We arrived early to port; our scheduled arrival was 7 pm but we were docked shortly after 3 pm. As promised, this is an industrial port. It was pouring down rain, so not much was visible.
On the port side of the ship (where our cabin is located) we could see some empty container ships as well as some little fishing boats. We decided to go down to deck 7 to watch the ship pull into port and to people watch. People were anxious to get off the ship but the landing process seemed to take extra-long. We always laugh when they announce that the ship has not cleared local immigration; that seems to mean that the gangway isn’t ready or the photographers are not in place. I don’t think it actually has anything to do with local officials.
While everyone waited for clearance, the captain reiterated that this is a port where there is nothing to see. In order to get to the port exit, people would need to walk 15 to 20 minutes. And, when you got there, there would likely be no taxis. We had already decided not to get off the ship and to request reimbursement for our visas. We were also standing near the port lecturer, Peter Croyle, who reiterated what the captain had said to the passengers he was chatting with.
As we were waiting, a small round boat appeared in front of us (there was a square area between two piers). The boat looked to be about 10-12 feet in diameter (it was perfectly round) and was crammed full of people (at least 12). The people had on helmets. It was the strangest sight! We wondered where they could be going because there was only about 2 feet of clearance under the pier. One man was standing up using a single paddle to propel the “boat”. As they approached the pier, he gave a verbal warning and everyone ducked (now we understood what the helmets were for!). He propelled them under the pier to the other side. Everyone on deck clapped and cheered when they reappeared. They continued under one more pier and disappeared around the corner.
Peter said that those round boats are very common here (it is the only place in the world that uses them) and they are actually more like a big basket than a boat. Some have motors on them but most use the single oar for propulsion. We saw many more of these while docked, but most only had one or two people on them. It was such a strange sight to see so many people crammed into such a small space.
People were so antsy to set foot in Vietnam that when finally clearance occurred, they were streaming off the ship. They walked to the end of the pier and were perhaps expecting taxis for hire, but of course, there were not any there! I wonder how many walked to the port gate and were disappointed to find that no taxis were waiting there, either. It was dark by now, so I am not sure what they would expect to see anyhow! My guess is that most walked out and then ended up walking back. There was a small building that I think had some shop stalls set up. The shopkeepers probably made a killing since this was the first shopping opportunity that people had.
I think the only option people had for tours the next day were the ones through NCL. There were about 30 or so buses lined up the next morning. There were 3 possible tours, each location about an hour or so from port. But, people were so anxious to see something on this godawful cruise that they paid $69 per person for a visa and at least $69 per person to take a ship’s tour. We will be coming back to Asia in the near future so did not want to waste the money. We really don’t like being in large groups of people for tours, so for us, it was not worth the money or hassle.
We were pleasantly surprised to find that our Skyroam worked fairly well here in Chan May. Since we are in the middle of nowhere, we assumed we would have no service. Instead, we have been able to get on-line without using any of the ship’s usuriously priced internet minutes. We are currently sitting out on our balcony, watching the ship’s crew perform their lifeboat drills. This seems to consist of the lifeboats going in circles on the port side of the ship while someone yells directions at them.
I am sure that the crew is happy that most of the passengers are off the ship today.
We only have a few more days until we reach Hong Kong. We still have the port of Sanya, but since won’t be getting off the ship, I don’t know if I will have anything more to post. I suppose that will depend on if there is anything interesting going on in port that is visible from the ship! If not, I will be making one more post when we get home about what went well and what will be done differently in the future (my “Lessons Learned” post).