Moving on from Da Nang the next stop was Phu My which some cruises advertise as Ho Chi Minh City. It is in fact a couple of hours away but many take a tour there specifically to see the Cu Chi Vietcong tunnels. It was our second visit to this huge working port so we knew what to expect, you need to plan something as there is nothing at all locally.
The size of some of the container ships is mind boggling, this photo is taken of part of the rear of one of them. The onboard value must be staggering.
The port is own miles from the nearest town but at least there is a free shuttle bus to take you there. That said once there there is little to do but it is a handy place to meet an independent tour that's been pre-booked as it avoids them having to pay port fees to pick you up at the ship. It's a big saving too,$25pp if I remember correctly.
Last time here we'd decided Ho Chi Minh City was too far and instead arrange a local tour to Vung Tau and it was very good. They now offered a new tour which sounded a good proposition, it was basically a countryside tour but included a visit to some now opened local war tunnels followed by lunch. Just the job I thought and signed up for it. To bring the cost down for me I needed to find 2 other people to join up and in fact I managed three without having to try too hard by contacting a couple of people I'd discovered where on this cruise by signing up for the Cruise Critic website.
5 was nice number, there was no benefit in having more so I was under the impression that is how many we would be. It wasn't as it happened, there were 7 Australians joining us so the mini bus was full when you added in a local guide and the part owner of the company. We set off on the tour and the guide announced that first we were visiting Vung Tau. I was confused. I asked one of the Australians if they had known they were going to Vung Tau and the guide overhearing me asked if there was a problem. I simply said I hadn't signed up for a tour of Vung Tau. When we arrived though it was a different matter, I cornered the part owner and told her I was really, really annoyed. I didn't want to be there, I had done all this before. I was though aware that the other three who had joined us probably hadn't but they were happy to back me up. We didn't want to see religious sites, giant statues of Christ or the Temple of the Whale.
Fair play, the part owner said her other half had amalgamated the two tours (presumably to make it more cost effective) but no one had told her. She arranged for another mini bus to come and pick us up and joined us in our countryside tour which seemed to annoy the Australians because they ignored us when we finally met up again !
Anyway we didn't care.
Off we went but I did notice we drove at a really slow speed so I had a feeling that she didn't know where she should be taking us or at least how to get there!
First stop was a traditional coracle making yard... and they weren't trying to sell you one either! Then it was down to the beach to see them in action.
Instead of traditional materials they now make them out of fibre glass and even have an outboard motor on the back.
As the sea was a bit rough most were on the beach.
Interesting though and a change from the normal temple tour.
Next stop was a local market and first a really refreshing iced coffee.
We were the only tourists there and they made you feel really welcome even when photographing them!
I have to say though I saw the cruelest thing I have ever witnessed amongst the fish and meat stalls.
Those poor Bullfrogs were skinned alive as they were prepared for the pot.
I was left quite speechless for a few moments. Awful by my standards but the norm I guess in Vietnam. I gave up eating Frog many years ago when I discovered butchery methods in Europe are just as barbaric.
Anyway, from there we headed to the war tunnels, first calling in at the little museum they have opened on the site.
The tunnels themselves appear to be as claimed and very authentic, just as they were left 40+ years ago.
Apparently the Americans built their camp right next to the tunnels not knowing they were there and couldn't understand where their attackers vanished to as suddenly as they had appeared!
They apparently stretch for a few miles.
There are little, and I mean little , recesses for kitchens and sleeping areas but you can barely stand up in them.
With one of our number getting claustrophobic we were all happy to get out after a relatively short distance travelled. Fascinating to see though and definitely preferable to travelling several hours to Cu Chi.
That done it was the lunch venue next.
The owners of the tour company have purchased a small holding and now they grow all their own produce, well as much as they can anyway.
We were offered a warm foot bath each which was unexpected and seemed rather an odd thing to me but why not! When we were offered cold beers it got even better ( despite the expression on Chris's face!)
Next it was lunch and just as it was on my previous tour with them, it was excellent.
I could have stayed longer, there was birdlife to see in the paddy fields we were overlooking but sadly it was time to return to the ship.
What had started off rather badly ended up well anyway. Everyone enjoyed a slightly different day.