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Float to another place, minutes from the City

Update: July, 09/2006 - 00:00

Float to another place, minutes from the City

Mind the gators: Cruising tourists enjoy passing views along the Sai Gon River.

Welcome to fantasy island: Visitors stop off to enjoy the riverside scenery and cultural attractions of the Mekong Delta region. — VNS Photos

Booking a Sai Gon River boat tour

To take a boat trip, you can go to Bach Dang Wharf at 10B Ton Duc Thang Street in front of Me Linh Square. The boat runs from 7am to 11pm, and travellers can enjoy a Vietnamese coffee in the bonsai garden and imagine the wharf’s storied past, and the wonderful journey ahead.

Prices run from US$30 for two people, plus $10 per person extra, with prices rising depending on the number of people and trip distance. Every Sunday, there is a special discount tour that runs for $16 per person, including transportation, drinks, fruits, lunch and tourist insurance. Departing at 9am, tourists can travel to Binh Quoi Tourism Village in 30 minutes, under the Sai Gon Bridge and to the Thanh Canh Wild Animals Garden, where visitors can rest and have lunch. Next up on the tour is Lai Thieu fruit garden, which is about a 2 hour trip. On the trip back, the boat passes by the Lai Thieu pottery market, and visits the Go Vap Floating Temple, and finally returns to the wharf around 3pm.

(09-07-2006)

Plying theSai Gon River by boat, you can get a more peaceful perspective on the culture of southern Viet Nam. Vo Le Hong escapes the urban bustle and experiences HCM City from the water.

Sai Gon is far more beautiful from the river. Tourists can traverse the city at a leisurely pace, allowing for the chance to admire the surrounding scenery in one of the city’s many small motorised boats or skiffs.

HCM City’s rich skyline of modern buildings and ancient structures flows by as you gently glide over the river water, providing a unique perspective, one that is impossible to gather from land.

A young tourist said it was the first time he made his way through the city by skiff – calling it a great view – with the small boat taking on the appearance of a lance slicing through the calm waters, gently jumping over the waves.

The Binh Quoi Tourist Village has thatched huts that serve Vietnamese cuisine beside a small wooden pier that runs out into a pond near a water wheel. One of the best parts of the boat trip is the fact that you can breathe the fresh air of the countryside, minutes after your departure and take in the rural and romantic riverine environment. The tour also includes a visit to the commemorative house of Viet Nam’s most famous anti-war musician, Trinh Cong Son.

The Floating Temple is an ancient Chinese structure that was established more than 100 years ago located in the middle of the river. It is also called Linh Mieu (Holy Temple), replete with ornate antique architecture. Legend has it that this Floating Temple began when a fisherman netted a statue by mistake. To compensate, he made a thatch hut effigy in the river to house and worship the statue. It is said that the fisherman became very wealthy after the gesture, thus a lot of people travel there to worship in the hope that some of the wealth may rub off on them.

Further on the trip takes you to the famous Tunnels of Cu Chi where you can visit spine-chilling war vestiges from the American War. You can dress in the attire of a Vietnamese soldier from that time, wearing ao ba ba (Vietnamese style blouse) and khan ran (black and white checquered shawl), and even buy the famous infantry footwear – dep lop (tire sandals). You can test your mettle by doing as the soldiers did, crawling through a 30m or 100m stretch of lighted tunnel. The underground tunnels, by the way, have been widened for westerners to pass through!

You can also see where the liberation fighters lived and worked, and their standard wartime fare of boiled sweet potatoes with pepper and salt.

Ben Tre, Vinh Long and Can Tho are also on the itinerary if you should so choose, with travelling by boat a great way to come into close contact with the true values and lifestyle of the Cuu Long (Mekong) river delta.

One tourist even said he had travelled to some of the destinations by car and by motorbike, but travelling there by small boat was far more interesting.

Motorbikes and cars can give you a false sense of time and distance, but by boat, time comes slow and steady and images and environments that pass provide a more measured sense of distance, the tourist said.

"Travelling by skiff on the Sai Gon River left a lasting impression on me," he said, "especially after taking in the green of the rural area, in contrast with life in the city." — VNS

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