- Photo Tours
- Carnival Breeze – Exotic Eastern Caribbean
- Carnival Freedom – Western Caribbean
- Carnival Miracle – Mexican Riviera
- Carnival Paradise – Cuba
- Carnival Pride – Bahamas from Baltimore
- Coral Princess – Ultimate Alaska with Cruise Experts Travel
- Cuba Cruise Louis Cristal – Cuba
- MSC Divina – Eastern Caribbean
- Norwegian Breakaway – Christening
- Norwegian Epic – Eastern Caribbean
- Norwegian Pearl – Alaska RT Seattle
- Quantum of the Seas – Preview Cruise
- Zuiderdam – Alaska Inside Passage
- Hurtigruten FRAM – Antarctica
- Hurtigruten Midnatsol – North Cape
- Passing Cloud – BC’s Gulf Islands
- Passing Cloud – Haida Gwaii
- S.S. Legacy – Columbia & Snake Rivers
- Safari Endeavour – Alaska’s Glacier Country
- Safari Voyager – Mexico’s Sea of Cortes
- Schooner Zodiac – Brew Cruise 2013
- Schooner Zodiac – Wine Cruise
- Silver Discoverer – Australia to Indonesia
- Silver Explorer – Arctic Svalbard
- Silver Explorer – British Isles
- Silver Galapagos – Galapagos Islands
- Wind Spirit – Stockholm to Oslo
- Wind Star – Rome to Nice
- EUROPA 2 – Greece & Turkey
- Queen Mary 2 – Eastbound Transatlantic 2012
- Queen Mary 2 – Westbound Transatlantic 2015
- Seabourn Sojourn – Ultimate Alaskan Sojourn
- Silver Shadow – Exotic Alaska
- Silver Shadow – Southeast Asia & Myanmar
- Silver Spirit – Athens to Barcelona
- Silver Spirit- Eastbound Transatlantic
- Silver Wind – Mediterranean
- Silver Wind – Middle East
- Silver Wind – South Africa
- AmaLotus – Cambodia & Vietnam
- AmaLyra- Danube Christmas Markets
- American Empress on the Columbia
- Avalon Expression – Amsterdam to Nuremberg
- Emerald Waterways Emerald Star – Danube Delights
- G Adventures – India’s Ganges
- S.S. Maria Theresa – Christening
- Tauck ms Inspire – Maiden Voyage
- Tauck Swiss Jewel – Blue Danube
- Viking Baldur – Danube Christmas
- Viking Baldur – Rhine Christmas
- Viking Forseti – Chateaux, Rivers & Wine
- Viking Freya – Danube Christmas
- Viking Longships Christening 2012
- Viking Longships Christening 2013
- Viking Longships Christening 2014
- Viking Longships Christening 2015
- Viking Vidar – Grand European Tour
- Upcoming & Past Cruises
- About FTDC
A Day in Sa Dec and Cai Be aboard the AmaLotus
AmaWaterways’ AmaLotus moored mid-stream last night just off of the picturesque Vietnamese town of Sa Dec. Modernization is much more obvious here than in Cambodia; on our boat journey from the AmaLotus into town for the start of our morning walking tour, cranes and excavators could be seen working on the harbour.
But before we disembarked the ship for a day of adventures ashore, I once again made my way to the Saigon Lounge – as has become my custom – for a cup of coffee at 6:00am. I don’t know what kind of coffee is used aboard the AmaLotus, but it sure is good. It’s strong and flavourful without being overpowering, and it’s nice that coffee and cookies are available both in the Lounge and one deck up on the Sun Deck every morning from 6:00am onward.
Today, guests aboard the AmaLotus were treated to two amazing adventures: a morning walking tour of the local market in Sa Dec and a visit to the home of French author Marguerite Duras; and an afternoon excursion to Cai Be to see rice paper and candy manufacturing, along with the town’s very unique French Gothic cathedral.
Like their European river cruise excursions, guests had the option to choose between the morning tour in Sa Dec and a much longer, extended morning tour that also included a visit to nearby Xeo Quyt by motorcoach. Running until well after 1:00pm in the afternoon, this expanded tour also included a visit to one of the last remaining jungles to have been occupied by the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War that ran for nearly 20 years between 1955 and 1975.
