Arriving in the very early morning hours we found ourselves in a monochrome world; one that even muted the sunrise. Good morning, Viet Nam!
|A muted sunrise on the Saigon River, Viet Nam|
Because our cruise ship carried only 625 passengers, it was small enough to dock in Ho Chi Minh City. That meant we had a bit of a river cruise traveling up the Saigon River, at the break of day. Those enormous cruise ships can't make it up the river, so another plus for small ship cruising.
|River traffic on the Saigon was fascinating.|
This was the destination we had been waiting for on this 10-day Southeast Asian cruise. Aboard the Oceania Nautica, we'd set sail from Bangkok, Thailand and had visited Koh Samui, Thailand, then spent a day in Cambodia. We spent two days at sea thanks to stormy weather to our north and finally we were approaching Ho Chi Minh City, still called by some, Saigon.
|The Saigon River, a journey in itself|
One of my favorite parts of cruising is arriving at a port, especially one that we've never been to before. And this was certainly that! The everyday sights and sounds are every bit as interesting to us as are the 'tourist attractions' that await on land. I guess we'd ascribe to the theory that in cruising, the journey is every bit as interesting as the destination itself. The Saigon River didn't disappoint.
|Entering the mangrove lined river|
Remembering 'that' war
The majority of our fellow cruisers were of the age to have lived through the Viet Nam war years. The Scout, on this journey, recalled his luck in having a military draft lottery number of 365, virtually an assurance he wouldn't be called to serve in the Southeast Asion conflict. I was a teenager who remembers the horrors that appeared in U.S. headlines. My memories of what had actually taken place here were as hazy as the atmosphere.
|Along the Saigon River|
For others on the ship, the memories of the war were much more vivid. One of our fellow passengers, a Vietnamese lady, was returning back to visit her country. She had been one of the 'boat people' who had managed to escape.
Another man, who had served in Viet Nam, stood next to us at the railing as we entered the river. He gazed out to sea as if seeing a scene from decades ago, and said, "We were out there. Our boat was out there. . .we saved 150 of them. . .they wouldn't have made it, had we not been there."
|A bridge under construction on the Saigon River|
He then pulled out his wallet and retrieved a folded bill, a Vietnamese 'dong' as their currency is called. He showed it to us, saying, 'I've carried this with me since then.' He gave it a final glance, folded it up and tucked it and the memories it held back in his wallet and then continued to gaze at the sea.
Up a Hazy and Polluted River
I'll admit that we've become spoiled by the crystal clear, deep blue and green waters that surround us in our adopted country, Greece. Some days the clearness and color intensity stop us in our tracks - so beautiful, that it doesn't look real, as in the photo below:
|A current of garbage making its way to sea|
|Pollution in the Saigon River|
|Approaching Ho Chi Minh City|