109 Days at Sea

“Good Morning Vietnammmm!”

by Alyssa | November 18, 2009

Vietnam 1 – so today I awoke around 0730 FOR THE DAY!! We were entering Vietnam but we would not be there till 1100. We entered the Saigon River around 0800. My first cruise that I ever went on I was 12years old – we sailed down the Mississippi River and I thought that was sooo cool! So narrow and curvy and small for a ship to navigate through! I could never have imagined a huge cruise ship making its way through this river! Now this Saigon River reminded me of that very much! The Saigon River was fresh water, but it was purely brown! Pretty weird! There were shoes floating, helmets floating, coconuts floating, parts of tree branches, leaves, everything was in this water! Now aside from what was in the water- let me describe this river. I probably could have swam across it, no trouble at all, in less then 5minutes! If that! It was sooooo small and so narrow omggg! It was so curvy I have no clue how that pilot actually navigates through it. We just sailed down it, dodging boats and floating markets and what not. It was crazy!! It was really interesting and something to see. We docked in Saigon /Ho Chi Min city around 1100 or so. So Vietnam is where the parent trip was taking place- so as we were getting to the dock you looked over and saw just a bunch (well not a bunch, I’d say like 25-30 total which isn’t a lot) of parents standing there waving and going crazy all excited! I was just thinking oh maybe my parents are surprising me (just to make my thoughts and myself feel better I’d pretend they were coming) I will say it was pretty sad looking over the edge and seeing all these family members- I definitely got teary eyed! – along with many other people… It’s okay though because I get to see my family in one month!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! – well anyways the ship was cleared around 1130 or so. We decided to eat lunch on the ship quick before we headed off around 1245. So at 1245 Kham, Amanda, Maria, and myself were off! We caught the shuttle and headed to the shuttle drop off at the Rex Hotel. We got off the bus and first went to the ATM. Now the confusing thing was that it was 1USD per 17,856 dong! Sooooo confusing!! The currency was sooo big! I was like a millionaire here! The ATM only allowed you to take out in like denominations of 50-100 thousand. So I would take out 1million and be all excited! But 1million dong only equals out to approximately $56USD! SO weird!!! We were going to go try to find a tailor to get some clothes made! So let me tell you; I thought India driving was bad, but Vietnam is just as bad! The only difference was that in India they would probably hit you, in Vietnam they swerve around you. Now in our demonstration the evening before we were told and shown that to ‘survive’ Vietnamese driving we just had to walk off the curb into the street and just keep walking. Don’t stop, don’t run, don’t turn around, just keep walking at your normal pace across the street and the drivers will avoid you and drive around you. It honestly was very scary the first time. I just held my breath and walked, literally held my breath the whole time! So after our first few times of crossing the streets we walked around a little bit through some of the stores and the market. After searching and stopping and searching and stopping for what seemed like forever, we FINALLY found a tailor a good way down the road! So we went into this tailor and got some measurements done! I was going to be getting two suits and two dresses made!! So after the four of us got fitted we headed to the market to get some fabric. After literally like 2 hours of searching/looking at fabric we headed back to the tailor to hand it off to her. We walked around a little bit and then headed back to the ship. When I got on the ship around 1930 or so I went to my room and noticed that I got mail!! I was so so so excited!! I not only got 1letter but I go like 4 cards from Auntie Ellen’s address and a big envelope/package from home which was filled with a bunch of cards and drawings from Georgia and Graycie. I was so happy it totally made my whole day! I was very excited – sad – and happy when I read all my mail! – My little Georgia girl sent me a card saying “do you remember me? It’s Georgia, your niece – I miss you when are you coming back? Do you remember who I am?” Gosh I was SO saddened by that! My little munchkin thinks I forgot her!! Oh how I miss that girl! – so after I read my mail I and met the girls upstairs for dinner. We were going to go out to a club/bar or something after for my roommate’s birthday but I was so tired, totally not in the mood and I was going on a trip early in the morning, Kham, Maria, Amanda, and myself just ended up hanging out in Kham’s room for a few hours. I finally went to bed around 0030 or so. It was a fun day and I absolutely loved Vietnam.

