We spent the evening chilling, literally,  in The Caravelle, a large hotel where we just chatted and had a drink with Jules and Nga. They were very excited to have found a house to rent (which sadly has fallen through today) so whilst Jules and Mr. HCB chatted, Nga and I were typing back and forth in Google Translate. I remember when we were in Singapore 25 years ago trying to converse with our friend’s parents, who spoke no English - and there was lots of laughter at my gesticulations, which were often misunderstood.

When we got back we sorted our cases out ready for our trip to the beach at Mia Muine. It was quite difficult trying to get clothes, fleeces and jumpers into one suitcase so that we could leave it there until we get back at the end of the week.

I woke practically every hour, knowing we had to be up at 5 am ready to catch the train at 6 am but we made it! We collected our  “breakfast box” and then we were collected by our guide, Troy. On the way to the station we remarked that even this early there were lots of people about; he told us it was the first working day after the Lunar New Year so it was a lot busier. Apparently there are  6 million motor bikes in Saigon and when we asked if he rode a motor bike, his response was “Of course I do!”  He told us he had two - one of which, a Honda, had been passed down from his great grandfather and is still going strong!

Troy has been a wonderful guide so we were sad to say goodbye to him; he was a great guy to the end as he stood and watched to make sure we got on the right train - hope there is someone who will help us on Friday!

We had booked deluxe seats on the train, which were quite comfortable. We also had air conditioning and we even had two bottles of water provided. Sadly the windows on the train were quite mucky so my shots taken from there aren’t that good. The passengers opposite were a lovely couple - he was Swedish and ten years ago had come to teach in Vietnam; his partner said she was one of his students and was now living with him in Sweden and I think they were married. We chatted about the weather and how cold it was in Sweden and the UK and I told him about my Blip friend, HarlingDarling, who also lived in Sweden and that she had taken some beautiful snow photographs quite recently.

As the train traversed the city, it was interesting to see the hundreds of motor bikes that had to stop to let us through every so often - and one photograph in my collage shows Dad going off with two children - one in front and one behind - I waved to the little boy and he shyly waved back.

Leaving the city it was also interesting to see the houses were bigger, in fact some were quite ornate although these were cheek by jowl with little shacks made from wood, corrugated iron sheets and tarpaulins, right by the side of the railway track so they must have been very noisy!

There were also a lot of graveyards near the railway tracks - and the lady opposite confirmed that when relatives die, they are buried near to where they had lived after buying a plot of land near to their home.

As the distance between the houses grew larger, there were what appeared to be small allotment plots and people were already out tending their plants - probably because it was a little cooler at 7 am.

We also noticed a large number of unglazed pots drying in the sun - perhaps they were part of a little “cottage” industry  because we noticed many plants in pots all around the city and someone must make them.

Drying clothes is obviously not an issue here - but unlike in England, they are not “hung out to blow” but just to dry, so many of the clothes were just hung on coat hangers in the wire fences and would dry very quickly in this heat.

Our fellow passengers were very helpful in identifying trees along the side of the railway track - banana, cashew nut, coffee, sweet corn and dragon fruit and also the rubber trees, in fact I think they quite enjoyed having a “captive audience”.

The further we went from Saigon, the landscape changed and we saw mountains in the distance.  The countryside looked very fertile with many crops growing, but particularly dragon fruit - there were literally thousands and thousands of trees, at various stages of growth - we did try some dragon fruit for breakfast yesterday but weren’t that keen.

A little further along we saw some very tall trees, which we believe were pepper trees as we could see the peppers drying on large plastic and sacking sheets on the ground. Apparently, Vietnam is the world’s largest producer and exporter of black peppercorns.

For many miles along the side of the railway track there were also rows and rows of rubber trees with their little cups attached - there is obviously a system because there were different coloured tapes round the trees.  Often by the side of the plantations were large houses - so there is obviously money in rubber production but I guess with so many motor bikes, it’s hardly surprising - they all need tyres!

During parts of our journey we had several discussions about education with our new-found friends;  we were interested that when they spoke to each other it wasn’t in English or Vietnamese so I enquired what language they were speaking. The lady said they spoke in Swedish - because she had gone to live there so had to learn the language if she wanted to communicate, which makes sense.

I didn’t manage to take any photographs of the cattle as we passed by but they didn’t look as good as our cattle, in fact, they looked rather scrawny - the grass isn’t as green as it is in England!

The journey took longer than we thought so our driver had to wait for an hour - but he was smiling when we arrived - so guess they get used to it.  I told our new friends how grateful we were for their help on the journey and the man even helped us off the train as it was very high up. The lady told us we were very friendly and we would be welcome to visit them at their hotel so they gave us the address.

The first view of our home for the next few days at Mia Muine resort is in complete contrast to many of the little houses we saw this morning but we think we can manage a few days before we return to the city.  It’s very windy and the sea is rough but when the temperature is in the high thirties, it’s still very pleasant although I don’t think we will be doing any kite surfing but there is plenty to watch.  

I have noted that there is a mosquito coil and some Raid ant spray so must make sure I use my Vie patches - which make me smell like Marmite (!) and slather on some extra cream because I already have a couple of bites.  

We had lunch while we waited for our room to be ready and when it was we were  delighted to find a card, a bottle of champagne and also a chocolate cake with “Happy Anniversary” piped on the plate.  What a good job we didn’t have dessert after our lunch!

Thanks again for all your kind comments, stars and hearts - so glad you could join us on our special Anniversary trip.

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