Great Canal Journeys (2014) s10e01 Episode Script

Asian Odyssey

1 My name is Timothy West and this is my wife Prunella Scales.
We are a pair.
A pair of actors of a certain vintage.
- Basil.
- How?! All the world's a stage, and in our time, we've both played many parts, but as we head towards the final curtain call, there are still a couple of parts we like returning to.
The captain - Cast off, please.
- Aye, aye, sir.
.
.
and his mate.
Pru's memory is not what it was.
Oh, my darling, I'm so sorry.
I didn't cast you off.
It's true, some days I don't know whether it's Monday or Lewisham.
But exploring canals and waterways is something we can still share.
Something we both love.
And together, we've travelled up and down Great Britain and across the world.
So now, it's time to head for a waterways anew.
Time for one last great overseas adventure Mekong Delta, here we come.
.
.
and this time we're heading to the Far East, for an epic two-part voyage.
I never dreamt of that I would actually be sailing in the South China Sea.
It's unbelievable.
First, we'll travel the waterways of the north and central Vietnam.
Gosh, beautifully thrown.
On our second voyage, we'll navigate the mighty Mekong Extraordinary.
.
.
through southern Vietnam and into Cambodia.
It's beautiful.
Yeah, it is a rice field.
It could be our final chance to see the world from the water, so, we're exploring a region where canals and rivers are still the lifeblood of nations.
Lovely plums, four for 6p, ten for a bob.
There'll be a few surprises I feel like a criminal.
No mind, I still love you.
.
.
as we immerse ourselves in local customs I want one.
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.
and uncover ancient culture.
We'll learn of the regions troubled past.
So out of the 18,000 people who came here, 11 survived.
Yes.
For a couple in their 80s, it might seem overambitious It's a bit late in my life to start canoeing.
It will be all right.
.
.
even foolhardy.
Oh, my God.
So frightening.
But the rewards Nothing quite prepares you for this.
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promise to make this the journey of a lifetime.
I don't think I've ever seen anything like this in my life before.
No.
Magic.
Up and up and heave ho.
It's a misty morning in Ha Long Bay off the coast of Vietnam.
And our first voyage begins.
Up and up and heave ho.
I don't think I could do it on my own.
Vietnam, eh? I bet you never imagined you'd be here navigating waterways.
No, I didn't.
It's 11,000 miles of navigable waterways used by ferries, junks, barges, goodness knows what.
Us.
Yes.
Our South East Asian adventures begin in North Vietnam.
Exploring the wonders of Ha Long Bay, we'll then navigate the Red River to the country's capital city.
Heading into Vietnam's rural heartland, we will voyage through a hidden valley bound for an ancient citadel.
Travelling further south, the final leg of our first journey takes us to a historic trading port known as the Venice of the East.
This is a place I knew would spark Pru's imagination.
When I was a little girl, I read stories about sailing, you know, Swallows And Amazons, and that sort of thing.
I never dreamt that I would actually be sailing in the South China Sea.
It's extraordinary, isn't it? There is nowhere quite like it.
It's unbelievable.
With its thousands of islands, their sheer cliffs rising up to 300 feet above the still waters, Ha Long Bay is one of natures wonders, stretching for nearly 600 square miles.
It was created when the repeated rise and fall of the sea levels across 500 million years shaped the soft limestone rock into the giant casts we see today.
It's extraordinary, isn't it? There's nowhere quite like it.
Right.
Ha Long Bay is a very special place in Vietnam.
Thuan is our guide to this world heritage site, and knows the legend of Ha Long Bay.
What does Ha Long mean? Ha Long, that means a "Descending Dragon".
"Ha" means "descending".
And the "long", that means the "dragon".
- Descending Dragon.
- Yes.
Descending Dragon? - Descending Dragon.
Where from? - From the heaven.
- Oh.
Yeah.
What did the dragon do? The dragon was here to help the Vietnamese victory.
According to the legend, a vast fleet of enemy ships was heading towards Vietnam, intent on invasion, until a rather special dragon saved the day.
