Impressions from Vietnam
Cruise itineraries in the South China Sea visit up to five ports in Vietnam. Phu My, the port for Ho Cho Min City (Saigon), Da Nang, Nah Trang and Hai Phong, the port nearest Hanoi. You’ll find the Vietnamese people are friendly and eager to welcome visitors. Shopping is inexpensive and easy because the U.S. dollar is actually the preferred currency. Almost all prices were quoted in Dong and U.S. Dollars (about 22,000 Vietnamese Dong to 1 U.S. Dollar).
The official position of the Vietnamese government is that they are friends and trading partners with the United States and that the Vietnamese people should welcome American tourists.
Ho Chi Min City
Visiting Ho Chi Min City (Saigon) ships dock at Phu My, an industrial port area without much within walking distance. There are some residential areas and a business strip between 5 to 10 miles from the port but nothing of specific interest.
Ho Chi Min City is an hour plus drive from the port. The easiest way to get around is booking cruise ship offered tours and most cruises also provide round trip bus service into the city averaging about $60 per person. Local taxis into the city are available but you’ll need four passengers to share the ride to make it cheaper than cruise buses (US$120).
Ho Chi Min City highlights include the old Presidential Palace (now Reunification Palace), the Catholic Cathedral, and the old Post office. A short walk from the city center are the Opera House, The Rex Hotel (the roof bar was a gathering place for journalists and military during the war) and Dong Khoi Street with many souvenir shops, good restaurants and fashion boutiques.
Tours to the Mekong take about three hours each way.
Da Nang is a major city with a lot to see. It features the Dragon Bridge which is actually a recent addition. Nearby is China Beach, now a modern seaside resort but during the war it was a “rest and relaxation” area for the U.S. military.
Just south of Da Nang is the city of Hoi An which is well worth a visit. Hoi An is also becoming a beach resort with lots of new properties being developed but it is the old town (Ancient Town) that should get attention. It’s full of history, architecture, shops and restaurants (tee shirts $3 to $5).
This is also a developing area that is a seaside resort and has been particularly popular with Russian tourists. There is a cable car that crosses the bay, an amusement park, a water park and some good beaches. The port town itself is small with only a few shops and cafes. Taxis are inexpensive and many will offer a tour at a reasonable price.