Following an early breakfast, Pati and BeeBee checked out of their Ho Chi Minh City hotel at 7:30 this morning.
After leaving the city, they drove between rice fields to their first stop, the gigantic happy Buddha in My Tho in the Mekong Delta.
They also visited the Vinh Trang Pagoda.
They then boarded a tourist boat to travel around four small islands. Pati, BeeBee, their guide, and the pilot were the only people on a boat that could comfortable seat 10. At the first island, they were given tea with honey and bee pollen and snacks (banana, peanuts, ginger).
Next, they were passengers in a hand-rowed sampan boat that drifted under the shade of coconut trees through the Mekong River‟s natural canals. (They are now featured in the home movies of passengers in other boats coming from the opposite direction.)
At the next island, they enjoyed seasonal fruit and tea and were entertained by local musicians performing southern Vietnamese folk music.They watched the local production of hand-made coconut candies, followed by a ride in a small cart pulled by a small horse.
The next island was Phoenix Island, where they had a delicious six course meal, including soup, shrimp, summer rolls, fried rice, thin coconut crisps, and tea. The featured ingredient in the summer rolls was deep-fried tilipia.
After this, the tourist boat took them back to the dock. They then continued with their drive to Can Tho, two hours farther.
After checking in to the hotel, their guide made reservations for them at the Nam Bo restaurant near the hotel. At 7 pm, they met in the hotel lobby and walked the short distance to the restaurant. The guide had chicken with rice; Pati and BeeBee shared a Four Season pizza. They had a very good conversation about Vietnamese customs before going back to their respective hotels. Tomorrow comes early!
Pati and BeeBee were up this morning at 5:30 am after a relaxing 8 hours of sleep. They had a delicious breakfast at the hotel and spent time internetting. They were scheduled for a short touring day, including lunch and visits to old structures in the Ancient Quarter, and so could afford a later start.
At 10:30, they met their guide for a walking tour through the narrow winding streets of the Ancient Quarter visiting Chua Ong Pagoda, Assembly Hall, 200-year-old Tam Ky House and the 400 year-old Japanese Covered Bridge constructed in 1593.
The Fujianese Assembly Hall is dedicated to the sea goddess Thien Hau, who saved the passengers on the ship bringing them from China. (The model ship in the temple is 1/20 actual size.)
The sea goddess had two helpers, the God of Seeing that could see any danger within 1000 miles and the God of Hearing that could hear any danger within 1000 miles. They would inform the goddess of any dangers and she would come to save the ship.
Also in this temple are three shrines for the gods of prosperity (money), ancestors (parents), and fertility (childbirth). A young couple was praying to the god of fertility.
When they got to the Japanese Covered Bridge, the guide took them for a side view of it, and gave them a crisp 20,000 Vietnamese dong bill (worth just under $1 USD, but still significant for him) to keep. On one side of the bill is a lithograph of the bridge. He wanted them to have the bill as a souvenir of Hoi An. (BeeBee has saved it safely in their travel binder.)
After this, the guide took them to a river-side restaurant for a delicious, filling lunch.
Even though they were stuffed from lunch, their guide wanted them to experience the best banh mi sandwich in Vietnam, which coincidentally is made in Hoi An. He bought them each a banh mi sandwich from the best sandwich stand in Hoi An, which they decided to save for dinner. (You can see this sandwich described by Anthony Bourdain at https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=dUMlwNHNXp0. This is the same shop that they visited.) After this, their touring day was officially over, but their guide stayed with them to navigate the streets for more efficient shopping. Then the guide and driver took them back to their hotel.
After cooling off, they asked the hotel staff for help in getting Pati a haircut and beard trim. The young concierge walked with Pati to a nearby local barber shop and stayed with him to be sure the barber understood what he wanted. This haircut and trim cost 50,000 dong, around $2.25 USD.
They then took a taxi back into town and to do some souvenir shopping. They also bought an extra duffle bag/suitcase for 350,000 dong (around $16 USD) since their accumulated souvenirs now exceed their luggage space.
