Frank Riviere's Return To CanTho
From February, 1967 to February, 1968, Frank Riviere was OIC of an MI unit in Can Tho. He had offices near the airfield and lived off the local economy about a mile from Eakin compound.
Frank worked closely with a VN counterpart and two VN Interpreter/Translators. After we established formal relations with Vietnam in 1995, he vowed to find out about their current location and welfare.
His return trip in Oct. 1995 was unsuccessful because he lacked photos and complete identifying documentation to successfully find his Vietnamese comrades. He then searched and located his former XO, who had both photos and complete names. He then returned in April, 1998 to conclude this search.
Frank's story regarding his finally locating these individuals can be found HERE . But Frank would also like to share the following travel information and tips with others who are considering returning to Vietnam, especially to the CanTho area.
Health and insurance matters:
You may want to get malaria pills from your Doctor and inquire about hepatitis vaccine.
I took the pills and had the vaccine but they are not required by law. I only saw one mosquito in Can Tho during my two trips. A far cry from 1967/68. Drink only bottled water which is available everywhere, even in small villages. Do not eat at street food stalls. Take out travel cancellation/trip insurance for peace of mind, available through travel agents for around $100.00.
Passport /Visa information.
After you get your passport, call or fax the Vietnamese Embassy in Washington or pay your travel agent to do it for you. You can easily do it yourself and the VN Embassy will fax you the necessary forms to fill out and return to them with your passport. This can be done by you in about 10 days. Embassy Tel.#: 202-861-2293 or fax: 202-861-0917. Two Passport photos are required and $65.00 money order to cover the visa expense.
Flights from LA to Saigon:
In October, 1995, I used Thai Air, a very good airline but it stopped in Seoul, Korea for an hour or so where we deplaned with all our carry-on baggage and waited. Next we flew to Bangkok, where passengers spent the night before rising very early in the morning for the trip into Saigon. Bangkok was an extremely busy airport and appeared to be much too small for the volume of traffic it receives. Food on the plane was quite good and drinks were unlimited.
1n April, 1998, I used Cathay Pacific, perhaps a step down in overall quality and amenities but much more convenient. We flew directly to Hong Kong; a three hour wait and then into Saigon about 11: 00 am. The airport there was much better able to handle flights and passenger volume.
I recommend checking any baggage that you do not carry on yourself at your initial point of origin (in my case Jacksonville) all the way to Saigon. Of course, on your return trip you will have to take your stored baggage off in LA for Customs Inspection. Even if you are continuing on another airline, there is a place nearby to check it to your final destination before going to the domestic terminal.
Today, Eva Air (Taiwan) and China Air offer round trips from LA to Saigon for about $800.00.
If you need to stay the night before going to other destinations, there are numerous hotels in many price ranges. You can use Internet search engines to find what suits you best. I stayed at the Rex Hotel on both of my trips and I was quite pleased. In 4/98, my single room was $US 65.00. Rooms have safes, color TV, phones and fax machines. The food is good. $10.00 bought a rib eye steak and two beers. Great view from the rooftop restaurant.
Phone: 84-8-292185 or fax: 84-8-296536 or write to them at:
141Nguyen Hue Blvd., Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
Travel to Can Tho in Mekong Delta:
There were no air flights from Saigon to Can Tho in 4/98(about 80 miles). Numerous Vietnamese citizens will approach you at the airport and offer to drive you anywhere in Vietnam. Average price to CanTho is about $60.00 each way. Trip by car is long and rough. You must take two separate ferry rides across rivers and during the rainy season, this is a bit hairy.
I recommend taking the hydrofoil from the dock in Saigon (less than a mile from the Rex Hotel) into Can Tho (one stop in between). Cost was $24.00 each way in 4/98, and the trip took about 3 hours. Very relaxing, allows you to see great scenery, have a beer or soda and beats the car trip by more than an hour.
Telephone: 848-940-0595, 940-0683 or 940-2156. Fax: 848-940-2949.
Hotels, Etc. in Can Tho:
The hydrofoil disembarks at Ninh Kieu Hotel/restaurant pier. Nice view. Make your return hydrofoil arrangements before you leave Saigon. Eat at the restaurant overlooking river. Hotel room (single) in 4/98 was about $45.00. Easy walk to CanTho market and Pagoda. Large Statue of Ho Chi Minh in the town square.
Tay Do Hotel, in Midtown Can Tho. I stayed here. $33.00 per night (single) included breakfast. Quite new with attached restaurant. Well appointed with air conditioning, Cable TV (2 channels in English: CNN and an Australian station that showed movies), and small refrigerator in room. Easy walk to Market and Ninh Kieu pier. Address: 61Chau Van Liem.Tel: 821009.
Victoria Hotel: A step above. About $65.. per night. Very nice with American breakfast included. Can be accessed at this site. Tel: (84-71) 810 111 Fax: (84-71) 829 259 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Restaurant: My favorite for American food was the 54 Restaurant (also known as Rainbow). Owner was a bartender at Eakin compound officers club for many years during the war. Many good dishes. Dinner only. About $5.00-$6.00. Two blocks from Tay Do hotel on Nam Ky Khan Street near Hau Giang hotel. The Hau Giang is also said to have good food but I did not try it.
Travel around Can Tho:
CanTho City now has about 225,000 people. Streets are crowded with bicycles, motorcycles and cyclos (motorized or human-propelled carriage). I recommend the cyclos for inexpensive travel. Less hazardous than motorcycles.
The exchange rate was about 14,000 dong per US Dollar my last trip. Many places in Saigon accept credit cards but that was not true in Can Tho in 4/98. I recommend wearing a money belt for US currency.
I hope this information will be of benefit to those of you who are contemplating a return or first trip to Vietnam. I enjoyed both my trips tremendously. By the way, get yourself a Vietnamese/English Phrase book. You will be glad you did.
Have a great trip and feel free to communicate with me through my web site on AltaVista.
Copyright 1999, Frank Riviere
All Rights Reserved.