This morning we packed for a two stage transfer to our next accommodations, which was also a transfer: the Jahan, a cruise ship that sails up the Mekong River from a point 40 miles south of Saigon to Siem Reap, and back. That voyage takes seven days, but we’ll only be aboard for the first three, disembarking at Phnom Penh.
You’ll recall that we were on the Ginger overnight last week, and it didn’t go so well. Ginger is operated by Heritage Lines, which also operates the Jahan. So you can imagine that we were a bit nervous as we set out.
The first part of the journey was a transfer from our hotel, the Park Hyatt, to the meeting place at the Renaissance Hotel. That piece was handled by Tours of Indochina, our outfitter. As usual, they sent a guide and a driver. The transfer was less than a half mile and it took more time to load and unload the car than to drive over. Really, we could have managed a taxi ourselves. But that’s how TOI rolls.
The second part was two buses transporting about 30 of us the forty miles. Our bus was escorted by Tri, who will be our guide during our stay on the Jahan. The good news is that this was well organized – they knew who we were, gave us clear directions on where to wait, etc. The bad news is that this was beginning to feel like what we hate about group tours: everyone lined up and moving as a group.
In any event, by 2:00 we were in our cabin and by 3:00 the ship departed. Then came an info session and safety information, with a complementary welcome drink of champagne (1).
The safety briefing was given by a crew member, who also introduced the ship’s officers: the captain, the chef, the food service manger, the cabin service manager. It was straightforward. The information piece, which described how our itinerary would work and the first day details was given by Tri. We realized that he was both very competent and entertaining. He would interrupt himself to tell a personal story, a joke, or give some insight into how Vietnam has been recovering from the war. The jokes were usually pretty corny:
“A man walks into a bookstore and asks for The Man Is Master Of The House. The shopkeeper, a young lady, replies “Fiction and comedy are upstairs, sir.””
This was all a good uptick from the Ginger. As was dinner, which was a delicious compendium of Vietnamese and Western dishes. I think we’re going to like this one.
(1) Or at least some sparkling white wine; we never saw the bottle, but that’s what they called it.