Right now I am sitting on a lounge chair on deck 5, starboard side, overlooking the Saigon River.
We picked up our pilot this morning around 7am and began what the captain called the “Ho Chi Minh Slalom” up the Saigon River towards the city. The river twists and turns and the ship was traveling at around 17 knots, barely slowing for the turns. We would heel to port or starboard depending on the direction of the turn.
We docked about 4 hours later, after working our way more than 30 miles up river. This is definitely the freight highway for the city. The boat traffic never stops. Tugs pushing barges loaded with sand and soil, so heavily loaded that the water laps over the deck and into the sand. On some of them people are pulling water from the river and wetting down the sand. On others we see them digging from the tops of the piles and tossing the soil down the sides. We have been watching these move up river all day, but no empty barges heading back down towards the sea yet.
There are tugs pulling 4 barges at a time loaded with who knows what under cover. Sampans with full loads of thatch, fruits, vegetables, coconuts, etc. The Sampans have no mufflers on their engines – their crews must be deaf from the noise.
There is also a constant flow of vegetation – water hyacinth – and other junk including logs. All the boats just seem to ignore it.
There are Russian built high speed hydrafoil ferries running back and forth with no regard for any of the river traffic. The river appears to have the same chaotic flow as the traffic on the roads.
We are having a relaxing afternoon. Later we will be heading into the city for a “Saigon by Night” tour including drinks at the Roof Deck bar at the Rex Hotel and what we hope to be an authentic Vietnamese dinner. We’ll report back tomorrow on how it went.
Tomorrow we plan to take a taxi into the city to the Ben Thanh marketplace to check out the local scenery. We’ve been told that you have to negotiate everything here – they will ask you to pay $15 US for the taxi but you need to bargain down to $7. For some reason, the taxi back is only supposed to cost $3.
It is much easier to pay in US$$ as the currency conversion is approximately 18,500 Vietnamese Dhong to the US dollar. We would need a box to carry around any reasonable sum of local cash.
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