|“Black canal” revitalised with unique boat tour offering |
Nhieu Loc - Thi Nghe Canal is a canal with a long history, with each bend and bridge having historical ties to many fierce battles against France and United States in the distant past. The canal is now known better for its pollution – but that is again changing after 10 years of renovation.
Visitors can now join a unique tour from Saigon Boat Co., Ltd. The boat moves slowly as the visitors take in the views and listen to the guide’s introduction to the history of the nine bridges spanning the canal. Each of the bridges has a story to tell that involves important milestones in the history of the city.
In a rare relaxing atmosphere, guests are served juice or wine while they feel the light breeze, listen to the melody of the violin and enjoy special magic shows. In the evening, visitors are able to capture the moment when the sun slowly sets behind the tall buildings, and then delight as the moon slowly rises amid the glittering street lights.
One tourist called Hai Van said, “When experiencing this tour, I saw the beauty of the river. I admire the dedication of the people who have found a way to revive this canal and make it become such a great experience for me. Through this tour, I learned that humans are the cause of pollution, but also, only humans can find solutions to improve the situation and preserve the beauty of nature.”
Phan Xuan Anh, director of Saigon Boat, said that the enjoyment of the tourists is the most the special thing about the tour. “Foreign visitors account for more than half of the number on this tour. Before the pandemic, they often went on traditional history tours. But now, more tourists appreciate what nature has to offer and want to see the revival of a location that was once called “the black canal.”
The process of revitalising Nhieu Loc canal has been a long and difficult journey. Even in 2015 after 10 years of renovation, the area was still heavily polluted.
At that time, Anh had to use boats of large capacity to stir and push foul mud into the bigger river. He used zeolite biological products to dewater, and used lights to decorate both banks of the river. In addition, Anh spent billions of VND on historical murals at the foot of the bridges. Today, Saigon Boats has perfected the unique water tourism product, which also boasts two piers.
On the tour, visitors feel like they are stepping back in time to experience what life was like during the canal’s heyday, from history and architecture to culture and cuisine.
While Nhieu Loc canal has become an ideal destination to enjoy modern beauty at the heart of the city, Anh and his company are still continuing their journey to renovate it. “In daily life, people have dropped countless toxic materials such as plastic flowers into the canal, but it takes many many years for plastic to decompose in the natural environment,” Anh said. “On our tour, we have a lantern dropping activity, but the lanterns are made of biodegradable paper. When they are released into the river, after about 15 minutes, they disintegrate into food powder for fish.”
At the same time, visitors can release bottom-dwelling catfish. This fish not only helps keep the canal clean in the long run but also helps develops a healthy and vibrant ecosystem.
“My ambition is to make the Nhieu Loc-Thi Nghe canal tourist route a prime example of ‘go green’ tourism, with our own Venice in the heart of Saigon,” Anh expressed.