Friday, February 25, 2011
Friday, Feb 25th, Saigon to Vung Tau
With our friend Marlene as our Tour Guide, we took a taxi to the waterfront hydrofoil this morning, and headed downriver to the seaport of Vung Tau. The hydofoils are relatively smooth and quiet, especially if you're in the front section. The window sashes aren't very well constructed, as I found out by breakiing the rod trying to open it. Of well, there wasn't much to see on the ride, and scratched clouded glass made it even harder. But we suspected that viewing wasn't on most passengers priority list, as most just relaxed or slept.
The real sightseeing began when we arrived. Vung Tau is a great little town, full of wide, clean streets and brightly colored houses and shops. It's like Saigon might look like if you got rid of 90% of the taxi's and cars. Beyond that, it has a couple of mountains that provide you with beautiful vistas (for the price of a stiff climb up almost a thousand stairs) of the miles of beaches on both sides of the peninsula.
Marlene had made arrangements through Duc for us to employ a driver and a tour guide for the day, and they did not disappoint us. The OSC Vietnam Travel Tour Leader, Hguyen Quang Trung, even brought along a trainee tour guide, and the five of us made the stops on a well-designed spin through Vung Tau's sites. Before it started, we crossed the park in front of the office (on Front Beach) to watch some of the local fishermen bring in several kinds of large sailfish destined for restaurant tables nearby.
Our tour was delightful, and they were enthusiastic and eager to make sure we saw as much as we could handle before getting us back to our 2:30pm hydrofoil to Saigon. We exchanged cards, and I am interested in corresponding with Trung to help both of us improve our understanding of the Vietnam War. His father fought with the VC in the area I was in, and he seemed quite interested in the photos of children I showed he and his colleagues (never miss a chance to promote historical research). He indicated that once a month, the tour guides get together and hear speakers and learn information from vets who have returned to here. Perhaps I can use that opportunity to circulate the photos and my perception of the experience on vets to the group.
Tonight, we were able to link up with Pat's cousin, Billy Thompson and his wife Maria. Their cruise ship pulled into Saigon this afternoon, and they were bussed up to the Cu Chi Tunnels. Tonight, they got the note we provided to the Palace Hotel, and they were able to walk over to our hotel and knock on our door. We shared dinner at the restaurant, and we were able to spend some time sharing photos and insights into where they're going next in Vietnam (Hoi An anto d Halong Bay). It turns out that our paths will almost cross again when in Hong Kong on March 5th on the way home. We won't be able to see each other, but we'll check in again after we've all settled into our homes in California.
To see all of the photos from today, click on: Friday, Feb25th, Saigon To VungTau