Day 3. Monday 23 December. Saigon, Freedom of Choice Tour, Embark Cruise

This morning was an exciting morning for the three of us.  At 8 o’clock, we started our Walking Tour of Saigon – the first part of this was a half hour Cyclo Tour.  For those who don’t know what a cyclo is, it is a bicycle that has a seat mounted on two wheels in front of the cyclo driver, who sits on a bicycle seat and peddles and steers like a normal bicycle. The cyclo has one wheel at the back. Our Cyclo Tour took us through the bustling city streets in the middle of peak hour traffic.  We saw lots of street vendors setting up their stalls and having breakfast out on the footpaths, as well as people exercising in the parks and we even saw a little primary school class with children in uniforms sitting cross-legged on the floor. It was an exciting experience to actually be on the roads with hundreds of motor-bikes and cars all jostling for their share of the road. It amazed us how all the drivers seemed to know just where the others were going to go and at times there was only a matter of inches between each of them and us but at no time did we feel uncomfortable beause our drivers were very skilled.

After the Cyclo drivers dropped us off at the Reunification Palace, our guide talked to us about the Palace, while Richard and some of the others took photos.  We were interested to see the actual tanks that knocked down the Palace gates of the then Presidential Palace, bringing the war to an end.

From there we walked past several lovely parks to the Notre Dame Cathedral where we saw several soon-to-be brides and grooms having their professional photos taken.  This is something that they do a couple of months before they get married. We were allowed to go inside the cathedral but only able to stand at the back.

Across the road from the cathedral is the Central Post Office.  We went inside and were given time to look around before walking back to the hotel via the Opera House.

We thoroughly enjoyed our morning!

We then checked out of the hotel and boarded a bus for our one and a half hour transfer to My Tho Port.  As we drove along, Thang, our guide gave us some interesting facts, as well as pointed out various things about the rice paddies, cane farms and local activities along the way.

One of the interesting things he explained to us is the Vietnamese call the city Saigon, although the ‘official” name is now Ho Chi Minh City, which seems to only get used for “official” things.

Another interesting fact is that they are only allowed to have motor bikes with an engine capacity not exceeding 175ccs.  It is illegal for each motor bike to carry more than 2 adults and 1 child, however if the police do not enforce that because they understand that families of 5 cannot afford two motor bikes or a car.  At one part of our journey we were travelling on a 6 lane highway reserved for cars, with another 4 lanes could be used for bicycles and motor bikes.

When we reached the Mekong Delta area, we went from Highway 1 to a Freeway, where no bicycles or motor bikes were allowed. The Freeway is only 40 kilometres long but they are building another section.  Along this stretch beside the road were many rice paddies and some sugar cane farms all of which had ancestral graves in the middle of the farms.

We arrived at the AMALotus at 1.30pm and were taken to the Lounge for a brief orientation meeting before heading to the Dining Room for a late lunch.  After lunch, we collected our key cards at reception and were escorted to our cabin/suite, which is very nice.  We have a king size bed, a little sitting area and twin balconies.

The RV AMA Lotus was commissioned in September 2011 and has 62 suites.

From the Sky Deck, we watched the AMA Lotus leaving her berth and heading upstream for our adventure on the Mekong River.  We had the mandatory safety drill with life jackets, and then met the captain and crew before a tasty dinner.

An exciting day in Vietnam!

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