The early morning heat was tolerable almost pleasant. The ship continued up the Saigon River until it berthed in a container port for pthe assengers to disembark. We collected the items we needed for the day including landing visas,cameras and water before joining our tour group in the Royal Court Theater. We were pleased to see Judith, who traveled with us in China was with our tour today. Our excursion was Ho Chi Minh City and shopping.
We all boarded our coach and drove for about 2-1/2 hours into Ho Chi Minh City (formally called Saigon). Along the way we saw development and infrastructure combined with farming and poverty. The new highway was congested with mopeds, buses, trucks and a few cars.
There were small shops, fruit stands, and shacks with up to a dozen hammocks for people to rest in.
That was a unique sight for me. We crossed the Saigon River over bridges and a new tunnel just outside of the city.
Our first stop was a lacquer factory, where we saw how some of the pieces were made and browsed through the showroom for about 30 minutes. Back on the coach we headed into the center of Ho Chi Minh City, where we were allotted about 45 minutes to walk around and shop in a huge bazaar style shopping complex.
Each merchant commanding a small booth packed with merchandise including clothes, perfumes, textiles, food and kitchen supplies. We perused the shops then walked around the block to see more of the people, culture and lifestyles. The smell of the city was difficult to ignore. Back aboard the coach we were driven across town to see the capital building. In this area there were high end shops and malls, a demonstration of the gentrification in progress to attract the growing tourist industry Vietnam is striving for.
We were led a few blocks away to the Notre Dame Cathedral and Post Office where the coach parked and we were allotted almost 2 hours to eat and shop. Judith joined JoRina and I. We went into a mall where we ate in a Japanese restaurant then shopped a little. We spent some time in an Apple store and I purchased 2 summer dresses before we left the mall. On our way back to the bus JoRina drove a hard bargain with a street vender as she purchased sun glasses, stamps, and post cards. She's tough. Everything is under priced in Vietnam, the challenge is to find quality products. I think we achieved that goal. We were all happy with our purchases. Back on the coach we made our way back to the ship in a 2-1/2 hour drive back the same highway we arrived in.
The temperature and humidity had risen making the ride almost uncomfortable as the air conditioning could not keep up with the heat. I slept most of the way back.
Grateful to be an American citizen. We were glad to be back on board the QM2.
I showered and dressed (elegant casual) for dancing in my new dress. I ate dinner in the Kings Court while watching a fierce thunder and lightning storm escort us down the Saigon River into the China Sea. Then off to the Queens Room where I danced and watched others dance the first set. During the intermission I went to the Golden Lion for a Coke and potato chips. From there I could still see the lightning contrasting against the dark night vista. JoRina came in to play Trivia and we talked for a while before I returned to the Queens Room to dance the second set. There are over a dozen new passengers from dance clubs or schools that have elevated the skill level in the Queens Room. They tend to wear dance costumes rather than elegant suits and dresses. Some of them are even professional dancers. It was interesting to see what years of dance lessons could lead to. I stayed till midnight mostly watching the dancers then ate a sandwich in the Kings Court before turning in for the night.
The day started 1/2 hour before the wake up call sounded. I got up and showered while JoRina slept a bit more. By 7AM we drew the curtains to view Vietnam along the shore of the Saigon River. The weather was overcast, hot and humid.