- So this dragon flew over - Yes.
- .
.
and was breathing fire.
- Yes.
And when the dragon came down here, they just spooned a lot of pearls.
And the ore of the pearls became like the islands today.
Extraordinary.
This was not your regular dragon.
This one spat out giant pearls.
Pearls so large that they formed Ha Long Bay's jagged islands, upon whose rocks the invading fleet was wrecked.
By the help of the island, Vietnam - we got to victory.
- Yes.
- They'd be worth a bob or two, wouldn't they, - those islands, if they were pearls? - Yes, they would.
Dragons, magical islands made of pearls.
How wonderful.
Straight ahead we can see that's the head of the dragon.
Oh, yes.
It feels and looks like a land lifted from the pages of Peter Pan.
I'm half expecting to see a pirate ship appear on the horizon.
- You enjoying yourself? - Yes.
- It's stunningly beautiful.
- Yes, gorgeous.
We've arrived at our destination, Vung Vieng Island.
Soon we'll be meeting some of its inhabitants, a real adventure.
The fishing village we're visiting is hidden in a shallow clove.
So to travel the last leg, we need a smaller boat.
Oh, look, wow.
That really is life on the ocean wave.
Yes, quite literally.
There have been floating villages in Ha Long Bay for thousands of years.
Living off the rich fishing grounds created by this unique habitat, the villagers way of life has changed very little across the centuries.
We've been invited to tea by the Vung family, a husband and wife who live and work here with their children and numerous dogs.
How long have you lived here, Mr Vung? So he lived here for three generations already.
Do you fish at sea? Or nets? Mostly they're fishing from open sea.
If they catch one, they can bring it to the farm here to grow it bigger, so they also have a good price as well.
So, not an easy life.
In here, they've got a hard life.
But they do not have any option to choose.
Just enough money for their life, that's it.
I love life on our boat at home.
What do you like about living here? So she's feeling very comfortable.
So when she's born here, the life like this, that's OK to them.
- It's so peaceful, isn't it? - Yeah.
To protect the natural environment of this world heritage site, the government has relocated many of the residents of the Bay's floating villages to the mainland.
If we came back in a few years' time, I wonder if the Vung family would still be here? It's a hard life, but it's a private one.
I think it's magic.
For the next leg of our journey, we head inland, following the mighty Red River, bound for the nation's capital Hanoi.
But it's late afternoon, and we're behind schedule.
We've been on this murky river for several hours, hoping to reach our destination before nightfall.
So, this is the Red River.
More of a brown river, I'd say.
Well red or brown, it's come 700 miles from the Himalayas and is heading toward the South China Sea.
In fact, the name Hanoi means city within the river.
Well, I can certainly see a few vessels out there in the gloom.
Oh, yes.
Well, it's a trade route from the north of Vietnam to China.
A century or so ago, we could've got right in the centre of the city by canal.
So what do we do today? I'll think of something.
We're on the first of two epic voyages along the waterways of Vietnam and Cambodia.
Having travelled south on the Red River, last night, we arrived in Vietnam's capital city.
It's now early morning in central Hanoi.
Aaargh! Wheeee! And at Hoan Kiem Lake, the park is full of women performing their exercise routines.
Including Pru! She's always been the one who's keener on this sort of thing.
Come on, darling.
Join in.
I think we should start a group on Wandsworth Common, don't you? Doing this? Yep.
All right.
I'm exhausted.
I think it's time for a coffee, don't you? - Yes, probably.
- Yeah.
Bravo.
Well, that was fun! We should do something like that every morning after breakfast.
I'd rather stick to doing the crossword, if it's all the same to you.
In the 19th century, Hanoi was the foremost city of French Indochina.
But after France's defeat in 1954, Hanoi was declared the capital of an independent North Vietnam before becoming the seat of government for a united country, in 1975.
As we walked to a nearby cafe, evidence of the country's colonial era is all around us.
You can still see bits of the old French Yes.
Perhaps unwanted reminders of a painful past.
Excellent coffee.
It's good to know where to go to buy things, yes.
To find out how Hanoi itself views its recent history, we've been joined by an international journalist based in the city.
You've travelled the world a great deal? Yes.
But you keep coming back to Vietnam.
Has it changed a very great deal? Yes, I think Vietnam has changed a lot.
And the capital city of Hanoi has been changing, too.
It is over 1,000 years old.
Talking about the past, I see there is a cathedral down the street here, yes? Yes, yes, this is the biggest cathedral in Hanoi for Christian people.
It was built under the French colonisation.
Oh, right.
It is very important to remember the past.
Yes.
In the beginning of the 19th century until the 1945, our people suffer a lot.
That was a period of hardship.
A lot of people died, but we are tolerant people, so we don't hate them.
Because they were our enemies doesn't mean that we destroy everything that they constructed.
Right? We preserve it for our children.
It is about recognising ourselves, isn't it? Knowing about the culture is the way to know ourselves in the past, know our identity.
Fortified by strong coffee, another legacy of French rule, it's time for us to explore old Hanoi ourselves.
And to navigate our way through the city's rivers of endless traffic, I've chosen a traditional mode of transport.
- Hello.
- Hello.
Now, we're going to see the rest of the French Quarter on this thing, which is called a velo push.
Thank you.
So, this poor chap is going to have to push us? Yep, afraid so.
Wow.
More commonly known as a cyclo, it's a French invention from the 1930s.
The French called the rickshaw a push-push.
This is a velo push.
Velo being bicycle? Yeah.
Good luck.
It was intended as a more humane version of the old rickshaw, but it must still be jolly hard work.
Unbelievable.
Is it safe? Not very safe, no! But everyone knows what they're doing.
I think.
I quite see why most of the cyclists are wearing metal helmets, don't you? Quite, yes.
I don't see why everybody isn't wearing a helmet.
It's like Piccadilly Circus.
We have now entered the city's Old Quarter.
Thank you.
Thank you.
Welcome to Hanoi.
- Thank you.
- Thank you.
We're hoping our guide, Viet An, can make sense of this colourful, but crazy, district.
So, where are we? You are in O Quan Chuong.
Look at the gate.
This is the only gate that left now.
Time have destroyed all the other four.
There are nearly 8 million people in Hanoi today.
But, for centuries, these gates marked the border of a much smaller city.
This area started in the 16th century? Yes, five centuries ago.
Vietnam was then ruled by emperors and Hanoi was home to the Imperial Court.
To serve the court, the first traders set up shop here in the Old Quarter, and the district's Imperial origins still affect the way it looks today.
The late dynasty put tax on the width of the house, so you can see many of our house have a very narrow front.
Sometimes the depth of the house can be 50 metres, but the front can be only two metres, and we call it tube house.
This tax on the width of a street front led to Hanoi becoming a city of narrow buildings.
Tube houses.
My house I'm living in now is six floors.
Well, we've got four, but six? Narrow width and very deep.
It keeps you healthy, going up and down stairs! Families stay together here, don't they? One family, we can have three to four generations still living all together.
- Yes, - lovely.
I'm still living with my parents.
It's unusual in UK, but it's very normal in Hanoi.
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Lovely.
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because we have to take care our parents in their old age.
Well, why not? I mean, we looked after them for 20 or 30 years, and perhaps they should look after us.
You see? We have a very logical tradition.
Would you like all our lot to move in with us? Well, they wouldn't like it, would they? They'd be off, immediately.
I don't blame them.
OK.
Let's cross the road.
Viet An is taking us on a tour of the Old Quarter, also known as 36 Streets.
Every street here is named after a different trade.
Decoration Street, this is called.
Look! You'll have to buy it.
I would like to.
The street is pedestrian only, which means pedestrians and quite a lot of motorbikes.
You don't want a bird, do you? - It's a pretend bird, is it? - Yes.
Yes, it is.
