Southern Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh City, Mekong Delta, Dalat, Nha Trang

October 30, 2002

Weather: high of about 95ºF, low of about 85ºF and humid.

The transition from Cambodia to Vietnam is a bit of a shock:  the pace picks up a notch and vendors are a shade shrewder.  But it is also a relief to find air conditioning more prevalent and roads well paved.  The biggest downer for me is that some of my favorite web sites are filtered out by internet cafes:  Google, Slashdot, and all the personal pages on Earthlink including our travel page.

Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon, is another big city, not too different from the many other big cities we've seen in east Asia.  But they put on a pretty good welcome for ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) tourists... not American tourists, our waitress was keen to point out.  This is a picture of a dance with dragons that was part of that welcome.  Don't tell anyone we're not from an ASEAN nation.
Traffic in Saigon.  The main flow of traffic is on the right hand side of the road here, but don't take that rule too seriously.  Traffic rules like that are mere suggestions.  And it moves a bit faster here than in Phnom Penh, so it is extra scary.  Crossing the street is a leap of faith.  Our guide estimated that there were between 30 and 50 traffic fatalities every day in Saigon.
On a day trip from Ho Chi Minh City, we visit the Cu Chi Tunnels where Viet Cong successfully fought off the Americans for years.  This is a model of the tunnels with the different levels.  I think the exit to the Mekong river at the right of the picture is the coolest.  The opening to the tunnel is covered by the river during the day when the tide is in, but is open at night.  People lived in these tunnels for years.  We crawl around in a reconstructed section of tunnel.
Also out of Ho Chi Minh City was our three-day Mekong Delta tour.  That was a series of bus and boat rides through the fertile and flood-prone southern tip of Vietnam.  At one point we came within a kilometer of the Cambodian border.
 I don't have too many photos of this trip because I got soaked by the rain on more than one occasion and my camera shut down from the damp. Here I am coming to terms with the inevitability of wetness.
After we dried out, we caught a bus north to the mountainous city of Da Lat.  This was a refreshing change from the humidity.  But it was still a bit too warm to wear sweaters and stocking hats like all the natives were wearing.  Come on!  it's only 75 degrees.  Da Lat is popular with honeymooners and really caters to the cutesy.
Also in Dalat, we run into friends we met on the Mekong Delta tour and have a lovely meal of hot pot dishes.
Here's a scene from the drive from Da Lat to our next destination:  Nha Trang.  The busses have been a fine method of travel:  cheap, air conditioned, and not too crowded.  The other land travel option is the train, which costs a great deal more and goes a lot slower.  Still I hope to do a leg by train soon after Nha Trang.
Another stop along the way to Nha Trang.  This is a Cham temple that looks a bit like the temples at Angkor Wat, if you squint your eyes.
Ahh, Nha Trang.  A beach resort town.  Lots of diving, snorkeling, and swimming.  We take a boat tour to some of the islands nearby.  The South China Sea is very pleasant to swim in, but there are too many stinging jellyfish to spend much time in the water.  Still, we snorkel a bit and see some tropical fish.  (When no one is watching, I pee in the South China Sea.)
On the island tour, we stop at a fishing village where everyone uses these basket boats.  They can really cruise around with their fancy rowing technique.

How to contact us: