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Restroom shortage prevents Saigon canal boat tour from running in full swing

Thursday, December 31, 2015, 17:15 GMT+7

A lack of auxiliary construction works is the main reason that bars a boat service along Ho Chi Minh City’s iconic canal from being widely open to tourists, the tour operator has said.

Saigon Boat JSC launched the first-ever boat tour along the Nhieu Loc-Thi Nghe Canal on September 1, but has since been able to serve merely a few dozen individual tourists on a daily basis, despite a fleet of 22 boats.

The tour operator has yet to meet standards to receive tourists en masse, as several auxiliary construction works, particularly the restrooms at the two terminals put at both ends of the canal, must be completed, director Phan Xuan Anh said.

The company therefore has had to reject offers from travel agents that wanted to bring their tourist groups to enjoy the tour on a frequent basis, Anh told The Saigon Times Online.

“It took us too long to get licenses to build the necessary sub-construction works,” he lamented.

Anh added the company has earmarked some VND12 billion (US$535,714) for the boat service, which will hopefully be able to get tourists on board en masse through cooperation with travel firms on January 15.

The two-hour boat tour takes passengers along a 4.5-kilometer section of the 8.7-kilometer canal running through District 1, District 3, Binh Thanh District, Phu Nhuan District, and Tan Binh District.

Tourists will depart from a wharf near the Thi Nghe Bridge in District 1 and stop at another one near Chantaransay Pagoda in District 3.

They can also choose Gondola boats, which are able to carry four to five passengers each time, or the conventional boat Chong, which is designed like a small ferry to carry 7-20 passengers, for their journeys.

Tickets cost VND220,000 ($9.7) and VND110,000 ($4.84), respectively, for a one-way trip.

Traditional music shows will also be held on board the boats. Photo: Tuoi Tre

According to The Saigon Times Online, the tour operator was allowed to begin running the tour on September 1 with a temporary license in order to embrace the annual International Travel Expo Ho Chi Minh City, which kicked off on September 10.

The service was later ceased for a while when the temporary license expired, pending an official permit from the tour operator.

But when Saigon Boat Co. eventually acquired the license to operate the boats, it was asked to continue seeking permission to build the auxiliary construction works.

While such sub-constructions are nearing completion, the tour operator meets with another challenge: its proposal to operate an electric bus carrying passengers between the two terminals in District 1 and District 3 was rejected, according to The Saigon Times Online.

With most people in Ho Chi Minh City traveling on motorbikes, the company wanted to have the electric bus service to assist them in going on the boat tour, Anh said.

“Passengers can enjoy a one-way tour on the boats, and board the electric bus to return to the other terminal, where they park their bikes,” he elaborated.

“But it is too difficult to seek a license for the bus service.”

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