Day seven of our cruise aboard Diamond Princess found us arriving at the port of Chân Mây in Vietnam, the first of two back-to-back stops in the country. When we’d cruised on the Diamond Princess for our honeymoon a decade earlier we’d also visited Vietnam and made two stops then too but the ports this time around were both different and would allow us to take in completely new sights. For Chân Mây the attraction for us would be a booked excursion to see the Imperial City at Huế but there are a number of other places of interest to tourists in the region, most notably the ancient town inside the city of Hội An to the south. Should we return to this part of Vietnam on another trip in the future then it’s there that we would most likely visit.
First off, though, there was the approach to the port.
We’d forgotten just how staggeringly beautiful Vietnam is and just how much of an impact it had on us on our first visit. Vietnam is a country that really shouldn’t appeal to us at all because if there’s one thing we don’t deal with very well then it’s humidity. We’re not great with high heat either but when you add in the humidity it gets very uncomfortable for us very quickly. On our first trip to Vietnam back in 2008 we remembered the night before hitting the country and how stepping out from the air conditioned inside of the ship onto the promenade deck was like walking into a sauna; the following day was even more of a shock as we’d found ourselves sweating from every pore within seconds, drenching the clothing we’d been wearing. I’m happy to say that it wasn’t quite that extreme this time around and we seemed to cope better with the Vietnamese environmental conditions. The conditions were very still, very calm, and you could see the humidity before you even felt it in the form of the gorgeous clouds over the verdant landscape of the Asian country partly hidden in an early morning heat haze and evaporating mist of the preceding night.
Chân Mây ranks right up there as one of the smaller ports we’ve ever docked at while cruising around the world. Most ports that we’ve cruised into have been either commercial or dedicated for cruise passengers and it’s been a rare event to hit one whose prime purpose is industrial. A number of piers and wharfs extended out from the Vietnamese shoreline allowing Diamond Princess to come alongside.
With no building ashore for passengers to head through everyone had to wait until immigration officers came aboard and had set up near the exit of the ship in order to get a landing card stamped by the authorities. This didn’t take very long, though, and the process of getting the landing card was a perfunctory one that barely added a few seconds to the departure process for those leaving the ship.
As already mentioned, we had booked a full day’s excursion through Princess Cruises for our first day in Vietnam to visit the city of Huế and a number of historical sites in the area. We got our landing cards and left the coolness of the ship for a walk of around one hundred metres to where the coaches had parked up waiting to take passengers to their destinations.
We were immensely pleased to discover that the coach we were on had air conditioning, something notably missing when we’d taken a trip to the Cu Chi tunnels ten years earlier. We then had the equally welcome pleasure of experiencing a drive through the Vietnamese countryside once more. Blue skies dotted with billowing clouds accompanied our journey first inland then turning northwards towards the city that was our destination. The landscape was overwhelmingly green with large swathes of fields rolling smoothly up the hills both nearby and in the distance.
As we got further away from the port area and closed in on Huế there were far more signs of human life with more buildings, plenty of roadside shrines and temples, cemeteries, and shops.
With restroom facilities being limited at the first place we were scheduled to visit our coach made a brief stop in the city near a jewellery store with public toilets. We had a quick look at the jewellery on offer but the prices were far beyond what we wanted to spend on anything; more than that, the behaviour of the sales staff was not something we were comfortable with. If you’ve never been to this part of the world before then it’s worth noting that how you might like to browse a store – you look around, you find something of interest, you find someone to ask questions about it perhaps – is not how it works out there. Instead, you have to be prepared to have someone shadow you from counter to counter, from shelf to shelf, picking up absolutely anything your eyes glance at and trying to push it onto you. There’s likely to be a commission aspect to this pushiness but we find it off-putting and counterproductive and it’s an area where we’d like to see the cruise companies perhaps approaching these trusted partner shopping stops and maybe suggesting they ease off with the sales tactic a bit.
Escaping from the store we hung around outside to snap a few shots and wait for the rest of our tour group to emerge and get back on the coach.
From that rest stop it was just a very short drive across the Perfume River and to a parking lot within a few hundred metres of the walls of the Imperial City.
In the next post I’ll cover our visit to the Imperial City in Huế.