Good Morning Vietnam!! Our first stop is Nha Trang, a beachside resort town. We were so looking forward to spending some time on the beach, relaxing, etc. However, it is pouring rain!! Plan B…we take the shuttle from the ship into town which conveniently drops us off at a mall, not really what we are looking for but after wandering around the mall a bit, we decide to head out in the rain.
We negotiated a rate with a pedicab driver to take us to the Nha Trang Dam Market. He assures us that he has a cover for his pedicab and we stay mostly dry as he slogs through the wet streets for an exciting and nail-biting ride through all the traffic.
When it comes to street markets the Dam Market is hailed as the busiest of its kind. It’s bustling atmosphere and colourful array of goods makes it a popular spot for travelling photographers and tourists looking to immerse themselves in the local culture.
Within a three-storey building with designated sections it’s easy to navigate. Local souvenir shops are set in the front and middle sections. You can also see numerous stalls selling counterfeit goods such as handbags, watches, sneakers and knock-off branded clothing, though most of them have the same stock. We had to bargain hard to get a fair price. This is generally the case for markets popular with tourists in Vietnam, and throughout most of Southeast Asia. We did end up with some purchases but it was mostly fun looking around while the rain came down in buckets outside.
There are several other wonderful sights to see in Nha Trang, if the weather had been better. There are temple ruins at Po Nagar Cham, the Long Son Pagoda and the Nha Trang Cathedral but really not easy to get to or wander around with this kind of weather. Some people from the ship went for massages…1.5 hours for only $24USD.
Instead we headed back to the ship for lunch and because there was a market set up outside the ship for us, we spent a little more money. In fact, the prices outside the ship were actually lower than in the huge market!
Unfortunately, we weren’t able to enjoy Nha Trang to the extend we would have liked to but one cannot control the weather and we made the best of it.
Phu My (Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City) is where the ship docked. The distance to Saigon is approximately 1.5 hours away given the amount of traffic. Many of the ship are taking a shuttle into the city but because we have been there before and that I really wanted to go to the Cu Chi Tunnels, that’s the plan. It’s about a 3 hour bus ride each way to visit the tunnels.
The Chu Chi Tunnels offers a sneak-peek at the underground life of Vietnamese soldiers back to 1948. The site has over 120km of underground tunnels, with trapdoors, living areas, kitchens, storage facilities, armoury, hospitals, and command centres. After the war against the French, Vietnamese soldiers expanded the tunnels and included effective air filtration systems, which helped them survive the Chu Chi carpet-bombings.
Parts of Chu Chi Tunnels are also cemented and widened, so that the crawl is less harrowing than it would have been in the past and allows larger tourists the opportunity to go through them and there are emergency exit points every few metres for safety.
It was extremely interesting to see how well camouflaged everything was and how absolutely frightening the booby traps and shooting portals would have been to the soldiers.
We were warned that the tour was from a Vietnamese perspective. I expected to get a North Vietnamese or Government sanctioned point of view and was looking forward to that. While our guide was very good, his father was a soldier in the ARV (The Army of the Republic of Vietnam) and so presented a more US friendly version of the tunnels of the “civil war”. His father lost a foot to a Viet Cong mine during the war and faced 2 years of “re-education” after the war. Growing up with that background affected our guide’s commentary.
All I can say is that I am glad to never have had to go to war because what we saw was absolutely terrifying. Our hearts went out to all that lost their lives in the Vietnam war!
After our tour of the tunnels, it was a quick lunch by the Saigon River before a grueling 3 hour ride back to ship which of course included an obligatory stop at a lacquerware factory in Saigon.
That’s it from Vietnam. If you have any questions, please let me know. Thanks for following along on our adventures!