As they were walking up a street in the market, a man called out to them, asking where they were from. This happens a lot when someone wants to sell something, but this man had nothing to sell. He told them that he had lived in Hoi An all his life. He is taking lessons in English and his teacher has assigned him homework to write on a topic he could select from a list of topics. He chose to write about Hoi An. He asked them to read his homework and give him feedback. He led them into his house, which was just behind them, and gave them seats while they read his assignment. It was written on just over one page in a notebook like those a school child would have, with a cute animal on the cover. The essay was excellent. His handwriting was uniform and clear; his grammar and spelling were perfect; and his topic was well developed. Pati and BeeBee praised his work. He was eager to talk, to practice his spoken English, and they discussed several subjects. Finally, Pati and BeeBee excused themselves and left. What a rewarding experience!
They took advantage of their last night in Hoi An to walk through the streets just looking at everything.
Near one of the bridges, they watched a young couple standing in a boat; it seemed to be a wedding ceremony. A nearby boat was full of candles in small paper boats for floating down the river.
After this, they walked back to their hotel. They ate their banh mi sandwiches, and then had dessert and Vietnamese coffee in the hotel restaurant. A musician was in the restaurant, playing music from the 60s on a guitar (e.g., Tom Jones’ Delilah). His arrangements were simple and original, and Pati and BeeBee had fun identifying the tunes.One other couple in the restaurant seemed to recognize the tunes also, but the hotel staff did not.
And now it is time for bed. The packing can wait until tomorrow!
This day officially began at 6:15 am with a half hour of Tai Chi instructions on the sundeck. Pati and BeeBee did not officially participate, but the class was held on the deck directly above their cabin, so maybe that counts as participation.
Breakfast was served in the dining room at 7 am, and diners could choose chicken or beef pho, eggs (scrambled or omlet), bacon, toast and jelly, pastries, fruit, coffee and tea. Everything was delicious. Pati and BeeBee were paired with a young couple from New Zealand for breakfast, since the German-Scottish couple were now gone.
At about 7:45, the Finnish contingent and all but 7 of the other passengers took the tender to visit a cave. Just before that group returned, the remaining 7 passengers (including Pati and BeeBee) transferred to another, older ship for their day’s activities. A Vietnamese lunch was served on board.
After lunch, they transferred to a tender for a short trip to land. As soon as everyone was on the tender, their guide (to everyone’s surprise) collected a dining chair from the ship and placed it on the front deck of the tender. When the tender pulled up to the rocks on land, the guide set the chair on the rocks and used it to climb down to land. He then helped all the passengers to descend in the same way: two steps down for a total of more than 3 feet. They then visited a natural cave with three chambers, which the guide said was a small cave, but seemed large (until they visited another cave). The guide visits this cave almost every day and is quite fond of it. He knows it well and is disturbed when people vandalize it (e.g., someone has broken off and stolen a large chunk of a stalactite) or party in it and use candles that leave a smokey residue on the walls and ceiling. After they finished viewing the cave, they climbed back on board using the dining chair again.
After this, the ship moved on a bit, and then anchored for kayaking and swimming. Pati and BeeBee took a kayak to check out what appeared to be a small temple high on a rock before returning to the tender to shower and dry off in the sun. When all 7 were back on board, the tender returned them to the Glory Legend, which now had a whole new set of passengers, who undoubedly wondered who the 7 were!
This evening proceeded just as the previous evening had.
This morning, Pati and BeeBee joined another tour for the Flight of the Gibbon ziplines in Mae Kampong, a village 55 minutes from their hotel. There were 6 other adventurers in their group: two young Chinese couples and a middle-aged couple (Australian and Philippine).
The zipline company describes their tour as an “extreme adventure” that soars “through lush, ancient rainforest recognized as the most beautiful in all of Thailand.” Features of their course include:
- 5 km of ziplines deep in the Thai rainforest
- The longest 800 meter (1/2 mile) zipline in Asia
- 33 different platform stations
- 3 hanging sky bridges and 2 rappel descents
- Education about wildlife and vegetation along the course
- Two sky ranger guides per group
- Detailed safety briefing & personal equipment fitting
After traversing several ziplines, the guide pointed out a pair of gibbons high in a tree. He was quite excited that the group could see this, since not every tour was as lucky.
After the zipline course came a traditional Thai lunch, which included black rice, chicken soup, and many vegetable dishes.
After lunch, the group was driven to the Kampong Falls, where many more photos were taken.
Returning to Chaing Mai, Pati and BeeBee walked to the Night Market again for a last look before eating dinner at the hotel’s restaurant. They each had a beef hamburger, fries, and a huge onion ring that were indistinguishable from any available in the US, except that the burger came with a sweet pickle instead of the usual hamburger pickle.