I, of course, opted for the long tour! My personal thoughts whenever I visit a place is that if I’ve traveled thousands of kilometres to be there, I may as well make the most of it. However, I think it’s great that AmaWaterways continues to offer varying types and lengths of tours, as that really provides guests with the ability to make the choice that suits them best.
Ashore in Sa Dec, our respective groups took a stroll through the busy local market. Here, we got a fantastic look at the numerous kinds of things that were available for purchase – everything from fruits to spices to meats of all kinds.
There’s plenty of fish here, and the market is packed in the early morning hours with the fishmongers doing their thing. Snake blood is quite prized in this part of the world, so it wasn’t too much of a shock to see a woman, hands soaked in a sea of red, bleeding snakes. You could also purchase snake which, I am told, is quite good.
What was fascinating to me was to see the shocked reactions on some of my fellow traveller’s faces when, for example, they came upon things like rats, or spiders, for sale. The reason I say that is because while it is very different and exotic from what we’re used to, I am not sure I can honestly say with a straight conscience that our food – North American food – is better. I mean, what’s in a hot dog? Does anyone really know? Or in soup that has “formed meat chunks.” Perhaps, in North America, we’re just better at hiding what’s in our food by smothering it with sixteen different kinds of cheeses and then baking it five or six times over.
Regardless of whether you’d partake in some of the more exotic foods or not, a stroll through Sa Dec’s market is exhilarating. At the end of it, we conveniently came to our next stop: the home of Marguerite Duras.
Duras lived in Sa Dec between 1928 and 1932. Here, she met Huynh Thuy Le, the son of a wealthy Chinese family. The two became involved in a passionate love affair that would become the basis for her award-winning 1984 novel, The Lover, as well as the 1992 Jean-Jacques Annaud film of the same name. In fact, the near-sister-ship to AmaLotus, La Marguerite, is named after the famous author.
If you’ve never seen The Lover, you should – it is a fantastic movie, and it certainly doesn’t hurt that it was filmed right where we were today, at the actual house of Huynh Thuy Le. Formerly utilised as a reception house for a branch of the Vietnamese government, it has only been open to the public since 2009.
After our brief visit, the folks who had elected to return to the AmaLotus left and were guided back to the waiting boats that would take them to the ship, while those like me continuing on were brought swiftly aboard two motorcoaches that would take us on the hour-long, 53 kilometre journey to Xeo Quyt.
Utilised as a base during the Vietnam War, the jungle at Xeo Quyt is surprisingly dense. Although sheltered from the force of the sun, it is probably ten degrees hotter inside the jungle than it is outside due to the humidity.
Although the pathways have been modernized for tourists, many of these are raised as much as two metres off the ground and have no handrails, so it is important to watch your step, lest you end up in the murky abyss below.
There are still party tents and command bases that remain here, as they were utilised by the Viet Cong. There are also underground tunnels, bunkers, and fox holes that help to illustrate just how formidable the jungle terrain was here, and how well the Vietnamese knew how to use it to their advantage.
We took a fantastic, hour-long walk on a circular route through the jungle, even passing a section of land fenced off with razor wire and dotted with signs stating that land mines could be present beyond the fence.
Coming here also helps to understand what the American soldiers who were sent here during the Vietnam War were up against: a climate unlike anything they had ever experienced. Terrain that was totally foreign to them. And Vietnamese soldiers willing to do whatever it took to prevent them from their goal.
It was a very revealing and eye-opening hour.
After our tour, we enjoyed a relaxing ride back to the AmaLotus, where we had just enough time to enjoy lunch before setting out to our next adventure: a tour of Cai Be.
At lunch, I restricted myself to the local specialties, which were tremendous. Vietnamese-styled soups and dishes, all with no nuts. I even had a local Vietnamese beer. One of the best aspects of river cruising: all the local ingredients and specialties, served within the comfort of a ship where you unpack once and don’t need to worry about the logistics of transportation.
But during lunch, dark clouds had been building. By the time my Blue Group was called, the skies were threatening to open up at any moment.
And did they ever!
Halfway across the river on our boat ride into Cai Be, it started raining harder than I had ever seen it. The Monsoon Season was in full swing. But – because everyone on the AmaLotus had reminded us constantly to take either an umbrella or a poncho, I just ripped open my poncho pack and started to put it on.