- Oh, magic market! - Yeah.
Here we are on the religious icon street.
Vietnam is officially an atheist state, not that you'd ever guess it from this street.
You can see people selling stuff for praying.
Dedicated to the sale of religious trinkets to the devout Buddhist, it's also perfect for superstitious travellers, like Pru.
Looks like Viet An has her eye on something.
What's that for? This is a lucky pot that will draw fortune in.
If you leave it open like this, it will bring you a lot of lucky.
We should have one, do you think? I think so.
Well, we can certainly do with a bit of luck.
How much is it, please? It will be 120,000.
OK.
You OK with that? 120,000? That's a lot of anything, isn't it? It's actually only less than £4.
Oh, well, no, that's reasonable.
Thank you very much.
Here you go.
You have to keep it with you all the time.
Thank you.
Do you want to keep that in your pocket? Yes, please.
Hopefully, it will keep us safe on the next leg of our perilous voyage.
Tomorrow, we'll be back on the water as we take a river journey to Vietnam's hidden kingdom.
First, we're off for a well-earned glass of something strong.
Hoorah! Pru and I have embarked upon an epic two part journey along the waterways of Southeast Asia.
Halfway through our first voyage, we've navigated our way through some of the wonders of Northern Vietnam and followed the mighty Red River to the bustling heart of Hanoi.
Our next destination lies in a tranquil valley deep in the countryside.
At Tam Coc, we'll navigate the twisting contours of the Ngo Dong River towards Vietnam's ancient citadel of Hoa Lu.
But to get to this remote area, we have to take the train.
Oh, darling.
Wonderful.
Of course, there is no "have to" about it.
Tim loves his trains.
You were a train spotter as a boy, weren't you? No, I collected engine numbers.
All right.
Back in the 1940s, it was a perfectly respectable hobby for a boy to have, and why not? Railway engines - steam, or diesel - are fascinating.
Did you ever think you would get a Vietnamese train? No, no.
I never thought I'd get to France in those days.
Yeah.
This line was actually built by the French.
OK.
Thank you.
Pru? Completed in the 1930s, it linked Hanoi with Saigon.
- Is that us? - Yes.
- Magic.
It might not be quite up to Orient Express standards Oh, darling.
.
.
but it's rather nice.
Nice? Yeah? Very comfy.
I heard a chug.
Are we off? - Yeah, we are.
- We're off! There was another chug.
Chug.
Chug! So, this is the royal compartment.
- We are VIPs.
- Are we? Yes.
Wow.
It's 1,000 miles from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City, as Saigon is now called.
But we'll take the train only 60 miles south as far as Ninh Binh.
At Tam Coc, we'll board a boat to explore a unique landscape steeped in history, and then make our way to the stronghold of Vietnam's first ruler.
This train itself is bound up with the country's history.
Today, it's known as the Reunification Express, but during the Vietnam War, it carried North Vietnamese troops and supplies towards the front.
This line would have been the main line from Hanoi to Saigon, as it then was, would have been a great battle route.
Consequently, of course, it was heavily bombed by the Americans.
I suppose many people travelled to their deaths on this train.
Afraid so.
Do you remember the Vietnam War, when it happened? My memory of those days is fading, but I remember marching against it.
"Make love, not war", that was our message.
The Americans thought they were saving Vietnam from a Communist takeover, but the tragic result was just many years of chaos and death.
A cruel and futile war.
Well, my father had fought through two wars, so, I mean, war, - to me, was a horror.
- Yeah.
Where you lost relations and you heard about massacres.
Young people having to go off to fight.
- Yes.
- Horrifying.
Arriving on the banks of the Ngo Dong River, it feels like we've not just travelled 60 miles, but also taken a step back in time.
Nine centuries before the war with America, the Vietnamese built a stronghold here.
Cut off by the mountains and heavily defended, this land was a Vietnamese Shangri-La, a hidden valley at the heart of the country.
It's a magical landscape.
It makes me think of the Lord of the Rings.