Vietnam 2- So today I woke up around 0730 to head out to the Cu Chi Tunnels and the Cao Dai Temple with SAS! I headed up to breakfast and met up with Rochelle and Amanda they were both going on the trip. So it was about a three-hour bus ride to the Cao Dai Temple. It was such an interesting place to see. It was so colorful, like creamy sort of colors with dragons and the evil eye/third eye all over the place. It was just a nice site to see. it was pretty cool being there. We got to watch a little bit of a service. it was very different. There were different people that came out at different times. Some of the men wore yellow robes, some wore blue, and some wore red. Then there were a bunch of men and women wearing white robes – some had black caps and some had white – making the Ying Yang stance! Each color meant a different thing and had a greater level of “importance” among the others. It was nice. After the temple we went to lunch. It was delicioussss!! We had some traditional Vietnamese food- a noodle dish, rice, a beef dish, fried shrimp, soup, pine apple! YUM it was so good! After lunch we headed on an hour drive to the Cu Chi Tunnels. – So when we arrived here we walked through this like dark tunnel entrance. We then watched a movie about the Vietnam War from the Vietnamese point of view and the point of the tunnels. It wasn’t the most enjoyable film to watch – it actually made us all very uncomfortable. But after the film we just headed on. We were first shown an underground hide-away. It was CRAZY! This hole was literally the width of my sneaker (9½ or 10) by like 6inches. It was just a rectangular piece was just a cut area in the ground. The piece that came out was a block that was covered by grass/wood/leaves and the hole in the ground was a few feet deep. It was intense. We were able to go in it if we chose, but I decided I was just going to put my legs in because I did not want to get stuck underground! I fit! Though it was weird!! So then we were shown a big bamboo trap! Now this was freakin intense! And scary! It was blocked off so no one could get hurt… but this trap was just a rectangular area in the ground that again was covered by leaves/grass/wood so it blended in with the ground- but the difference was that it spun around and when it opened there were huge spikes inside. It was so scary to see. We were then showed a few more different types of bamboo traps. There was about 10 different kinds. So scary to see and so sad to think about! We also saw how they had termite hills that were used in defense during the war. After we finished seeing the bamboo traps we just kept walking down the path – this path brought us to an area where gun shots were being fired- come to find out this was a shooting range! We had the chance to try and shoot and AK 47, M16, M60, M30, M1, K54, or a K59. I got the chance to shoot an AK47 for $7 USD! (Which I figure shooting ranges in the US are much more expensive then that.) We shot into a shooting range, where at the end were cardboard pictures of animals to shoot at. I totally missed them every time! I will say though this thing just like blew me away! The pressure and the intensity of the gun once the trigger is pulled. It was ridiculous! I was something like so unimaginable – I never expected myself to try something like that. I knew I’d never have the opportunity to do this again so I am glad that I tried it when I did. So after the shooting range we headed to the actually tunnels. OMGGGGGGGG this thing was crazy. So we headed down underground, they started out a little wide at first and then they just got so narrow, so dark, and so not easy to maneuver your body through. They were so tiny and narrow and crazy and so claustrophobic! I was pretty much crawling through them on my hands and knees or scooting on my butt. I do not know how the Vietnamese lived in these, ran through these, and carried guns through these tunnels – because pretty much all of us SAS’ers couldn’t even move through them! But we did make our way through. We were only in them for probably 5-10minutes total and we came out drenched, like we just got out of the swimming pool! It was crazy!! It was so interesting though. Going to the Cu Chi Tunnels was amazing and I am very happy that I went. I learned a lot and realized a lot. It was a hard thing to see and a hard thing to think about – they really opened my eyes to the Vietnam War and it was very sad. It is not something you want to think or realize what happened- I would’ve never known or thought there were traps, secret tunnels and passageways, and all of this stuff. It was something that I learned when I got there and I just thought it was so sad and so terrible. The best thing I could have done in Vietnam was actually seeing this area first hand and I am glad that I did. We left the tunnels around 1700 or so and arrived back to the ship around 18:30 or so. Dinner or the ship tonight was AMAZING! They had duck and it was actually very good! I was so shocked to see duck on the menu in the buffet line. Totally glad I ate dinner on the ship – it was the first good meal on the ship in gosh who knows- SO LONG! It was yummmm – we didn’t do anything that night – I was exhausted from the day long trip. I was in bed probably by 2300! What an amazing day and an amazing learning experience I had to day!

Vietnam 3- today was another day to go out and explore the city of Ho Chi Min City! I awoke today around 0900 or so to get ready and go! We grabbed the shuttle bus and we were off! We got off of course at the Rex Hotel (where the only shuttle stop is) and we went exploring a bit. Today at first it was just Amanda, Amiee, Rochelle, and myself. We just did some close by shopping, like in the actual stores rather then the markets. We walked around for about 2hrs or so and then headed back to the ship for lunch and to meet up with Maria, Mario, Ann, and Ana. We left the ship again around 1330 or so- all 8 of us! We so looked like a group of tourists its hilarious! So we walked up and down the street- of course making purchases every which way! At least I was able to run into the post office during this time to grab a few stamps! Well anyways we just kept walking and shopping walking and shopping… We went to the tailor quick to check up on our stuff. We ended up loosing Mario, Ann, and Ana at this point, but figured we’d find them back at the ship later. So we just decided to walk around the market – and the Ben Than market which is a huge Market, this is where a majority of our time was spent! It was such tight corners and areas inside. Everyone was always up your butt, grabbing your arm, trying to get you to purchase there stuff! Its crazy there – what was really cool was that this was a day time market – but come 1800 or so it turned into a night market – everyone from inside sets up tents outside and they bring ALL of there products outside to sell. This night market takes over a lot of the streets- and this is a daily/nightly thing. It was crazy watching them set up – and then did it in like 2seconds. So anyways we walked around the markets from during the day, and then in the midst of it changing, and then when it was a night market. We ended up around like 2130 or so finally getting dinner. . We went to a place called Pho 24. It served mainly Pho, which is a traditional Vietnamese beef or chicken noodle/soup dish… so that’s what I had- along with some amazing spring rolls! I also had “coconut water” in a coconut, which is totally different from the coconuts that we have at home. It was like moist and the coconut itself was like gooey and different. It was really yummy and the milk (or water) was delicious!! so we finally got back to the ship around 2300/2330 or so! I was exhausted!! We all just chilled in Kham’s room for a bit and then headed to sleep!!

Vietnam 4- Today I got up at 0700 for an 0800 trip! I was going to the Mekong River trip. I headed up to breakfast and then I was off to the bus. I was totally grumpy in the morning! I was so tired I just wanted to sleep! I ended up sleeping wonderfully on the bus with my AMAZING little pink blow up pillow that my aunt got me! This thing works wonders and everyone is always so jealous that I have a pillow and they didn’t! oh it was fabulous and it made sleeping so comfy! So anyways it took about 2-2½ hrs or so to get to the entrance to the river. The river literally was brown again, but it is fresh water! The water looks dirty, but it actually looks so fresh it was weird! Well anyways we got on to these boats that took us across the water to an island called “Dragon Island.” On Dragon Island we listened to some music and were given some delicious tropical fruits! Dragon Fruit omggg delicious!!! So yummy!! We had Pomelo which is a type of grapefruit, but not like the grapefruits that we eat at home, they were like no sour at all they were more of an orange like texture also- they were so good! we also tried Rambutan, Logan, magosteen and some others! Gosh I love fruits! I could eat them all day long! We then ventured our way to these little canoe like boats where two local Vietnamese people brought us down the river to another island. So this island was a place where they were making coconut candy. Coconut candy is .. A.M.A.Z.I.N.G!!!!!! I ended up buying a bunch to take home!!! Well to make this coconut candy they first shred the actually coconut in a crazy shredding machine.. Then they like add some sort of powder, like a baking powder – and just mixed it.. it was cool. We saw them cutting the pieces of candy and then wrapping them in rice paper and wax paper. It was pretty cool. And this candy really was absolutely delicious! Coconut candy is like a coconut type of toffee ish sort of thing! Not a very good explainer I know but hey I tried. All I know is it is delicious! So yes anyways after we went to this coconut candy place we headed on the boat honestly like 10feet down the river to another ‘island’ for lunch. So we are just sitting there waiting for lunch and they brought out this fish… not like a baby fish but this HUGE fried fish like the size of like 2 footballs in length – and in height maybe like 1 football with the tip pointing up. It was crazy! They brought one for each table – So we all just looked at each other with a blank look on our faces. We were like “what is this how do we eat it!!” it was so weird – So then a lady came over, put on gloves and started scaling the fish and we were so lost! She then cut pieces of the fish meat off of the body, took a piece of rice paper and put in it a bowl of water, and then put the rice paper on a plate. She then put some of the fish, some mint leaves, and some noodles on the rice paper and made it into a spring roll with rice paper… omg amazing!!! I ended up videotaping it because it was such an amazing process to watch her make lunch. We also got a shrimp, some noodle and beef dish, fried rice, a pork dish, chicken, and some nasty ass soup that I could not eat. Overall lunch really was amazingggg!!!! Minus the soup. So after lunch we took the boat ride back to the dock and were on the bus and ready to go back to the ship. It was about a 2.5 hour bus ride back so I got to sleep for a bit! Niceee! We arrived back at the ship around 1630-1700. I showered and then went up to dinner. After dinner, well around 2000 I decided I was going to go out for a bit with a few people. It was Maria, Amanda, Aimee, Carina, and myself and then the two inter port students from Hong Kong – Cherry and Horris and the inter port lecturer from Hong Kong –James! We were going to go to a Jazz club. We got to the jazz club but realized that there was a very expensive cover charge; so we said forget that and walked around looking for somewhere else to go. We ended up going to this Latino/Cuban restaurant called Havana. We just sat and relaxed and got a drink and FRENCH FRIES!!! Omgg delicious!! we headed back to the ship around 2300 or so. I then ended up grabbing my computer and going outside for a little bit to get some internet usage! Yes so exciting! I got to load some pictures, go on facebook, and talk to people! I was pumped! I got back to my room around 0100 and went to sleep! It was a good day!

Vietnam 5-today I woke up around 0800. I showered quick and got ready to go and I ran outside to the restaurant right in the port to use there WiFi. I was able to Skype with home!!!! It was about 2000 at home so I knew people were awake. It was amazing to talk to and see my family!!! Mom, Dad, Alex, Anya, Nana, Graycie! So good! My poor little Georgia was upstairs sleeping cause she didn’t feel well and no one wanted to wake her up! I was very sad. But I did get to talk to Graycie and she kept smiling and looking at the screen saying “Hi,” “Hi,” “Hi” OmG it was soooo cute! I haven’t heard her say anything before so I was very excited to hear her! And to see that adorable face smiling at me and giggling!! Ah I miss her! So I got to talk to everyone for a little bit and then I ran back to the ship to grab my stuff to meet up with Amanda and Kham to go out for the day. When I got to my room my sister called my phone and told me Georgia was awake and wanted to talk/see me. So I grabbed my computer and my stuff to go out and ran back to the restaurant so I could see my little munchkin! It was so nice to see and talk to her- She told me all about school and dance and what she was going to be doing for her birthday party – oh everything! We got to skype for like 15minutes before she headed back to bed! It was fabulous! I can’t wait to see that little girl in about a month!! So after skyping with home we hopped on the shuttle bus and we were off. We made a mad dash for our tailor right when we got off the shuttle. At this point it was like 1000. After the tailor we just walked around for a bit. We decided to stop at this amazing looking ice cream parlor. This menu looked so yummi. Me and Amanda decided we were going to order this fondue item that came with 14 scoops of ice cream – any flavors and the chocolate fondue sauce, fruits, and pieces of cone. Omg amazing! We tried literally so many ice creams before we chose what we wanted on our tray- I strongly suggest NEVER ordering Durian ice cream – it tasted like pure onions it was so gross!!! But everything else was just amazing. after our ice cream we walked to meet up with Rochelle and Brittany to go to lunch. We went to a different Pho restaurant. I had beef pho again!– so yummy! After lunch we just walked around for a bit – We had to be back at the tailor at 1600. Of course our clothes weren’t ready so we sat there for literally 1.5 hours ugh. So lets see – I got two tailor made suits – one black and one gray… a long like gown dress, and a short sundress all for $120!! I am in love with my two suits just to throw that out there! Well anyways right after our clothes were ready we headed back towards the shuttle bus. But we never made it to the bus because we kept shopping!! Now a major form of taxi and transportation in Vietnam is motorcycle. I was very nervous about this motorcycle thing but we did end up taking one back to the ship as our taxi. It was pretty cool, I’ve never been on a bike before so it was a little thrilling! But shh don’t tell my parents! =) haha my first experience on a motor bike, it was legit only like a 2minute ride!! Nah but it was fun, but not something I’d go out of my way for. –so we finally got back to the ship at 1930. We went right up to the “Goodbye Vietnam BBQ” that the ship was doing special. – this is the first port where we had a weird on ship and departure time. On ship was 2100 on Saturday and departure time was 0600 on Sunday. So they decided a bbq would get a majority of the people on the ship at the correct time – and they were right! Haha I think ¾ of the ship was there early for dinner

So Overall I LOVED Vietnam! I thought it was an amazing place with so many different things to see. I really enjoyed my time here!

1 Comment

Auntie Ellen 11/18/09 8:06 am

Hi Alyssa,
VietNam sounded amazing,quite unlike the descriptions I heard from Uncle Ronnie, but hey, that WAS during war. Can’t wait to see the pictures.
Auntie Ellen
ps. See, the pink pillow WAS a good idea, and everyone laughed at me!!!!!