The rain was coming in sideways at this point, but did I care? No! In fact, I felt better during the rain in the afternoon than I had all morning, because the humidity suddenly evaporated. Not everyone in my group appeared to agree, and there was suddenly a huge push to go back to the AmaLotus and scrap touring altogether, which I and about three others strongly resisted.
I flew 12,000 kilometres to see Vietnam, and I’d be darned if a downpour was going to stop me. Plus, I was already soaked, so it didn’t really matter much!
To satisfy everyone, our tour guide re-arranged things so that we toured the rice paper and candy factories first before walking the short distance to the French Gothic cathedral. It was a plan that worked perfectly, as the worst of the rain had let up by then.
At the factories, we were invited to sample traditional coconut candy, freshly-made rice paper rolls, and to enjoy some jasmine tea, which was superb. We also had the opportunity to try what’s known as the “Asian Viagra” – Snake Wine, or Rượu thuốc, literally meaning “medicinal liquor.” Large, venomous snakes are inserted into an enormous cask of rice wine and are left to steep there for many months.
The one I, along with a few others, tried was made from Cobras. The alcohol neutralizes the deadly properties of the cobra venom, while the cobra blood is thought to have curing effects for everything from hair loss to sexual dysfunction. I didn’t notice anything different in particular, but I do have to say: it tasted mighty good, and went down as smooth as a fine glass of scotch.
Some images from the afternoon:
This evening was a bittersweet one, as it marked our last night aboard the beautiful AmaLotus. Shipboard accounts could be settled in cash from 1:30 to 6:00pm, or by cash or credit card from 8:00 pm until 10:30pm. It was an easy and efficient process, but if you plan on paying by credit card, ensure you have a PIN-enabled one. I met one fellow traveller who had to go and get cash from her stateroom because her non-PIN credit card would not go through.
Tonight, there was a traditional folkloric presentation in the Mekong Lounge, followed by the Captain’s Farewell Cocktail & Crew Presentation. This was followed by another sumptuous, multi-course meal in the Mekong Restaurant. I know there’s the old joke about people on cruises doing nothing but eating, but I have to say I’ve looked forward to dinners more aboard the AmaLotus than on any ship I can think of, save for perhaps those onboard Silversea ships.
Tomorrow, we arrive in the Vietnamese port of My Tho, near Ho Chi Minh City, and although our cruise will come to a close in just a few short hours, there’s still another day of adventures ahead on this great journey down the Mekong!
Our Live Trip Report through Cambodia and Vietnam aboard AmaWaterways AmaLotus concludes tomorrow from Ho Chi Minh City! Be sure to follow along on twitter by following @deckchairblog or by using the hashtag #LiveVoyageReport
- February 2018
- January 2018
- December 2017
- November 2017
- October 2017
- September 2017
- August 2017
- July 2017
- June 2017
- May 2017
- April 2017
- March 2017
- February 2017
- January 2017
- December 2016
- November 2016
- October 2016
- September 2016
- August 2016
- July 2016
- June 2016
- May 2016
- April 2016
- March 2016
- February 2016
- January 2016
- December 2015
- November 2015
- October 2015
- September 2015
- August 2015
- July 2015
- June 2015
- May 2015
- April 2015
- March 2015
- February 2015
- January 2015
- December 2014
- November 2014
- October 2014
- September 2014
- August 2014
- July 2014
- June 2014
- May 2014
- April 2014
- March 2014
- February 2014
- January 2014
- December 2013
- November 2013
- October 2013
- September 2013
- August 2013
- July 2013
- June 2013
- May 2013
- April 2013
- March 2013
- February 2013
- January 2013
- December 2012
- November 2012
- October 2012
- September 2012
- August 2012
- July 2012
- June 2012
- May 2012
- April 2012
- March 2012
- February 2012
- January 2012
- December 2011
- November 2011
- October 2011
- September 2011
- August 2011
- July 2011
- June 2011
- May 2011
- April 2011
- March 2011
- February 2011
- January 2011
- December 2010
- November 2010
- October 2010
- September 2010
- August 2010
- July 2010
- June 2010
- May 2010
- April 2010
- March 2010
- February 2010
- November 2009
- October 2009
- September 2009