Saturday, 25 October 2014

First Impressions and Venturing Out

Here's the second post of the day.  The first one talks about our travel to get here.  We landed in Vietnam after about 21 hours of transit.  The kids were all in pretty good shape.  They all slept in varying degrees on the plane.
Rykauna and Logan waiting for the shuttle bus to our Riverside Apartment
We were picked up at the airport and as we were travelling through Ho Chi Minh city, we got a bit of a feel for the place.
Gorgeous Greenery!  Beautiful
The most striking thing on the drive was the sheer volume of motorbikes/scooters on the road.  We had read about it, but it is difficult to imagine.  We literally saw 10 thousand of them today.  At some intersections, where there was a red light, there were a hundred waiting to go, all lined up, looking like they were at the start of the Indy 500!  These picture do not do it justice but will give a slight indication.
No lanes of traffic, just vehicles moving in the same general direction, weaving in and out and passing within inches of each other!

Hard to see but those are heads upon heads lined up in front of us as far as the eye can see.

These two had a unique way of shuttling goods.  The one on the left drove a motorbike and with his leg, pushed the cart with the long package.  The other man holds on to the package, steers, and has a little brake!  All through a mess of traffic.

Driving through the streets, we saw lots of stalls and eating places and little shops selling anything from clothing to tires to accessories for those motorcycle/scooters we saw, jewellery and kids toys.  Once again, like in China, the juxtaposition of old/new, and poor/rich are easy to see.  Some of these run down stores and homes are in the shadows of large office complexes and condos.

We are staying at Riverside Apartments, which, as their name implies, are on the shore of the Saigon River.  The grounds are beautiful, there are fields to run in, tennis, volleyball and badminton courts, a pool, gym and other amenities.  More pictures will follow.  The apartment itself is a spacious 2 bedroom with a fully equipped kitchen.  The apartments are slightly out of the way, into the suburbs.  As such, they provide two ways into the heart of the city - bus or boat.  After our afternoon naps, we roused everyone (Ok, roused is likely a poor word choice.  Poor Hudson who slept the least on the plane was finally completely exhausted.  I don't think he woke up fully for any part of our adventure into HCMC - Ho Chi Minh City) as we headed for the shore.  Our hotel provides free boat shuttles into downtown about 4 times a day.  So we got a scenic route for about 15 - 20 minutes into town.
The wake from our boat and the desolate riverside on one side

The fully built up other side.  Again the contrast between rich and poor were evident.  A labourer outside a little hut washing his clothes on the bank of the river only a few meters removed from a very large modern private yacht
The river is not particularly wide, has significant areas with seawood growth, and accomodates boats of all sizes.  We were dwarfed by this huge container ship.
One of the reasons we had to go into town today was that we could only pay the hotel fees with Vietnamese Dong, so we had to go in to a bank to exchange some money.  Speaking of money - in Vietnam, you spend an awful lot!  One Canadian dollar is worth approximately 20 000 dong!  So it's hard to wrap your head around what everything costs, because the numbers are so huge!  How expensive is everything?  Depends really what you buy.  Lots is very cheap, but some is around the same or even more than we would pay at home.  For supper we ate at a pretty fancy looking restaurant and we paid what we would pay locally for an everyday meal.  After supper I left a tip for the waiter, thinking it was $5r.  Figured out afterward that I had only left 50 cents!   Oops!

The kids were exhausted so we did not do any shopping but headed straight home.  Walking in Vietnam also needs to be experienced to be believed.  We were told before coming, just walk across the streets, don't slow down, just stay at a steady pace and the cars and motorbikes will drive around you.  Sounds good when you hear it, sure.  Even more convincing when you see others doing it.  Still takes a bit of guts the first few time our family of 6 (Sara and I, Rykauna, Logan and Hudson at our side and Li Lin in the stroller) just walked into two way traffic and made it across ok.  Here is a picture of the 6 lane road we crossed after dark on our way back to the boat to get to our hotel and to sleep.
The boat ride on the way home was interrupted as we pulled up to a barge anchored in the middle of the river and gassed up.
 Everyone is now tucked into bed sleeping.  I am heading there myself.  Good first day with many more adventures to come.


  1. much to see and learn! Glad you've all arrived safely and were able to get a bit of rest during the flights...I can't imagine how exhausting the time change must be!! Crazy amounts of bikes on the road for sure. It must have been SCARY walking into the oncoming traffic with 4 kids in tow...oh my. We are so excited for all of you and praying lots. Big hugs! Pam, Dave and girls xoxo

  2. Thinking about you all the time. What an education for you and especially for the kids. Something they will probably never forget...especially Rykauna and Logan. I can just picture the bunch of you crossing those six lanes at night. Sure am enjoying the update. Love you all. Mom Parent xoxoxo

  3. Hey Mr. parent, Having fun in veitnam? a little fun fact about motorcycles: did you know that motorcycles can fit up to 6 people? How, well i'll leave that up to your imagination. a bit of data question: how many ways can you arrange 6 people on a motorcycle if only the father and the mother can drive?
    well waiting to hear more
    -Jonathan Au :D