Yes, well in the Middle Ages, these huge limestone cliffs made it an impregnable fortress.
The only way to get around was by boat, which is what we're going to do.
- Right.
- By canoe.
- A canoe? - Yep.
We'll be taking a motorised canoe to explore this World Heritage Site.
Nice to meet you, Prunella, and, Tim, nice to meet you.
Khan, our guide, insists we wear life vests.
When I agreed to take up narrow boating, I never imagined a boat as narrow as this.
It's a bit late in my life to start canoeing.
Well, there's always time! Yeah.
You'll be all right.
Don't worry.
We're sharing this leg of our adventures with our guide, Khan.
Yes.
Glorious! The name of this place is Tam Coc.
T-A-M C-O-C.
Tam is means three.
Tam Coc.
Coc is mean cave.
So, the whole landscape of this area is around four kilometres.
Wow! This is going to be some journey! It's not just the landscape that catches your eye.
Extraordinary.
I've never seen anyone rowing with their feet before! Pretty good exercise.
So you look around here, you see the limestone cast.
And the limestone cast here is forming around between 250 to 300 million years ago.
It's hard to imagine, but all these casts - giant pillars of sedimentary rock - started life at the bottom of the sea.
So, the surface of the ocean was collapsed and the sea water invaded the mainland.
Many times, the sea water came in, and out, came in.
So, 300 million years ago, we'd have been floating in the South China Sea with only the tips of these hills above the waves.
Look at the rocks! Amazing.
As those waters receded, returned, and receded again over millennia, the soft limestone was eroded, and this dramatic landscape of sheer casts emerged.
As well as high peaks and sheer cliffs, the sea left behind a network of caves.
- Are we going in a cave? - Yep.
Oh, I'll be frightened.
Well, it's not a tunnel.
It's not like a It is, I suppose.
Yeah.
It is! During the dry season, ancient sea shells have been found in the caves of Tam Coc, as well as traces of human habitation stretching back for 30,000 years.
Oh, my God.
Oh, help! It's frightening.
It's Gollum's cave.
Oh, from The Lord Of The Rings? - Yes.
- Oh, hold my hand.
Horrifying.
Sunlight.
Yes! Oh! Emerging from the cave, it feels like we've entered another time, another world, somewhere not real, a fantasy land.
"In Xanadu did Kubla Khan A stately pleasure dome decree: "Where Alph, the sacred river, ran "Through caverns measureless to man "Down to a sunless sea.
" And on this sacred river, lies the remains of the ancient citadel of Hoa Lu, a place of pilgrimage for the Vietnamese.
Beautifully calm, isn't it? There's no movement.
That's right.
This is the place where Vietnam started.
In the tenth century, this place was built around about the same time as we started, didn't we, really, in the UK? We've arrived at the stronghold of Vietnam's warrior king, Dinh Bo Linh, said to be one of the founding fathers of the nation.
This, where we're standing, is one of the very, very important places in the Vietnamese story.
This is the very first capital of Vietnam under the Dinh Bo Linh emperor, from 968 to the year 1010.
So, a very important place.
Yes.
So, he chose this as the kingdom because surrounded here is by limestone cast mountain that has protected the kingdom.
The second is by the river as well.
That's two ways you can access, is by boat or you have to climb on those range of mountains to get here.
So, we came here by the old route? Yes.
Dinh Bo Linh might have unified his country for the first time, but he also had a reputation as a bit of a bruiser.
- Pretty ruthless man, wasn't he? - He is.
When he built the kingdom here, he also set up the very strict rule like any of Mandarin or any people against him depending on the mistake, he could They could be given the punishment by dipping them into the boiling oils or he can feed you to the tiger.
I think I'd prefer boiling oil to being eaten by a tiger.
I think so.
It's quicker, probably.
For me, boiling oil would be far too hot and uncomfortable.
"The tiger, on the other hand, is kittenish and mild.
"And makes a pretty play fellow for any little child.
"And mothers of large families who claim to common sense.
"Will find a tiger well repays the trouble and expense.
