of Tonkin; Ha Long Bay is one of the world’s outstanding natural wonders. This densely concentrated zone of Karst Islands, world famous for its spectacular scenery of grottoes and caves and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We weren’t lucky with the weather it was raining and foggy, but it was still pretty.