Saigon and Mekong and Motor Scooter Monkey

Monkey see, monkey do!

Saigon life.Pay me now, and pay me later, if you want this boat to travel.Easy Rider monkey. Hey, where are Jack and Peter?

Lottery tickets, anywhere, everywhere.


As I wind down and prepare to return home we had one more fabulous adventure in Saigon (I prefer that name to Ho Chi Minh City and so do they).  We left Friday night of a 4 day long weekend here in Hanoi – Of course Easter weekend (4 days for many in Canada) was the week before and not celebrated here – so the combination of “Re-unification Day” and Labour Day/May Day April 30 th and May 1st made for a good one here).

Vietnam is a long narrow S-shaped country and the flight to Saigon from Hanoi is about the same as from Ottawa to Winnipeg. Things were busy because of the weekend but not crazy.  Although it was dark when we arrived in Saigon, the clear air (relative to Hanoi) was evident – everything was bright and shiny – and there were neon lights and vibrant life – not to be found readily in Hanoi.  It was a  quick trip to the hotel in District 1 – the heart and Soul of Saigon and a short walk around in the heat and then we went to bed to prepare for the 2 day visit to the Mekong Delta.

The Mekong Delta is huge – the river flows through 5 countries before it reaches Vietnam. So in 2 days we did about 10 hours in buses and maybe 8 hours in boats of every variety.  These are wooden boats powered by unseen gasoline motors that seem to be one piston going in and out – and the sound reminded me of a lot of Vietnam movies I have seen in the last 35 years. That and the helicopters – when they flew over really reminded me of that, now so long ago time, when we would not have been here in the middle of the delta in open boats.

Here is some of what we saw – police stops – both on the bus and in the boats – for whatever reason and then money changed hands – enough on that,  – coconut candy making facilites – outside and not unlike maple syrup making except maybe the heat angle. rice fettucine making, local music (hard to listen to),   Outdoor river markets – floating markets where boats of every size (mostly small live aboards)  are there anchored for a mile or more and you go down in your boat and buy things from them – then there are the mobile sellers who come alongside your boat to sell everything from lottery tickets, to fruit, to water.  All the time it is VERY hot but there is a breeze when the boats are moving.  But the boats are full of everything you could imagine – mostly fruits and vegetables of every colour – they grow 135 different fruits in the delta – truly the fruit basket of South East Asia.  We saw the slow boats to Cambodia (3 days and nights up the Mekong)  – I will have to come back here because I want to do this.   -We saw thousands and thousands of  houses on stilts with wooden or paper/cardboard walls and corrugated tin roofs, We ate wonderful food in lakeside restaurants – I could not tell you what any of it was  but it involved rice flour, some pork, lots of fish (which is still alive when you order it and never tastes fishy ever) and vegetables with mountains of herbs – I think I could become vegetarian in this country – even the tofu is good.

We stayed overnight in Can Tho – and walked and enjoyed the festival atmosphere – I had been here on my own last September when Steve had meetings and really noticed  how much different it was – the pedestrians on the streets along the waterfront actually outnumbered and hampered/halted the motor scooters – “sort of a take back the streets” – By the way, I have become almost calm about crossing the streets now in the craziness of this motor scooter world.  Considering I was “terrified” the first month to cross a street this is a lot of progress.  But now the heat has overtaken us and it is so difficult to walk anywhere , we are back in the taxi world.

Our Mekong tour was about 80 %  Vietnames tourists celebrating the long weekend –  a family of 6 from Taiwan and us.  So the tour guide did hero service in translating – he was actually one of the best tour guides we have ever had.  And the Vietnamese people though reserved at first , are really a lot of fun – Because the tour guide referred to us (non-Vietnamese speakers)  as “Nan Cy”  – everyone knew my name  and sort of played with it.

Steve has found that he will really miss his office staff and work here as he has come to know them very well and realized how much fun they can be.  The difference in language makes things so difficult – but his staff speak excellent English.  And the opportunity to meet all the other “foreigners” here has been amazing – Everyone is here with roughly the same goals  – to help the progress of this wonderful country.  Vietnam receives the fourth most foreign aid (ODA Official Development Assistance)  of any country in the world and has the second lowest divorce rate (I do not know who is first).  They are very happy to receive it – there are a lot of hospitals being built and a lot of new infrastructure but I do not know what is foreign and what is government/party supplied here.

After our return to Saigon we did the tourist things – saw the National Presidential Palace (now a museum and pretty impressive), the post office, Notre Dame Cathedral – there are a lot of Catholic churches in the South, the many beautiful parks and big wide boulevards – there really are places where you would believe you were in Paris (except for the heat).  We went to the backpackers district and had a drink at “The Crazy Buffalo”, both had mani/pedis and a hair cut (Steve) for $11, and just took it all in.  We ate in small local restaurants where the food was inexpensive and good. We did not seek out any high end places to eat – there comes a time when you have actually had enough for a while.

On the way to the airport I was able to grab my camera and caught this monkey on a motor scooter which summed it all up for me – there is anything and everything on a motor scooter – Steve bought a great Gingko brand T shirt showing this.

I leave tomorrow night for DC (for Sarah’s grad) and then home to Ottawa on the 16th.  I plan to do my top 10 lists then and maybe ponder on my feelings about all this and will do one last post from there.

This has been fun and I have received a lot of email wondering what happened since my last post 2 weeks ago.  I guess I have been trying to prepare to leave – and the packing is never easy as well.

Thanks for all your readership and support.