One of the more interesting ports that we have come into was Vietnam, not because of its magical sunrise or because of the great view of Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) as we docked, but because we had to travel from the Ocean for three hours up the Saigon River to reach HCMC Vietnam. What’s the big deal with travelling up the Saigon River you ask? Well for one it is one of the busiest waterways in Southeast Asia. “it is the main water supply for Vietnam as well as the host of Saigon Port” (Wikipedia, 2009). I do also recall though that for the sunrise over Vietnam, it did seem as if the water was smooth as glass.
On November 3, the Living Learning staff were invited to one of our colleague’s cabin on the 7th deck balcony for breakfast croissants and real coffee to relax in comfort as we travelled up the Saigon River, dodging, other freighters, small fishing boats, other watercrafts carrying dirt, iron, and supplies.
Many times the pilot and/or the captain would blow the horn for a smaller vessel to move and give our ship the right of way. The whole thing was like a scene out of a movie.
As we arrived into Saigon port, Saigon is the old name for HCMC, we were greeted by a group of Vietnamese women wearing Áo dài (pronounced ǎːwzâːj), the traditional Vietnamese dress and straw hats. It was like we were living in a postcard.
We went through the usual routine of getting and distributing our passports and obtaining our “special cards” which in Vietnam we were required to carry at all times and present whenever asked. My first few hours in HCMC were spent on a City tour, checking out the sites of HCMC and a couple of their museums. I don’t remember much from this tour in part because the heat and humidity were oppressive. Of all the countries we had been to, this had to be the most hot and humid, it was intense.
The other unique aspect of Vietnam was also the amount of motorbikes (mopeds) and motorcycles. During rush hour it would seem that there were a million people on the road on motorbikes, and not just one or two, but at times a whole family of folk, it was all so interesting to see.
We were also informed, prior to our arrival, just how we were to cross the street. It seemed simple, step off the curb and walk, “the motorbikes” will just go around you. We were told don’t run, don’t stop midway, just walk at a normal pace and the traffic will dodge you. That is so much easier to say than actually do, though by the time we left Vietnam 5 days later, I was a semi pro at this maneuver. Look to see where the traffic is coming, find an open spot, step off the curb and walk (and pray to God you don’t get hit). It was simple alright.