Insights into Asian Ports from a Cruisey Point of View!!!
2.4.17 - 8.4.17 18 °C
The Gadabouts are on the open seas again and are trying to regain a sense of humour and equilibrium after frenetic land days in the Asian Ports of Ho Chi MinCity, Nha Trang,Hong Kong and Naha.
FIRST PORT: HO CHI MIN CITY (Saigon) Vietnam
Now, you might call us picky but when the advertising for the cruise said that we'll visit all of these places, you would have in your mind's eye that the ship might just dock within cooee of them. Well, here's our first experience of not reading 'the small print'. Our cruise ship, magnificent as she is, docked at a place called Phu Mi. We chose to do a morning onshore excursion to see some of the local Vietnamese village life: a Buddhist temple which was filled to overflowing with women worshippers, a local market where most of the traders were half asleep from their early 4 am start, a rice paper-making cottage industry and a rice wine demonstration and sampling. This was very informative. However, it was not until I casually asked our guide the best way to get into the centre of Ho Chi Minn City for the afternoon that we realised our delusions. He informed us that we were over 100 kms from Ho Chi Min City and that it would take us a couple of hours to get anywhere near it. We put our tails between our legs and headed back to the ship!
SECOND PORT: NHA TRANG (Vietnam)
This time it was only 55 kms along 'a spectacular coastline with rocky outcrops and rolling hills' into the 'most beautiful bay on earth with pristine beaches; irrististable for swimming, snorkelling or just relaxing near the shore'! (Note the photoshopped photo below!!) What a load of 'poppy cock'! Whoever wrote this glowing description of Nha Trang has never been to the pristine, irrisistable coastline of Australia. The beaches we could see on the bus ride were covered in flotsam and jetsam probably from fishing boats but most of the drive was littered with half-finished monstrosities of high-rise resorts. We could not fathom how they would ever actually fill these resorts with unaware guests.
After arriving in the centre of Nha Trang, we quickly found a couple of bicycle taxi riders to take us to the market. It was stuffed with all sorts of fake goods, especially shoes, watches and bags.
Our drivers patiently waited for us so we asked them to drive us to a reputable, clean, authentic Vietnamese Massage establishment. No problem! It had started to rain but the traffic was manageable. We arrived, it looked ok, we were informed an hourlong full-body massage would be 200 dong (about $20). No problem! To cut a long story short, Jen had an excellent massage by a talented masseus, no problem! I had the busiest massage I have ever had by a slight young bloke who put his hands in more places than expected. I didn't feel violated but, at the end of the massage when he asked for more money for his ministrations, I promptly said no and disappeared downstairs to wait for Jen. No problem! Little did I know that her masseus cornered her at the end of the massage, asking for a tip. When Jen refused, this woman became quite aggressive so poor Jen handed over some cash to get out of there! We found our drivers waiting and escaped. No problem!!!!!
(There are no photos of this experience but here's us escaping!)
After escaping with our dignity fairly much in tact, we again trusted these patient drivers to guide us to an 'reputable, clean, authentic' place to have some local cuisine for a late lunch before being herded back to the ship. We are slow learners! After about a 15 minute bicycle ride through the back streets with the rain splattering on our glasses, we were deposited at a very, very quiet cafe. There was no-one there, not even staff. There was a very elderly man sitting on a chair who frantically called upstairs. The entire family eventually appeared to serve us but the young grandson was the only English speaker. We are still not sure what we ate (both dishes appeared to be the same with the only difference being a lack of noodles in one of them!) The local beer was cold and the entertainment was amusing. The young grandson had visions of coming to Australia, of starting a Designer Label of clothes, of doing great things. We were glad to get back on our trusty chariots and drive off.
Our final mishap of the day was, once again based on our trusting natures. When our patient drivers got us back to our pick-up point, we thought we'd be very generous and offer them quite a reasonable payment. The BIG mistake was that we had only negotiated the first leg of our trip not the rest. They were offended by our offer and wanted three times what we thought fair. We were lucky to get away with our lives (and with the rest of the money in our purses!!)