" We are on a voyage through the waterways of North and Central Vietnam.
Having left the hustle and bustle of Hanoi behind, we are now in a more rural area, en route to the historic 16th century trading port of Hoi An.
- Two or three coracles there, do you see? - Oh, yes, right.
- Fishing.
It's a very ancient form of boating, isn't it? Yeah, it goes back hundreds and hundreds of years.
It seems away from the big cities, Vietnam's old way of life still survives.
Is it a husband and wife team? I don't know their relationship, but he's throwing it in.
- Way! Gosh! - Oh, big number! - Good throw! Yes.
- Quite a tough life.
- Yep.
Is that their only income, fishing? I don't think they're in chartered accountant or anything like that! Hoi An is on Vietnam's east coast and we are following the route of the old merchant ships up the Thu Bon River.
This is presumably a fishing village, is it not? - It seems to be, yes.
- Lovely colours.
Centuries ago, quite big ships did come up here from China, Japan and Europe to Hoi An, to the markets.
What did they come for? Silks, fabrics, jewellery, pottery.
Ivory, I'm afraid, yes.
- All the riches of the Far East.
- Exactly, yeah.
As we head further upstream, our skipper kindly allows me to take the helm.
OK, happy? Thank you.
Our wanderings around the waterways of the world may be gradually drawing to a close.
So, now, more than ever, it's important to make every day count.
Since I was a little girl, I've been in love with sailing ships and the whole idea of travelling on the water.
And, so, it's magic, really.
Pru sees life now very much from moment to moment.
And some of these moments are very precious.
Perhaps seeing a child playing somewhere happily, or listening to a piece of music, looking at a flock of birds and she will say .
.
"I have had a wonderful life.
" I said, "Well, come on, it's not over yet.
" I'm still mercifully, mercifully fit, living in a tall thin house and running up and down the stairs all day looking for my specs.
You know, I hope to keep up a reasonably active physical life till the day I drop.
When we get beyond that bridge Yes that is Hoi An.
Fascinating houses.
Yeah, these would have been where they off-loaded the goods in the days when there was a busy trading port.
Although its canals are almost all gone, Hoi An is still known as, "the Venice of the East".
Like Venice, it too was once a great centre of international trade and for several centuries was the link between Europe and the Far East.
Give me your hand.
Thank you very much.
Wee! The world's trading ships may have sailed off home many years ago, but Hoi An is still full of echoes from its international past.
This is the famous Japanese bridge.
Oh, yes.
Built in the late 16th century, it linked the Japanese community with their Chinese neighbours.
Its official name was Lai Vien Kieu - meaning, "The bridge built to welcome guests from far away.
" And this looks, to me, like a canal, don't you think? Yes.
Obviously, leading from the river, taking the goods into the town.
Yes, very much so.
No narrow boats.
Another legacy from the old days are Hoi An's famous tailors, first established by Chinese silk traders many centuries ago.
Today, they provide me with the perfect opportunity to smarten up my rather travel-worn husband.
- This is the shop.
- Yes.
- It's rather marvellous, apparently.
- Good afternoon.
- Good afternoon.
- Good afternoon.
Yes, may I help you with something? We're looking for a lightweight jacket for my husband.
- OK.
- He's got this one rather dirty.
So needs a new one? OK, go that way, please.
- So, we have many kind of fabrics.
- Oh, lovely.
Yeah, in different colours, some plain.
- Look, my darling.
- Or check pattern.
Situated in an 18th century trading house, these tailors offer a super express service.
Apparently, Tim can have a made-to-measure jacket in a matter of hours.
I don't quite know when I'd wear that.
- All right.
- It's not Wandsworth, really.
- What about that? - That's very nice.
Made from cashmere wool.
- Darling, that's magic.
- So you like the colour? - Yes.
- I think it's glorious.
- Good.
Handsome! I think you are very kindly offering me this.
Why don't we offer you something? Something for Pru? - What would you like? - I don't know.
I don't know.
