The Magnificent Mekong Day 5

We were on our way to the airport by 7:30 AM. We needed to leave early because of the rush hour traffic.

We arrived with plenty of time to check-in and go through security which was very thorough. We had a long line to wait in to get through customs.

Our flight left on time and we landed in Ho Chi Minh city at 1:13 PM. It was hot and very humid. We were told that in Vietnam they had two types of weather hot and hotter!

We transferred from the airport to the Sheraton in Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon. The locals still call it Saigon and only write Ho Chi Minh City on all documents and papers of official capacity.

Traffic was heavy in Saigon and there were PLENTY of motorbikes!

The rest of the day was free for us. We went walking on the Nguyen Hue walking street. We left our hotel and this street wasn’t very far away but we had to cross some streets which was an experience in and of itself. Even at a crosswalk you had to look both ways and cross slowly because the cars and the motorbikes might or might not stop for you. But we successfully made it to the walking street which was one of Saigon’s main streets. In 2015 it became a wide pedestrian street and it ran from the People’s Committee building with a Ho Chi Minh statue down to the Saigon River. It was a popular place for locals in the evening.

From our hotel room we could see Nguyen Hue pedestrian street.

Nguyen Hue Pedestrian Street

When we returned to our hotel we decided to have Pho soup with chicken. Dave also had spring rolls. It was a delicious meal.

Pho Soup

We ended the evening with a glass of wine at the hotel’s Wine Bar on the 23rd floor. The views were awesome.

Our guide had told us that Vietnam wine wasn’t good so we had an Italian white wine and they served it in a frosted wine glass! Delicious!

Tomorrow we will tour and learn about Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon.

The Magnificent Mekong Day 4

This morning we boarded a coach for a tour of the Grand Palace and then on to Wat Pho.

To visit the Grand Palace, the entrance requirements were strictly enforced! As you enter, the first stop was to make sure you were dressed appropriately! No shorts, no shoulders showing, no flip flops, no deep cleavage, no short or see-through tops, no torn or tight pants, and no bike pants.

The white fence that surrounded the Grand Palace.

The Grand Palace was built in 1782. We walked around the grounds and the temperature was in the mid-80’s but the “real feel” was in the 90’s and it was only 9:00 AM! Pete and Jenny, our Bangkok guides explained the history of the palace and the Kings. Pete shared that the movie, The King and I, was banned in Thailand because most of the film had hisotrical inaccuracies.

The Grand Palace complex was built to serve as the royal residence and administrative offices and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. The current king is Maha Vajiralongkorn since 2016. He also was the wealthiest of all monarchs.

The amount of buildings in the palace complex numbered over 30! It was massive and beautiful.

The temple with the Emerald Buddha was beautiful. No photos were allowed inside because their king visits often and the palace security doesn’t allow them for his protection. But you could take a photo looking in from the outside.

Emerald Buddha

As we were getting ready to leave we saw their version of the changing of the guard.

Changing of the guard

Our next stop was Wat Pho. This was another temple. Again no bare shoulders or knees showing, but it wasn’t quite as strict as the Grand Palace. Our shoes came off and left outside before entering. Here we saw the reclining Buddha which was 151 feet long and covered in gold leaf. It was located about ten minutes from the Grand Palace.

The reclining Buddha’s feet were 16 1/2 feet long and decorated with mother of pearl-of-pearl which were characteristics of the Buddha.

Bottom of reclining Buddha’s feet

For good luck one could purchase a bowl of coins and then drop one in each of the bronze bowls that line the length of the walls. This money went toward helping the monks renovate and preserve Wat Pho.

We had a break for lunch back at our hotel. When we went to our room we had another fruit to try, a Chinese pear. It was very tasty!

This afternoon we met Jenny for an afternoon tour of Chinatown, the Flower and Vegetable Market, and a visit to the Temple of the Golden Buddha.

Our first stop was Sukhothai Traimit, where the Golden Buddha was located in Chinatown.

It was the largest Golden Buddha image in the world. It was made of solid gold! It was 12 feet 5 inches in diameter and was 15 feet 9 inches tall. It weighed about 5.5 tons! It was valued over 35.3 million dollars!

What’s fascinating about this solid gold Buddha was that it was covered in plaster to protect it from invading armies. It was over 700 years old. When it was moved to Traimit, it was accidentally damaged and some of the plaster came off. The movers noticed something that was shiny. After careful inspection they found that it was made of solid gold.

When we went in to see the Golden Buddha we were dressed appropriately and our shoes were left outside.

We walked through Chinatown. The streets and sidewalks were very crowded and Jenny told us this was nothing compared to how crowded it would get in the evening! As we walked the area we saw many gold shops, open/street vendors and restaurants that opened out into the sidewalk.

The flower and vegetable market was our last stop this afternoon. These markets were opened 24 hours! They had a day shift and a night shift. The prices of the flowers were cheap by comparison to flower prices at home.

We also couldn’t get over the size of the carrots and how nice the corn was, as well as the other vegetables. It all looked delicious!

It was a sweaty but a good afternoon. Another shower because we were drenched!

