Da Nang and Hoi An, Vietnam
Trip Start Dec 25, 2005
44Trip End Apr 28, 2006
We were scheduled to dock in Chan May,which is mid-way between Hue and Da Nang, facilitating tours to both places. However, during the night the northern monsoon winds picked up and officials closed the port of Chan May, leaving Da Nang as the only option. Lou was up on deck during the docking maneuvers and it took Captain Dag four attempts to counter the strong winds pushing us away from the dock. Think of the ship as a roughly 75' x 500' sail, collecting all of that wind. Once docked, the Captain gave us the bad news that he had no choice but to cancel all tours to Hue. The port was now more than 3 hours away from Hue; and, in addition, the port officials were making the ship move 10 miles out to sea in the late afternoon, making any excursion to Hue impossible. This was very disappointing to us due to the historical significance of Hue in Vietnamese culture, having been its ancient capital
Our tour director, who is very skilled at pulling rabbits out of hats for us in difficult ports, was able to put together some 4-5 hr. tours, and we chose to see Da Nang, as we have family who were stationed here during the war, and Hoi An, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Da Nang was a strategic air and naval base for the Americans during the war, and most bombing missions other than carrier-based were launched from here. As such, the city and surrounding villages were literally destroyed in the push south by the Northern army. Even now you can see that the rebuilding process is painfully slow. We were not allowed to visit former American bases, but our guide did point one out to us as we drove by. The main runway was covered in weeds and occupied by cows, and it looked like many of the buildings (barracks?) were still standing.
We visited the Cham Museum, which was founded by the French in 1915 and features (in a very primitive way) artifacts of the Cham people. We also saw "Monkey Mountain" just outside of Da Nang
We toured Hoi An on foot but there really wasn't very much of interest to see. The center of town features the Hoi An Hotel, the government's attempt to attract tourists to this sleepy little village. We didn't see the rooms, but the restrooms had basic western facilities, which were very welcome, and there was a garden courtyard with a lovely pool. The peddlers were constant, but not obnoxious, so it was pleasant to walk around. We were shopped out from Hong Kong, so just bought a few post cards but others got great buys on clothing and luggage. Tina found a very pretty silk evening bag for $2 US.
On the way back to Da Nang, we stopped at "Marble Mountain," which is literally a mountain of marble. The state has stopped freelance mining (read blowing apart) of the marble, but the craft shops lining both sides of the street for miles were offering marble statues weighing pounds to tons. Apparently, it is a primary source of cheap, high quality marble figures that are purchased by dealers who make huge profits on them.
Back on board, we were talking with some friends from the UK who chose to explore Da Nang on their own. They visited a museum where they were stopped at the entrance by a guard who asked them where they were from. Once it was established that they were British, they were allowed in. We conjecture that if they had said "US" this would not have been the case. We were told that the displays and photos were very graphic and anti-American.
All in all, we were glad we ventured out because it gave us an opportunity to see the villages in this area. We are very much looking forward to our next stop, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).