Choosing a dress design is no easy matter.
No, no, not that, not that, not that, not that.
I wore the likes of Mary Quant and a bit of Biba in my day No, I don't think so.
A bit bridal.
.
.
but I've never been a dedicated follower of fashion.
- I don't think so, no.
- How are you getting on? Oh, well I love that.
Lovely neckline, look.
- It opens right up, ooh, yes.
- Ooh! - A bit revealing, revelationry! - No, no.
- Oh! Trousers! Trousers underneath.
- Yes.
This is delicious.
This one is our traditional Vietnamese ao dai.
It's more than 1,000 years ago.
- Lovely.
- Yes.
I have chosen an ao dai, a traditional style of Vietnamese dress, once worn by both men and women.
Inspired by Paris fashion, it was updated in the 1960s and is still worn today on special occasions.
Right, oh, we know this! They always pick me out.
After choosing materials, taking measurements and some mugshots It wasn't me, guv! .
.
for the tailor to judge our body shapes, apparently.
I feel like a criminal.
It doesn't matter, I still love you! We're finally released with promises of a completed blazer and dress by this evening.
Nguyen Kan Trin knows the history of this ancient trading port.
This has been a trading city for many, many years? Yes, it dates from 1400s until the early 1800s.
It was one of the most important and busiest sea harbours in east Asia.
And then the Europeans learned about the place, didn't they? Particularly the Portuguese, yes? And the Spanish.
Yeah, this is like the transit port between the west Pacific and the Indian Ocean.
It functioned like Singapore nowadays.
Yes.
It must have been a much deeper river then? Yeah, the river used to be larger, but it start silting up and the depth has decreased and no longer the big ships could go in.
So, these buildings remained, even after it stopped being a trading port, yes? Yeah, during the glorious time of the Hoi An city, this strip didn't exist.
These houses face directly to the river and the back door functioned as the intake door of the goods from the river and they will be traded at the front of the houses.
- Exactly like Venice.
- Yes, it is.
- It was the Venice of the east, wasn't it? - Yes.
Hoi An may have lost its status as an international port, but being designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999 has put it back on the map.
Once again, people travel from all over the world to this photogenic town.
And, as evening draws in, they congregate along the banks of the Thu Bon River to take part in an ancient and sacred ceremony.
And, thanks to the local tailors, hopefully both Tim and I are going to look the part.
Wow! Where did you come from? Will I do? For pretty well everything, I would have thought, yes.
- Terrific! - And now it's Tim's turn.
- What do you think, all right? - I think it's wonderful.
It makes you look quite thin, my darling.
Well, I am quite thin.
- You can suit together.
- Oh, yes.
All ready for party! Suitably attired, we head for the river.
This was a festival that started many, many years ago.
Every full moon, the villagers used to bring lanterns down to the river and set them onto the water in memory of a loved one, a little party for the person.
It was a good idea, wasn't it? And now people come from all over the world to do the same thing.
Yes, that's right.
Time to board our final vessel on this journey.
It's lovely on the water, isn't it? It's quieter.
Well, it's always quiet on the water, if you let it be.
I don't think I've ever seen anything like this in my life before.
No.
The dark and the quiet.
- And the lights.
- And the water.
Magic! While we're here, we should light some candles, shouldn't we? Yes, we should.
Yes, and you think of some departed person that you loved.
Oh! - Daddy and Ma.
- Yes.
There we are.
Yes.
Bon voyage! - And - Harry and Olive.
Yes, we could.
Harry and Olive.
Oh, that's lovely.
Yes.
Harry and Olive were my mum and dad.
There they go.
Thank you for a lovely life.
Oh, it's a pleasure.
Thank you very much.
So have I had a lovely life.
Yes, thank you.
Thank you.
Next time Mekong Delta, here we come! .
.
we're in southern Vietnam.
It's beautiful.
In Cambodia I'm a princess of Angkor Of course you are! .
.
discovering this region's rich and ancient culture.
Nothing quite prepares you for this.