Photos to accompany the post from 04/07/2012 about arriving in Saigon by boat.
We arrived at the mouth of the Saigon River early in the morning, after sailing for two nights and a day from Singapore. The trip from the South China Sea to the dock takes over a few hours. One must fight the current and sail slowly. Fortunately, I was not in a hurry and slow speed allowed me to study the passing scenery.
As they have for centuries (most likely), fisherman anchor their boats in the current and trap unwary fish in flowing nets. Not much work is involved, beyond pulling in the nets. Ocean-going trawlers must have learned the principle from such early pioneers of mining rivers or seas. The boats make an interesting motif.
For much of the trip, thick vegetation lines the banks. I’m reminded of stories from the war, when snipers harassed shipping. This was a true example of home turf advantage. Somewhere hidden from view must have been a nouc mam (fish sauce) "factory", because the familiar odor immediately brought back memories of my last vista to Vietnam. This odor pervades daily life and is unmistakable. Production always takes place far from urban areas due to its pungent odor.
At one point, sounds birds filled the air. Looking closely, I could vaguely discern small birds flying into or out or concrete multi-story structures with nothing but small holes in their walls. These buildings must house birds, but I could guess no purpose, since the birds were so small--to small to eat and too small to produce eggs worth eating. Only later did I guess that this might be production of ingredients for bird’s nest soup, but this was only I guess.
At about fifty miles, the first glimpse of Saigon’s skyline became visible. It seem so near, yet we would need a few more hours to reach the city. The river twisted and turned, offering us views in all directions. No signs of war were visible at any point, nor was there any evidence of Vietnamese military. People went about their business on both banks, with activity increasing as we got closer to the city. Shipping industries predominated.
I am certain that a second or third trip would be equally interesting, because life on this river is so varied and changing.
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.