Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Nha Trang, Vietnam

Map picture

Nha Trang, Vietnam

I had not planned on writing about our stop in Nha Trang because tomorrow we have a very full day traveling to Ho Chi Minh City, and the day after that is a day at sea. I assumed I would just cover both our stops in Vietnam in one blog. However, today was so miserable, I decided I would just get it off my chest before I forget the entire day, and leave tomorrow for a fresh adventure.

We awoke to yet another overcast gloomy day with intermittent showers. Our ship docked at 9am, and we headed off on a Princess tour which was to return to the ship at 2pm. Our departure from the ship reminded me of our experience in Myanmar because every passenger was individually photographed leaving the ship, and the entire process was being continually filmed by several cameras. Boarding our bus in a downpour, we set off on a very slow drive along the newly completed shore drive. I would guess that our bus never went any faster than about 15 mph. To our right was the beach, and to our left there were some new hotels under construction because according to our guide, the government hopes to make Nha Trang a tourist destination. Since all of this was new, we were not really seeing anything of the city.

After driving for 30 minutes or so, we made our first stop – a stop that was not included in our planned itinerary.DSC_3860 On the outskirts of town and far away from any local activity we stopped at what I would describe as a “shopping opportunity.” Here in a fairly new building designed for tourists, we could watch artisans at work while a musical performance took place in the background, and of course the gift shop offered plenty of items for purchase. This “unscheduled” stop took around an hour.

Leaving that location we drove briefly back in the direction of town and turned off on a small back street and eventually pulled up in front of what appeared to be some type of restaurant.


Our guide announced that after our hard morning shopping, they had arranged yet another “unscheduled” stop, this time for a refreshing drink from a coconut and a show highlighting the local music and dancing. Oh, and yes, all along the sides of the room were local merchants offering more goodies for tourists. This little excursion also took an hour. So, from our 4 ½ hour trip, we had already used up two of those hours, essentially doing nothing.

Finally, our next stop was to visit the Ponagar Cham Tower. This is one of the few remaining monuments erected by the ancient Kingdom of Champa, which reigned over this region from the 2nd century A.D. until the 15th century.


Sadly the towers are not in good repair, with one of them being completely covered by scaffolding. They reminded me somewhat of the monuments we saw in Myanmar, but in no way of comparable size or construction. Getting to the top required navigating over 100 slick stairs, and as if that was not bad enough, it started to rain on and off again. To make matters worse, the vendors were so invasive that it was extremely difficult to take pictures because they would stand on purpose in front of your camera until you bought something. In the end, I guess I am glad I saw the towers, but they were nothing special.

Leaving that area, our driver offered yet another “unscheduled” opportunity – a walk across a mile long bridge!


Yep, that is what I said – a mile long walk across a bridge, all for no purpose I could fathom except to use up the time. I took the walk, and Lisa wisely stayed in the bus because about halfway across it started a heavy downpour such that by the time I reached the bus, I was drenched and my camera soaked.

Finally, we reach one of our scheduled stops, the Long Son Pagoda. The Pagoda was built in the 1960’s and while attractive, again, it was nothing special.


The main thing to see at the Pagoda is the huge Buddha, which sits atop a tall hill alongside the Pagoda. To reach the Buddha requires climbing almost 200 steps, and once again, it had started a heavy downpour, so we wisely scattered back to the relative dryness of the now wet bus.

At this point, it is around 1:30pm, and we are due back at the ship by 2pm. However, our guide offers us yet another “unscheduled” stop at the central market, where we could have an hour to look around and “shop.” After that, they had arranged to take us on a “shopping” tour of the local embroidery factory, where we could have yet another hour to “look around.” In short, I figured that the tour would be lucky to make it to the ship until just before our scheduled departure at 4pm.

Tired, wet, and” yucked off,” we jumped the tour, and got a taxi to return us to the ship. We have a very long day tomorrow, and there was no need to get exhausted today or worse, to get sick all for the sake of “shopping” for souvenirs. Our taxi did finally locate our ship, but to our chagrin the authorities would not allow the driver to take us to the ship. We had to get out of the cab and walk a very, very long way across a slimy wet and muddy dock to finally arrive home. What a day!

I will comment on Vietnam more tomorrow, however, I think it is worth noting that this country does not begin to share in the wealth we have seen elsewhere in Asia. People here earn very low wages, averaging only $25/ month. There are not many cars; instead people drive motorscootors. As for their political system, which is communist, people seem quite pleased. This country has been torn by wars for so long, that at this point, they really don’t care who is in power, as long as the government provides the services they need to allow them to live a good life and raise their children. Besides that, politics seem to be of absolutely no interest.

So, from a wet Vietnam, I say goodbye for now, and in two days I hope to complete the Vietnam saga.


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