|Monday, January 27
This is our second day in Da Nang port. Today I joined an excursion to see the old city of Hoi An. I had signed up for a tour, but switched to a tour that took us there and turned us loose for a few hours to explore. It was a good choice, being able to do my own thing at my own pace, and not be following the leader.
The old city of Hoi An is an UNESCO heritage site. Since the 17th century, Japanese and Chinese came here to trade with the Vietnamese at the river port. The area is filled with the old architecture reflecting these cultures. There is a wooden bridge built by the Japanese in the early 17th century linking the port area to the local community. The Chinese traders were active too, building several meeting houses for social and business gatherings. These buildings are elaborately decorated, similar to temples, with lots of gilt, dragons, and gardens, but with meeting rooms as well.
The old city is supposed to be pedestrian and bicycles only. I was confused to see swarms of motorcycles, moving rapidly and beeping away. It turns out that they were allowed in due to it being a holiday. They added an interesting dimension to the day, and required a degree of alertness. Several shops were closed, but there were enough open to hold interest for the day! I enjoyed wandering from shop to shop, looking around, but not buying much. The trademark of the city is silk lanterns. Strands of lanterns line and cross the streets. There are boats on the river that are strung with lanterns as well. At night they are lit making a magical atmosphere. (There was a separate excursion last night for folks wanting to see the lantern-lit city—magical if the motorcycles stop beeping!) I got to watch a woman making lanterns with silk over a bamboo frame. I thought of getting a lantern, but I couldn’t decide what I would do with it at home, and I couldn’t find one small enough for my Christmas tree.
I had lunch in courses...first egg rolls and a diet coke at one restaurant where I sat at the sidewalk caffe and watched the show go by. We were near the market and there were some women with stands set up dealing with customers. There were lots folks going by many wearing traditional garb. It could have been for the holiday, or it could have been Korean tourists shopping at the clothing boutiques. Either way it was festive. Further down the street I found another restaurant where I got some delicious chicken and cashew stir-fry. I walked along the river admiring the boats with their lanterns (and got lots of solicitations to take a boat ride). I made my way past more shops and restaurants, including another one with sidewalk seating, but on low stools. I could never have gotten down or up from without help!
Like folks in Japan and China, face masks are common here. I’m not sure if it is to keep germs out, keep from spreading them, or just to keep the bugs out of your teeth when riding a motorcycle. There are the disposable kind, and more permanent ones in various fabrics and colors. Articles I have read indicate they are not all that protective, but they are certainly part of the cultural habit.
We met up with our escort by the Japanese Bridge and made our way back to the bus, passing lots of interesting street food carts. It was about an hour ride back to the ship. On the ride out we came along the stretch of beach with golf courses and high-end resorts. We also passed Marble Mountain, and rows of statuary carved from the stone. There was an excursion there, but caves are not my first choice of activity. There were fields of rice as we got out of town. They get two crops a year here, possibly from being further north. When we were in Singapore, it got dark about 7:30, and now it is dark about an hour earlier.
Except in the country, houses are very narrow, and built adjoining each other. There seems to be no effort to coordinate style, and they can be very different in appearance and number of stories, and occasionally a narrow gap where the house has not yet been built. In many cases the ground floor is a shop.
Back at the ship, I enjoyed kicking off my shoes and putting my feet up for a while after a long day of walking and dodging motorcycles. Then it was dinner in the buffet, and I ate dessert on the back deck watching the high-rise skyline of Da Nang as we sailed away. Tomorrow is another day at sea—no morning rush!
Tuesday, January 28
Time for a quiet sea day. It is overcast, and there is a little more motion in the sea, but not enough to really feel on the ship. So far no need to take Bonine! I caught the presentation on tomorrow’s port, Halong Bay. Here we actually have a dock with a cruise center building with information and wifi (knock wood). Hopefully I can catch up with things there after my excursion.
Today was the Captain’s Brunch for repeat cruisers. Several folks were wearing their medals indicating how many cruise days they have racked up. There was a woman at our table that got one for 500 days. I don’t ever expect to be in that club!
In the afternoon I caught the Hong Kong presentation. People are wondering about the new virus, but there is no indication of it affecting our plans. There were some New Year activities canceled in Hong Kong, and some sights are closed, but I don’t know if that is because of the virus, or because of the political atmosphere.
There are several public areas on board to relax in. They are a good choice when you have a little inside room! Right now I am set up at a table in the buffet (between meal times) with great sea views. Earlier I found an area I missed earlier called the ‘Gallery Bar’ The walls are covered with a wide variety of artwork (and a screen showing ESPN). Lots of comfy chairs, a nice place to read, and someone to bring you a Diet Coke when you want it. It is a good place to relax on a quiet day.
Out of 1900 people, 750 are staying on the ship for the next cruise that goes north to the Philippines, Taiwan, Japan, and Shanghai for a total cruise of 30 days. I’m not up to that yet!
Time to get into the ‘gala’ wardrobe for dinner, then a piano concert. Nice day! Tomorrow they recommend getting up to see sunrise as we sail into the bay…...we’ll see.