Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

May 28 2015

Vietnam 6

Sleep at the Merci Hotel was, well, not great. I hate windowless rooms with no connection to the outside, there were mosquitos, and the a/c blew directly on my face. I didn’t even feel like sleeping in in the morning despite my fatigue. The hotel staff was continuously busy on their phones or playing games on the front desk’s computer. Breakfast was ordered from other nearby establishments, so it wasn’t too bad, but I’ve been spoiled by living in Prince Roy’s Park Palace for the last few days.

Finally out on the streets, we walked to the place where we were to be picked up by the ship company’s bus. In the back were several Western tourists, all of whom seemed to be trying up to one-up each other with the people they knew and the places they’d been. “Caitlin, tell them your Raoul story!” The bus trip was interminable, though the conversation coming from behind got better over the course of the voyage after all the showing off was done and people started discussing topics of more interest. When we arrived at the depressingly empty port area we were were ushered into a fairly standard waiting area, and then when the ship, one of several white vessels lined up at the dock, was ready, we were allowed to go aboard. Apparently Chenbl and I were the last ones on, because the massive door began to close before my foot had even crossed the threshold.

The ship itself, though, is quite nice. Old wooden trim and paneling as well as properly worn, clunky brass fittings. We set out into the sea amidst islands. Our cabin has twin beds and its own balcony. Eventually we stopped by a little island, where we were taken to the sandy beach. We kayaked around the sea a bit, looking at the eagles soaring overhead, listening to the cicadas, paddling into and out of a cave, and around a little floating house before heading back to the beach, where I swam a bit before we had to get back to the ship. Watching the pale green water and pale blue sky, separated by bits of dark green island, slipping by my window was utterly peaceful. I do love being on board a ship.

The crew had a little cooking class on the sundeck, and Chenbl got an award for cooking spring rolls. Later, at the seven-course diner, we were told to wear the provided traditional Vietnamese clothing that seemed fresh out of a TV historical drama set. The food wasn’t too bad, but it looked better than it tasted. Later we tried some fishing…well, Chenbl tried; I laid in a hammock stretched across the away boat and enjoyed the rocking motion. Many other ships were anchored around us.

We got up early to see the sunrise, but it was far from spectacular. The ship upped anchor and moved to another position near some other ships, and at 6:30 some of the passengers, mostly older and female, arrived at the sun deck for tai-chi practice. The ensuing tai-chi was, shall we say, somewhat less than authentic, but I suppose they do it that way for a reason. They can’t exactly start with the basics; people most likely just want something that makes them feel like they’re doing tai-chi, not actual tai-chi. I took photos and then, after everyone had left, did some of the forms I know. For some reason, this is the one place where they unfurl the sails, perhaps to air them out. I can’t see them actually being used for any kind of meaningful propulsion.

Local boat people were rowing back and forth between the ships, plying their wares, but to little apparent avail. I wonder who buys things from them. But they must, otherwise they wouldn’t be there. Maybe the ships’ local crews buy from them.

We got off the Paradise Luxury, and were ferried onto another, smaller boat, the Paradise Explorer, around 9. This was a day boat, with only one closed deck, and a sundeck on top. We made our way across the bay, wondering which of the gigantic tankers were legal, and found ourselves at a small fishing village. Several Vietnamese women took us in small boats around the village, but we got the smallest, slowest rower, and quickly fell behind all the other boats, even though we were the first to leave the dock. It soon became apparent that we weren’t making any actual headway, and the Australian guy behind me stepped up and took over. It didn’t go very well, as he didn’t know what he was doing, and my snarky comments probably didn’t help the situation.

When we finally arrived somehow, we found a village with a schoolroom and several huts. A naked male mannequin decorated one bedroom. Then it was another slow slog over to the pearl factory, where daintily dressed women manned an elegant floating pearl display room, all in the middle of a messy fishing village. It’s rather bizarre. As soon as we left they cut the A/C and threw open the windows. I imagine once we were out of sight they all jumped into the water for a nice swim, but I could be wrong.

kayakWe got back to the boat, which took us to another location while we ate a tasty lunch. Then we kayaked to a nearby beach, which featured one of the signature orange basins I keep hidden around the world in case of a surprise jam session. A French couple was busy manhandling their kayak, as if they’d somehow dropped something valuable inside it and couldn’t get it out. Chenbl and I foundered on the surf trying to get back out into the water, but we managed. I swam around the boat after returning the kayak, and was reminded that I need to swim more.

Then it was back to the big ship, the Luxury, and although I witnessed someone going back for forgotten stuff, it didn’t occur to me that I’d left my battery and chargers on the small boat. Oh,well. I’d wanted to go back to explore the cave above the beach, but they neglected to tell me that was an option. The crew really could use some work on their communication skills.

posted by Poagao at 9:51 pm  

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