Along the Perfume River..
A host of tours are available from a full day visiting bunkers and tunnels associated with the American war, to a gentle ride along the river in a dragon boat for a few hours and for $7 I'm talked into it by the hotel desk, eager to make some commission. They call it the perfume river, I don't know why - doesn't smell of anything special.
Strangely, a minibus picks up at the hotel and drives to an office just around the corner, where there is a gathering of passengers for this trip. A mix of nationalities - Malay, Vietnamese, Canadian, British and Aussies. Tickets handed in, a head count and off we go precariously crossing the road to get to the boat station opposite and just a few yards along. A long line of boats, twin and single hulls, brightly painted and of course dragon heads fixed to each of the bows, somewhat lacking in authenticity. Looks like the last boat is ours. Imagine a square conservatory fixed on to two rather large canoes, that's the set up here. Plastic garden chairs are set out in rows, staff bring over green tea, as if's complimentary, actually is 10,000 vnd or 50 cents a few minutes later.
Getting going at last after some precarious manoeuvring between the other boats. It's a ride upstream, stopping off to look at various ancient religious architecture. The weather is grey, overcast with a mist on the horizon, but at least it's warm. An interesting view of river life as boats in various states of repair pass on by, carrying mud, bricks and various other goods. The banks are fertile with a mix of delicate leaf crops, herb patches being tendered to by workers in conical hats. The water is blue, quite clean and not at all murky, but doesn't smell of perfume! First stop is an old house that belonged to an important religious figurehead from ancient times. It's costs just over a dollar to look around here and get a few snaps. The guide rambles on with dates and names, we all pretend to look interested.
Clambering down the muddy bank to get back on the boat, and head off to the next ancient building. The mist clears a little and the scenery changes as the river meanders towards mountainous terrain making for some very photogenic scenes. The guide rambles on - 3 temples and a tomb are on the agenda ahead and wants to collect entrance fees now to save time later. I opt out since I've had more than enough of ancient temples, pagodas and tombs. It's about £1.75 to look around each site, but I'm really on the trip for the boat ride and to take in the scenery. Lunch is included according to the sales blurb. A menu is passed around with items that can be ordered at extra cost. Anything to drink is also extra. What actually is included is the rice, noodles and tofu, so it's rather a bland lunch for most of us.
The boat ride ends at 2pm and the trip continues on a bus, heading back to the city via more ancient architecture, but through some very scenic countryside. Whilst wandering around, a rustle in the grass. It's a snake, my second wild snake sighting, but before I can get my camera it slithers away. Sort of a dark green colour, with a reddish area behind the head, about 3/4 meter long.
Not a bad trip as it happens, better than I thought and some nice scenic photos. Not a place to stop for any length of time from what I can see, although there maybe a good reason lurking somewhere for someone. The weather is defiantly cooling off northbound. Not too cold in Hanoi I hope.