Saigon and My Tho, Vietnam: Day 2
Day 2 in Saigon started with an incredible buffet at the Sheraton. Fruit in Vietnam has to be tasted to be believed. We then headed off to the Mekong Delta. We drove to the town of My Tho, about a 2 hour drive from Saigon. I have heard about the chaos of Vietnamese traffic, so was prepared for the worst. Actually, it was not too bad. Highway 1, about which much has been written, now has a cement divider down the middle, which seems to have calmed things down a bit. Other than the ubiquitous swarms of scooters, it was really not too bad. On the outskirts of Saigon, we passed through the part of town that is where the upscale, wealthy Vietnamese are moving. It reminds me much of the newer parts of Shanghai; upscale apartment blocks with shopping complexes offering all of the conveniences money can buy.
On arrival in My Tho, we boarded a small boat for a ride out to a couple of islands. On the first island, we walked through a farm with many varieties of fruit trees, some of which I had never even heard of, and then had a chance to sample the fruit while being serenaded by several members of the family accompanied by a Vietnamese two-stringed fiddle and a very old, well worn guitar. Strange mix, but it worked. At the second island, we transferred to a smaller boat and floated through some small canals. Several people mentioned that this reminded them of the Amazon. It felt pretty exotic, definitely could tell you were not on the beaten path. We had a very nice lunch of fish and other delicacies as well as visiting a workshop making (and selling) coconut candies.
On the way back to Saigon, we made an unplanned stop at a Cao Dai temple, which was colorful and interesting. Our supplier was great at this; if someone expressed an interest in seeing something or stopping to look, they made it happen. They were incredibly flexible and accommodating. We also made a brief stop at the market in Cholon, the Chinese part of Saigon. Big and chaotic, this would be a great place for market junkies to spend an hour or two.
This evening we did a site inspection at Sheraton. As mentioned, the location of this hotel is excellent. The service was excellent. Our rooms, which were standard rooms, were very comfortable and well equipped. I did hear some people saying they were having trouble getting hot water in their rooms at some times of day. We sited the rooms in their “Tower” complex, which is entered via a separate, key controlled elevator. This is a brand new, very upscale complex with large and very comfortable rooms. Good place for a high end business traveler who is going to be in Saigon for more than a day or two. The tower has separate breakfast and has snacks, cocktails, etc. Dinner was buffet in the hotel, and was spectacular. Great food and incredible variety. You could be as safe or as exotic as you wanted on this buffet. I had some of the local specialties made of parts of the pig Americans usually don’t eat, but others had lamb chops and pasta. The deserts were incredible!
We flew to Siem Reap on Air Vietnam. Saigon airport felt like another airport with announcements in English, lots of gift shops, etc. Vietnam Airlines was fine. It was a short flight but they managed to get a sandwich and snacks served.