After pulling up anchor, the Trans Western skirts Vietnamese coastline along the route towards Sài Gòn harbor and as before, we stayed away from the actual shoreline. Remember our cargo was not allowing us a near-to-the-shore ‘parking’ spot.
That first night we all stayed on board, no one left our boat. However, the next day most of us were more than ready to get off the ship and explore this new frontier.
Sài Gòn was a city larger than Quy Nhơn. Streets, buildings, shops and hotels were bigger. Some of the bars and cafés were of equal stature for the most part, perhaps with a little more flair and variety.
And hard to miss were the tanks and jeeps everywhere; a constant reminder that I was still in the middle of a war zone. American soldiers strapped with weapons were always visible.
Occasionally we were stopped and asked for our identification. We carried ID cards of the Merchant Marines (seaman). Let me tell you it was a bit intimidating being questioned by a guy with a loaded gun somewhat pointing at your persons, even if they are our own soldiers, which they were.
There were people walking around all over the city and some drove from here to there in their cars. A good percentage of these people were dressed in western-world clothing, my guess is that I was seeing the French influence from when France occupied Việt Nam.
Although the hotels, automobiles and restaurants were modern, I couldn’t help but notice the simple folk who stuck to their culture in everything they did, from the clothing they wore to the way some kept shop and definitely down to the street food preparation.