In the evening we walked over to Iconsiam, the shopping mall. We stopped and took some photos of our hotel from the street.

On the sixth floor was a terrace restaurant with incredible views of Bangkok and the river. The bad thing with the restaurant was that for gluten free options there was on choice, fried rice. It was pretty dry because they didn’t have any gluten free soy sauce.

When we arrived in the lobby of our hotel, an artist was creating a beautiful fruit carving!

We went to bed on the early side because tomorrow we needed to be up by 5:30 AM. We would be saying goodbye to Bangkok.

The Magnificent Mekong Day 3

Our hotel room looked over the Chao Phraya River. This river flowed through Bangkok and then into the Gulf of Thailand. It was important for the people of Thailand because of its importance for transportation.

Breakfast was included with our stay. The buffet was huge with so many choices!

We met our Viking guides, Pete and Julie (their American names because their Thai names were very long) in the hotel lobby as well as the others in our group for a long-tail boat ride to Wat Arun-“Temple of Dawn”.

You could see our hotel in the background as we boarded our boat.
Riding our long-tail boat to Wat Arun.

It was a Buddhist temple complex so appropriate dress was required, no knees showing and shoulders covered. The temple dress was not like the cathedrals in Europe where one could cover your shoulders with a shawl or scarf. It was not acceptable here. We were not aware of this so it made an impact in what we had packed, especially as the trip continued. Also it was too hot to wear a sweater over your shoulders. It was shared consistently by all of our guides that SE Asia has three seasons: hot, hotter, and hottest! We visited during the “hotter” rainy season!

Wat (a Buddhist monastery or temple) Arun (named for the Hindu god of the dawn, Arun) was located on the west ban of the Chao Phraya River. It was known for its central spire which was 250 feet high! Some considered it the Eiffel tower of Thailand! It was built in the mid 1800’s but a temple existed on this site since the 16th century. The spire was decorated with tiny pieces of colored glass and Chinese porcelain with beautiful patterns.

After climbing as high as we were permitted and looking around we then went into the hall where a Buddhist monk was giving blessings. Shoes were left outside. We were blessed by the monk with holy water and he tied a simple string bracelet with some beads which was to bring us health and good luck!

After touring the temple complex we got back in our long-tail boat and toured through a Khlong, which was the word for canal. On our ride in one of the khlongs we saw a 300 foot Buddha at Wat Muang Temple! It was the biggest Buddha in Bangkok. It was made of cement and painted gold. It was started in 1990 and was finished in 2008.

From our boat we saw several Asian water monitors sunning themselves.

Asian Water Monitor

The canals had many large catfish! Pete gave us each a roll to break up and throw into the river so we could see them.

We saw homes along the canal and passed other boats with locals carrying their wares. There was a lot to observe as we slowly rode along the canal.

Back on the river we observed skyscrapers and buildings as we returned to our hotel.

After our morning tour we dropped some of our belongings in our hotel room. Our room had been cleaned and we had another fresh fruit with serving ware on our table. When we arrived yesterday or rather very early this morning we had some delicious grapes in our room. Today’s fruit was Dragon Fruit. There was a book with all the different fruits and a description of them. It was delicious!

After our snack we went to the hotel boat shuttle that would take us to Iconsiam, a beautiful shopping mall with luxury stores and on the first floor there were shops with food stalls. We explored many of the levels but not all because this mall had over 7,000 shops and 100 restaurants! Below are some pictures from the mall.

After walking around we went back to the hotel because we both were still tired from our lack of sleep and tomorrow would be another early morning!

The Magnificent Mekong Day 1 and Day 2

Our Uber driver picked us up a little before 8:00 AM (after the first driver canceled on us) to take us to the airport. It was raining heavily with thunder and lightning!

our great Uber driver

We flew from Columbus to Minneapolis, Minnesota on Delta Airlines and it was on time! We thought this was good for us because we had 10 minutes before boarding began for our second flight! But when we got off the plane we found out the gates weren’t even in the same terminal, from C 11 to F 14 and boarding had begun. We probably would have missed our flight to Seoul, S. Korea if Dave hadn’t asked a passenger cart driver to take us to our gate. It was so worth it. We tipped the driver well.

We left Minnesota and bound for Seoul at 1:00 PM on Thursday. When we landed in S. Korea it was Friday around 4:30 PM because we crossed the International Date Line. Our layover was a couple of hours and then we boarded for our third flight of the day that would take us to our final destination, Bangkok Thailand!

Going through Customs in Thailand went smoothly. Our baggage claim was at the other end of where we went through Customs! It was now after 10:00 PM. We retrieved our luggage quickly and walked 3/4 of the way down the exit before we saw our sign for our transfer! The airport was very busy and it took a while for the driver to get from the cell lot to pick us up. We waited outside the airport in the hot and humid weather.

Waiting for our driver outside the terminal.

It was about a 50 minute drive from the airport to our hotel. It was almost 1 AM by the time we checked in our room, got our luggage and got ready for bed! It was a long day and we would need to be up early for a tour of Bangkok!

Our hotel in Bangkok was gorgeous and our room was exceptional at The Peninsula Bangkok.

Now time to get some sleep!