We spent a lovely 10 days sailing south along the coast of Vietnam. Along the way we managed to visit Halong Bay, Hanoi, Hoi An, Da Nang, Nha Trag and Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon). This was the last country we visited during our 18 month journey around the world. It is also one of the few countries in the world where it is not permitted by the local government for foreigners to drive foreign registered vehicles, so we enjoyed this last country from the decks of The World.
Our first view of Vietnam was Ha Long Bay, our entry point into Vietnam. The bay features some 2000 of limestone karst islets and islands in all shapes and sizes, which makes for stunning scenery. In 1994 the bay was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list. While sailing into the bay and taking in the spectacular seascape, we enjoyed a bbq on the pool deck of The World. The following day was spent enjoying the markets and the city.
From Ha Long Bay we took a bus ride into Hanoi. We liked Hanoi. It is full of old French colonial style buildings, some in better condition than others. Combine that with new construction and lots of motorbikes and you get an interesting mix. It was a very good idea to spend the night in Hanoi, as opposed to just a day; it gave us a bit more time to get the flavor of the city.
Next up was the city of Hoi An. We hired a private car with driver and guide and set of to explore for the day. First up was Da Nang with stops at the Cham Sculpture Museum, Marble Mountains, and ‘China Beach’, now Marble Beach. The onto the ancient town of Hoi An, another UNESCO World Heritage site. We had a lovely time wandering around and having lunch, before it was time to head back to the ship for the evening.
We stopped in Nha Trang for a day and did a little window shopping and a small walk around town. Very hot day, so we weren’t out for too long. And Nha Trang is not the most beautiful place around.
The last stop in Vietnam our was Ho Chi Minh City. We sailed up the Saigon River, which was a little surreal. The river is big, but it feels a lot smaller when sailing in a cruise ship. We did a little exploring of the city, mainly visiting the markets in search of affordable silk cushion covers. We found what we were looking for. The heat was getting to us, so we headed back to the air conditioned comfort of the ship. The number of motor scooters in this town is a little insane. And we managed to cross the streets without get mowed down. The trick it seems is to not do anything unexpected, as the locals don’t expect the unexpected. Of course we found the local Starbucks.