Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Our first view of Vietnam from the South China Sea (called the "East Sea" by the Vietnamese).
We floated up the Saigon River to reach Ho Chi Minh City. We had to drop anchor and wait for a spot in the harbor.
Traffic on the Saigon River gave us our first glimpse of the Vietnamese people.
We had been told by our interport lecturer that the Vietnamese people were going to "precious" us, and their warm welcome confirmed this unusual use of the word as a verb. They yelled "we love you" in unison every few minutes.
Our elementary school visit held some surprises. At "recess," 2,100 K-5 children lined up in an amazingly orderly fashion.
The children exercised while they chanted echo songs about the benefits of exercise for good studying, good health, and for the country.
As the free play period began, the language barrier might have interfered with conversation, but nonverbal communication such as the "chicken dance" proved effective. Here's Nicki Leiser having some fun with the kids.
The chicken dance was a huge hit with the kids, as they swarmed around us like bees. Just look at their happy faces!
The sincerity and generosity of the Vietnamese children became obvious in a touching moment as Lauren received a gift from one girl in this class.
This girl seemed to be a perfect photo subject as she eagerly received her hot lunch from the server.
Our trip along the Mekong Delta included a first hand experience at canoeing through one of the tiny canals that served as a major transportation line for the locals.
Turning to get a picture and not capsize the boat was a challenge.
Christy found holding this snake to be an interesting and somewhat unpleasant experience.
Lauren and Christy have discovered the wonders of the coconut, and truly enjoyed the coconut water as well as its meat.
Our authentic Vietnamese lunch included treats like "fried elephant ear fish." The dish was served in rice paper and dipped into sweet, spicy, clear sauce.
The bus stopped along the way once to allow us photo enthusiasts to capture the farming activity. This woman was snipping water spinach at the edge of the rice patty, and her colleagues in the background appeared to be taking a break from cultivating the rice.
On our bus trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels, we passed by a rice paper factory, which afforded a picturesque view of workers in a field.
After steaming, the rice flour patties are dried in the sun on bamboo frames.
Nearby, this inquisitive water buffalo was interested in what the tourists were doing. This huge animal is used for farming the land and pulling heavy carts.
Other wildlife nearby was not so inquisitive, but was equally intriguing.
When we arrived at the Cao Dai Temple, we were greeted by this curious sign.
Time out for a photo opp outside of the ladies' entrance of the Cao Dai Temple.
Does the name Victor Hugo ring a bell? He is one of the three saints of the Cao Dai religion. Here you see preparations for the noon ceremony.
The ceremony involved chanting with the participants obviously arranged in a hierarchy of some kind.
Our guide at the Cu Chi Tunnels demonstrated how to crawl into a tiny entrance and then covered himself with a camoflauged cover. See it? A few students were brave enough (and thin enough) to try the same.
A larger entrance with steps made it possible for the rest of us to tour the tunnels. Here is Lauren turning to smile at me. Lauren thoroughly enjoyed the tunnel experience, and explored all three levels.
Lauren climbed out reluctantly, while beaming that she was the only one of the family to do the third level's narrow, last stretch.
A cyclo (cart attached to the front of a bicycle) was an adventuresome way to travel in the chaotic traffic!
We had authentic Vietnamese cuisine at the home of a new friend, Thu Thuy. Her mom made us a 5-course seafood extravaganza...snails, oysters, prawns, crab, etc.
Another form of transportation was a motorcycle, on which we reluctantly allowed the girls to take a quick spin (with Thuy's brother).
Another new friend, Linh, provided us with yet another gourmet feast, including lemon grass chicken, shrimp patties skewered by sugar cane stalks, spring rolls, and many other delicacies.
Once we were back on ship, the children shared stories and modeled their Vietnamese fashions.

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Photos copyright 1999, Dennis F. Galletta