We left Hong Kong in all its glory, lights surrounding us as we sailed back down the Tathong channel and the open sea, destination Da Nang, Vietnam. Having disembarked our pilot, (who left the ‘con’ to us) 😀 we spent the following 2 hours at reduced speed, navigating through the numerous fishing boats and cargo vessels in the South China Sea. In fact, we seldom managed to stay on track, literally hundreds of fishing boats were out during the entire passage; their long nets marked with buoys and a new development, many of them had AIS (Automatic Identification) transponders on their primary buoy. As a consequence, the radars were overloaded with these ‘identifiers’ and although a great development, one had challenges identifying which were the boats and which were the buoys.
Our track took us south-west, off the island of Hainan, before landfall of Da Nang itself. On a dull early morning, rain turned to thick fog as we entered Dan Nang Bay and we slowed down feeling our way on radar and with our whistles blowing. Again, the fishing boats were out, no doubt making the most of the calmer seas after the horrendous gales of the preceding days and the fog so thick that one couldn’t see them.
Our pilot boarded out of the gloom when we were a mile or so off the harbour; by now we were ‘creeping’ along, around 4 knots as we made the approach to the harbour. Still no sign of anything, visibility down to 60-80 metres. A single red buoy appeared on our port bow, (before you ask, the entire World navigation buoyage system is completely different from that of the U.S. and its territories), just where it should be and I knew that we were 300 metres from the dock. Down to 1 knot, on joystick now, still nothing. 100 metres, still nothing. 80 metres and a dim black line could be seen, although one couldn’t see what it was, the quay should be there though 😎 . A gradual turn to port and 40 metres off, one could see the grey outline of the end of the dock. The bow and then the Bridge pass it, however one couldn’t yet see the entire length of the pier; down to ½ knot, still creeping and then gradually the remainder of the dock appeared and the fog briefly lifted, giving us the opportunity to get alongside. Our bulbous bow 10 metres from the corner and our stern hanging out 35 metres.
Da Nang is a ‘working’ port and our berth is surrounded by cargo ships, loading and unloading various cargoes, coal, fertiliser, cables, steel……
45 minutes after berthing, the Vietnamese clearance procedures completed, (an arduous process, I can tell you), guests are able to go ashore. Da Nang is (obviously) one of the attractions, as is a small town, Hoi An, about 45 minutes bus ride from the ship. Karen and I, plus K2 and some other guests, chose this town, its description promised photography opportunities and 😕 shopping for the ladies. An excellent tour guide (Ving) made our journey interesting as he explained costs of food, beer, property and national ‘traits’. We pass ‘China’ beach as it is still known, where the first U.S. forces landed (Marines).
Hoi An is traffic free for the most part, except for mopeds, bicycles and rickshaws and these made crossing streets hazardous to say the least, none of the drivers seeming to care one jot, what or who they hit!.
We were left with 5 hours to wander the streets and what a wonderful time we had too (and yes, shopping). One could hire bicycles or rickshaws.
Finally, the streets, beautiful houses, upper floors with plants and flowers. The shops and streets are bedecked with lanterns, at night they are lit, unfortunately too late for us to stay.
I would gladly go there again, what a wonderful place and cheap! A beer, $1; 6 of us had lunch in a riverside restaurant, freshly cut and cooked, fried rice, crab, local delicacies, water, beer and wine…..$40 U.S. A tall coffee latte, beautifully made, $2. As we drove back to the ship, building was going on around us, especially the beach areas; familiar names of Hotel Groups were aplenty, it won’t be long before the ancient and beautiful town of Hoi An succumbs to the ever-increasing tourists. We sail in 4 hours, off to Phu My, (pronounced ‘me’), the port for Saigon. 20 miles up the Saigon river before we reach our berth and up at 4 a.m. to start it, what fun 🙂