Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Day 19 - A really steamy Nha Trang (Vietnam) August 13th

Thank goodness, no early start, but once again, the sound of those electric motors powering the lifeboat booms confirmed we had anchored in  a pleasant cove at Nha Trang.  We know little about the location other than we gather it was a popular place for the American military for a bit of R & R.  Across the bay we could see a cable car but the port lecturer was adamant that feedback about it was that not only was it a bit rickety, but breakdowns weren’t exactly uncommon either, so the bird’s eye view of your ship departing as you swung in mid air might make a good picture, but it would be memorable for all the wrong reasons.

As a tender port, a light breakfast is essential and we ambled down for the assembly and ticket collection point for all none black card holders.  Mal and Meg were already waiting but we ended up in the same tender anyway and we had the usual performance of the mobility challenged slowing proceedings.  Maybe Princess should consider one tender boat scheduled specifically for these people, so that there is plenty of manpower on hand to assist?  The problem is only going to get worse and it is already noticeably worse than the WC last year.  A tender boat rocking and rolling is bad enough for the fit and agile, so it is really tough for those on walkers and dependant on wheelchairs and with dodgy knees or ankles.  Mind you, thinking about it, very soon, the fit and agile might well be in the minority!

Anyway, we landed OK at the wharf and it really was steamy but the (free) shuttle to town was a pleasant ride.  It appears that maybe Princess have listened to the many complaints about overcharging for shuttles (flat fare last year was $7 or $8US, regardless of distance), so the free shuttles are appreciated.

The drive along the sea front was extremely pleasant with some very attractive topiary, sandy beaches, smart modern buildings and a generally clean environment.  The shuttle turned off left and dropped us off outside the Martinez restaurant, and we had to run the gauntlet of pushy pedicab and taxi drivers and postcard sellers who totally blocked the narrow pavement.  We dived into the Martinez to catch our breath and purchase a street map ($1US).  Plenty of cruisers were already sitting down and enjoying  a cool drink and you could buy cans of soft drinks for a dollar from the cabinet or a beer for $2.  Good value compared to $6 or whatever, on the ship

Obviously, the influx of  a couple of thousand tourists is a magnet and also a potential bonanza for the hawkers and taxi drivers not to mention stall holders and shop keepers.  With M & M, we headed for the market, a five minute walk and the contrast between the affluent sea front and the side streets or back streets was very pronounced.  By the time we had passed the street stalls and got to the (covered) market, we had already lost M & M and we were steaming hot.  To the right is the food market, where judging by the smell, dried seafood is the predominant produce - so we veered left.  This place is amazing as each section concentrates on one type of product.  First you have the clothing, then the table ware, then jewellery, shoes and so on.  Shoes... Paula really wanted some evening shoes or dance shoes.  There must have 20 or 30 stalls, each stocked very extensively, so with about 30,000 pairs to choose from, you’d think that she’d walk out with a couple of pairs at least, as the prices were OK.  Paula’s usual problem is that she can’t get shoes small enough for her dainty feet.  The Vietnamese must be really tiny people, (they are!) as she couldn’t get what she wanted in a large enough size!  After a frustrating  hour (or was it 5 hours?) we gave up and headed back towards the Martinez, but on the way, our progress was interrupted by a line of about 1,000 pedicabs, each with a sweaty cruiser on board. (OK, that might have been a slight exaggeration, maybe about 50 or 60 – but they were still sweaty.)

They finished their organised tour (which was a sell out by the way) just as we decided we have a coke then head back. With this mob descending on the small buses, we supped the coke rather quickly and managed a seat at the rear of the bus.

Once back at the wharf – about a ten minute ride, there was plenty of time to wander through the stalls.  Two or three vendors were selling cold beers and soft drinks from chilly bins.  One very pleasant and cheerful Vietnamese lass was quite endearing.  She opened with the words “Hard sell!  $5 for six cans.”  I bought six cans and even though I don’t normally drink beer, persuading the Princess bar staff to pour some lime juice into a glass so that I can add the beer later makes it palatable.

An easy ride back though the mobility challenged affected the efficiency of the operation. It goes without saying that the first stop was the buffet.  Cream of spinach soup, a chunk of belly pork, several wedges of sweet fresh pineapple and the (free) lemonade.

I managed to start the previous day’s blog, but was overcome with a bout of tiredness and the next minute, I was snoring way...  When I woke, it was too late for the quiz anyway so down to the 5th floor of the atrium for a coffee, where we sat next to a couple who are on the adjacent table in the dining room.  Another pleasant couple of hours slipped by effortlessly.

Dinner was up to the usual standard, though I wanted to limit myself to two bread rolls.  I failed.  The rolls were still warm and the chicken liver pate came without bread, so three it was.  A nice seafood soup and roast lamb. No dessert as I don’t want to be seen to be over-eating.

Although the singer had already done a couple of shows, we had heard good reports, so we decided she it was a worth a look.   Fantastic! Lovena B. Fox is her name and she has a tremendous voice and a couple of numbers were stand out brilliant.  One was with a simple piano accompaniment from orchestra leader Sarah.  I think it was called “Angels”.

Although it was a tiring day, we still headed to the 7th floor atrium but there was only Sue and Darryl dancing, so we joined them.  Clocks forward 1 hour tonight for a change but with a day at sea, who cares? 

The day after is Hong Kong and a very long stop as we don’t leave until 10:30pm, so this could well be a highlight stop. We may need to watch the weather in the area shortly too.  

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