Saigon, of course famous for being the headquarters of the US military operations during the war of the 60's and 70's, was targeted by the Viet Cong on many occasions. For example, during the Tet offensive of January 1968, the Viet Cong attacked the Presidential Palace, and the American Embassy. After a disasterous campaign, the last US troops returned home in 1973, and left the South Vietnamese to continue the war alone. When a North Vietnamese tank smashed through the gates of the Presidential Palace in Saigon on 30th. April 1975, the war was finally over, and North and South Vietnam became one country, and Saigon was named Ho Chi Minh City.
There are still many examples of French colonial buildings within the city, left over from the French occupation of the country between 1859 and 1945 when the Viet Minh, under Ho Chi Minh's leadership, declared independence. The resulting Indochina war culminated in a humiliating defeat for the French at Dien Bien Phu in May 1954, and began the run up to the second Indochina war, commonly known as the Vietnam War, as the divided country fought for and against integration.
Today's visit was disappointing. The pre visit port presentation stated that the free shuttle bus would drop us at Vung Tau, a coastal resort in the outskirts of the main city. According to our friends, a place with plenty of interest, and the place where they have been taken to on their last three visits here with P&O cruises. However, today we were dropped, unannounced, at a completely different destination, with no interest at all, and on enquiring, a further 35km taxi ride was required to get us to Vung Tau. As our time ashore was limited, and this would involve a taxi ride into unknown territory where the locals spoke very little English, we returned to the ship - disappointed. Our disappointment turned to anger when we later discovered that the bus to Vung Tau was being operated as a tour, at a further cost. No wonder the free shuttle didn't take us there this time. This sort of thing is starting to form a pattern.
The trip this year is no more costly than what we paid in September 2010, we presume, due to the fact that the economic climate has dictated the market price. But, to accommodate these rates, I suppose something has to give, and we are starting to notice this when we compare it to our last cruise with P&O. We all feel that the entertainment has been reduced, both in quantity and quality. The food quality has noticeably been reduced, and, so far, at each of our ports of call we have been placed firmly in the container wharf instead of the more prestigeous cruise terminal. At Singapore, we were again in the container terminal, with the free shuttle only taking us to the cruise terminal, where we had to arrange our own taxi into the city. The last time our friends visited this port, the shuttle bus took them directly into the city. So far it isn't spoiling our enjoyment, as for the price, this could not be done in any other way. We just feel that we are being misled, or in the words of my friend Bill - about today's experience - "we've been dudded"!
So far, my experience of Vietnam is ramshackle, with interest only to those with an obsession for Honda mopeds!
Tonight's evening theme, when we returned from our day out, was "tropical pirates" with an outdoor party around the Riviera Pool. There should have been a similar event during the last sector of the cruise, but it had to be cancelled, just in case the real pirates thought they might also be invited! In any case, we couldn't have held an outdoor party as, at the time, the ship was operating blackout conditions during the hours of darkness.
Tomorrow we visit Nha Trang, also Vietnam. Let's hope for better there, as this is a coastal resort. Or will we be short changed again..............?