THIRD PORT: HONG KONG (China)
We were looking forward to Hong Kong. I have never been there and all reports were glowing. We sailed into the harbour around 1pm. The weather was fine, the smog was bearable. We were very excited because we had bought a Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus Ticket which gave us three route options around Hong Kong as well as a Sampan ride, a return ferry ride across Victoria Harbour, entrance into the local museum and more!!
We won't 'go on' about it but here's a VERY FINE point that we missed when did our homework for our time in Hong Kong:
We didn't alight from the ship until 2pm, we needed a taxi to get us to the starting point of the bus routes, we chose the Green Route (3pm) which took us through the main centre through the tunnel to the other side of the island to Stanley(4pm). Our Brissie friends, Ann-Maree & Don came with us as far as Stanley. We jumped off the bus, spent an hour wandering along the very picturesque foreshore, enjoying the famous Stanley Markets, watching all the folk drinking and having fun. We decided to move onto the next stop: Aberdeen where the sampan ride could take place (5pm). We had to wait 1/2 hour for the bus (5.30pm) and when we jumped aboard the packed bus, we were informed that this was the last bus back to the depot. Shock, horror! The sun set in the west as we considered the fact that we had just wasted $150 ($75 each!)
Did I mention the fact that the BIG print on the ticket said, VALID FOR 24 HOURS but the buses stop at 6pm and don't start again until 10am the next morning, one hour before our ship sails off into the ocean blue again!
Did I also mention that Hong Kong was having a public holiday so the roads were clogged, the attractions were stuffed with locals as well as tourists?
Another thought.. by the time we actually got to Stanley, we were hungry, all the cafes were chokers so we resorted to an ice cream bar. I pulled out Chinese Yen (we figured we were in China) but they refused our offer and asked for Hong Kong Dollars (another example of us not doing enough homework!) we paid by credit card and have since discovered that a single scoop ice cream cost us A$8.50 each.
We were determined to end the day well, so we moved with the crowd to the ferry terminal and enjoyed the lights of the high-rise city as we crossed Victoria Harbour where we could get a good vantage point for the 'biggest laser light show in the world'.. By this time, we were starving and needed s toilet.. where else do you go for these needs??
The Laser Light Show was big and busy (10 minutes and that was it!) After spending an hour in The Ladies Market which was frenetic and walking along a street filled with Karaoke singers competing with each other for an audience, we sank into a hot chocolate at Starbucks before getting a taxi back 'home' with our friends, Ann-Maree & Don.
FORTH PORT: NAHA, OKINAWARA ISLANDS, JAPAN
We decided NOT to have high expectations of the few hours we had in Naha and it worked well. We sauntered off the ship and walked our legs off around this, the smaller city we've seen since we left home; only 320 000 people. We loved our experience of Japan when we went on the MBC School Trip in 2009 so we were happy just to soak up the 'Japanese ' flavour of life. The small boxy cars, the 100yen shops, the markets, the good-quality fabric, the genteel ways. It was a good day.
We are sailing through a sea of fog today on our way to our last port, Shanghai and we are reflecting on this cruise. i have always said, 'It's more about the journey than the destination!' We have been pampered and cared for SO well on this journey. Cruising is definitely the way to travel if you like to have your clothes in drawers, clean towels every day, your bed made for you, no foraging for food, being treated like princesses, having endless amounts of 'organised fun' to choose from and lots of new friends to make. This journey suits some.
My only concern is: But what about the destinations? Our friend, Ann-Maree calls our 'five minutes' in each port, 'click click tours'. Just enough time to jump off the ship, click a few shots and get back on again: no time to connect with the locals, experience the culture and spend time just being.
I guess we need to 'read the small print and do our homework' a bit better!!
Last Stop: Shanghai (China)