Our approach to Ho Chi Minh City began as we entered the mouth of the Saigon River. A three hour trip up the twisting and often thin waterway was an experience not too many people have. We passed small villages and single homes along the banks of the river, plenty of small fishing boats and came far too close for my comfort to other large vessels making their back out to sea. I began the morning as usual with sunrise but in honor of our trip up the Saigon River one of my coworkers and her husband who happens to be a faculty member and on the SAS Board of Trustees invited us to their top floor private balcony for coffee and pastries. It was a good time to hang out with some of the team who usually doesn’t get up for the entry into the port. Before too long the LLCs were put to work as the MV Explorer pulled into the port passing out passports and landing cards to all passengers. When we finally had a chance to look outside we saw the excited parents and loved ones that would be joining the SAS Cambodia trip and others. Many of our staff had partners and spouses joining us for the port or some for even longer. Two of the children on board were welcoming their other parent aboard so the energy was high and even those of us not expecting any visitors were excited for the others.
It was almost 11:30 before the ship was cleared so after a quick lunch on board I met up with a crew of the Living Learning Team and as usual went out into town. Most of them were on a mission to get some custom made suits and dresses. I too had that plan until a few days prior when I agreed to be a trip leader for a trip on our last day not really thinking about it. DANG!
Anyway, trying to cross the street in Vietnam is an art form. We were well prepped by our interport students as well as some fellow passengers who have spent time in Vietnam but hearing about it and doing it is a very different thing. The city is a scooter/motor cycle town, looking down the streets is like looking at a wall of bikes and you are just walk out into the street and let them go around you. Don’t run, don’t stop walking, just walk at a regular pace and go with it. We must have crossed busy streets about 2 dozen times and while I did get easier I would not say it was something I was totally comfortable with.
We walked through the market place and like many of the markets I have now experienced around the world it was a sensory overload. As expected there was plenty of knock-off stuff; North Face, DVDs, purses, sunglasses etc. Walking through the food market was a challenge as I held my breath and surely looked like a deer in headlights as I saw a mesh bag full of frogs jumping about, large platters of fish, squid and things I have never seen before or want to see again.
Making our way out the other side we began to find the tailors and the group began their process. It was a lengthy process but cool to see them picking out fabric, pulling out pictures of what they liked, getting sized and returning a few hours later to see the garment take shape.
A, G and I went for massages while the rest of the group went to the history museum (sorry Dad and Cormac). I was the first person to be taken upstairs and I noticed that all three massage tables were in one large room. The masseuse told me to undress and lay down. It was only then that I noticed hospital like curtains pushed against the walls, she pulled them out and closed my bed in. A few moments later I heard A and G join me on the other side of the curtains and I just had to fight back the giggles. The massage was enjoyable over all but she was a bit hard on my neck and I was a bit sore and bruised the next day but $10.00 for an hour massage was worth it.
Feeling relaxed but hungry we made our way to a restaurant at one of the hotels but stopped at a street vendor on the way for corn on the cob. Of course with my food issues I didn’t buy one but after getting good reviews from A & G I was happy to help A eat hers. G chose the restaurant based on the size of the wine classes he noticed when we walked by earlier in the evening. Its no surprise that G and I get along wonderfully. While I’m not entirely sure what I had at this point I do remember that everything was excellent especially the company.