Day 10: Friday September 23rd 2016 – Binh Than Island
Todays morning tour was a visit to Binh Than Island, which we reached by cruising through the narrow channels of the Mekong Delta. The views along the river banks gave us a great view into the locals daily live on the Mekong and we could observe the locals live in action farming their fish, packing it up into bags filled with water and extra oxygen and then loaded onto the bigger wooden trading boats.
We went onshore to visit an unspoiled local community where rattan mats are produced – it takes 2 ladies 45 minutes to make one mat and they sell these mats for $2 at the local market. Definitely an art that is dying out as the locals were sharing with us that their kids are going to school to learn skills that will get them jobs landed in the city.
After that we met a couple older community workers at the local community center who shared with us a little bit of their personal history and answered questions about living on this small island together with 23000 other island folks. We walked a little bit through the town and saw more mat weaving women and also learned about Vietnam’s lottery system and purchased a couple lottery tickets – but did not win :-(.
After returning to the Jahan Mike and I spent some time playing chess, eating lunch and trying to keep up with the travel journal.
In the afternoon we hopped on a smaller local boat and cruised down one of the Mekong river canals to learn about floating markets and we stopped at a local family business that makes all kind of coconut based candy, popped rice (kind of like rice crispy treats) and rice wine (some of the rice wine is especially good for men’s libido – those were the bottles with snakes and cobra’s in it but Mike declined happily ;-)).
After that much excitement back to the Jahan to get ready for the evening Farewell activities. The entire Jahan team said farewell to us, the DJ played a mixture of Indochina and US music and the crew and passengers all danced around the pool while the kitchen crew prepared our farewell dinner.
Day:11 Saigon – Da Nang Saturday September 24th – Saigon – DaNang
Another early morning – we have to pack our suitcases to leave the Jahan and travel to Saigon and then leave in the afternoon for Da Nang in Central Vietnam. We are having our last breakfast with our new found Australian friends Ann and Frank from Brisbane and saying farewell. We are actually a little bit sad that we have to leave the cruise and Jahan crew behind. The cruise team was extremely attentive and would anticipate every wish prior to us mentioning it. Every single crew member knew our name and was extremely concerned about our wellbeing, we were constantly supplied with drinks, food, entertainment, clean shoes (after every excursion our shoes would be cleaned), asked if we slept well, enjoyed our breakfast, lunch, dinner and excursions, we were not allowed to carry our suitcases or open any doors ourselves. I always thought customer service is great in the US which it is but absolutely not comparable to the service industry in Cambodia and Vietnam.
At 8:15 am a new guide and driver picks us up to drive us to Saigon. Originally we had planned to spend 2 days in Saigon and visit places like the Killing Fields, the War Museum and the ChiChi Tunnels but then decided that this was way too depressing and substituted Saigon for the Sappa mountain country side. So far I can say I am very happy that we made this decision. Just passing through Saigon made it very clear to us that this is not a city we would enjoy; it seems that most Cambodian and Vietnamese big cities are extremely chaotic, loud and unfortunately dirty.
Now we are on our way to Da Nang to spend a couple days on the beach in Central Vietnam and to visit the ancient town of Hoi An.
When we arrived in Da Nang our local tour guide picked us up and brought us to our hotel which is located at the famous “China Beach” – a beach town known during the Vietnam War as the vacation/R&R oasis for American soldiers. 40 years later, Da Nang for sure is no small town anymore. Chinese and Australian investors can be found along the 20 km pristine beach building huge hotels, casinos and villas. 10 more years and this town will be flooded by Chinese and Australian travelers and most likely the beach will look like the beaches look these days in Europe, one “sardine next to the other”.
We scored once again with our accommodations and our hotel in DaNang upgraded us to this amazing ultra modern beach front villa with our own pool. After a nice dinner we took full advantage of the pool and complimentary French Champagne and then drifted off into another night of deep sleep.