Vietnam tour: Part three, Hoi An to Ho Chi Minh City

Serenity of Swanwick
Phil and Sarah Tadd
Tue 23 Apr 2024 08:14
We left Hoi An in the early hours of Thursday for the flight to Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong Delta. We were sat right at the back of the plane but on landing we were lucky and they unloaded from front and rear doors. First off, not often that lucky.
All gathered together outside the terminal and onto the next coach this time to drive out for a day on the Mekong, the rice bowl of Vietnam a fertile area growing an abundance of fruits and flowers as well as rice.
The first boat trip to Cai Be was on a tour boat which held our whole party. As has become normal we were greeted with a cup of tea and given bottled water to drink as we cruised, we also had a second breakfast of fruit. Out from town amongst ferries, houseboats and cargo boats carrying anything from stacks of bricks to pile of rice.
Second breakfast.
Tour boat on the Mekong
At Cai Be we moved onto smaller sampans for a trip through the canals, narrow waterways amongst the houses and fields. These were propelled by oars or, when the waterway was choked by weed, logtail propellors driven by small engines. These are pivoted at the stern of the boat and can be lifted for cleaning. The same principle is used on larger craft with larger engines.
Sampan to tour the narrow waterways
Plastic waste fouling the long tail propellor
Back to the cruise boat and next stop was a rice and coconut sweet maker. More tea and bottles of water but also samples of the delights they were making Coconut Toffees, Popped Rice and Rice Wine, including one from a bottle with a cobra in it, Snake Rice Wine. Of course you were expected to buy and not just sample. 
Popping rice at the sweet factory, the heat is provided by burning rice husks.
We were all getting a bit hungry by now as our packed breakfast was a long time ago at Hoi An airport before the flight. The lunch was another amazing meal at an old colonial house, now restaurant, 7 courses including Elephant Ear fish.
image2.jpegLunch stop
Lunch menu
Elephant Ear fish
Saying goodbye to the cruise boat, it was now back on the coach and on to our overnight stop in a resort hotel at Can Tho. This was probably the most impressive hotel we stayed in. Large rooms, looking out across the pool which had a nice bar and restaurant, not that anyone was hungry enough for a restaurant meal, the snacks were enough. We had a walk into the town but didn’t find much of interest to us. It is a tourist town on the river with tacky street stalls, large passenger boats with noisy music and equally noisy bars on board.
We have become very used to and impressed by the buffet breakfasts in our hotels. All manner of foods to suit all tastes and each one has an egg station where you can order and observe the cooking of your eggs, fried, scrambled or omelette. Cooked in a small pan using chopsticks, no spatula in sight. After breakfast we had another boat trip this time to see the floating market. This is a wholesale market mainly for the fruit and vegetables brought in from the Delta, the boats advertise their goods by hanging a sample up high.
Floating market boats
 We were able to go onto a Pineapple boat and watch them preparing the fruit for eating. The skin is pared off and then the remaining bits removed by spiral cuts, very decorative. 
Preparing pineapple for eating
The finished product
Returning ashore we had a short walk around another street market before the coach ride into Ho Chi Minh City and our final hotel.
Saigon could have been almost any western city with the range of shops and goods for sale and the prevalence of western dress. Of course the traffic was normal Vietnamese with hoards of motorcycles making unpredictable manoeuvres. We had another walking tour taking in the Notre Dame Cathedral (under wraps for repair work), the Post Office and the War Remnants museum.
The Post Office was a most impressive building, again going back to colonial days and the days when you booked and queued to make phone calls. Dating back to the late 1800’s it is one of the oldest buildings in the city combining European and Asian features.
The post office, watched over by Ho Chi Minh’s portrait
The War Remnants Museum is a distressing reminder of the ‘American War’. The ground floor exhibits show the international anti war support and as you progress upward you are made aware of the suffering of the Vietnam population, the use of Napalm and Agent Orange, a lot of the photographs are from American sources and a whole room is dedicated to the photographers who lost their lives during the conflict. It was good to move on from here and settle into our hotel.
At this point our tour group was beginning to split up according to the tour options some flying home or on to different destinations. A final group dinner was organised in a local restaurant, most attended and enjoyed more delicious Vietnamese cuisine. The majority were to visit the Cu Chi tunnels next day but some were flying out in the morning.
The Cu Chi tunnels are a small section of the 250kms of tunnels dug by the Viet Cong in their guerrilla war and used to shelter from US bombing as well as providing communication links as far as the Cambodian border. The tunnels housed hospitals, munition factories, living quarters and bomb shelters. They enabled the Viet Cong to live and attack the Saigon area. The small area of tunnels preserved at Cu Chi enable tourists to see this aspect of the war. The tunnels which can be entered have been widened to accept the European body size.
Example of booby traps at Co Chi Tunnels
and how the Viet Kong were able to hide quickly
Most of our tour group were moving on to Cambodia and a small number of us returned to Ho Chi Minh City we flew back to KL the following morning.