Nha Trang, Vietnam
If you’d like to read more location-specific commentary or view nearly 60 photos, CLICK HERE to visit our call from last year. Our current stay was a brief 9 hours, and only 11 months ago we scrubbed the city quite thoroughly and celebrated the ‘must see’ tourist fascinations.
One place we wanted to return to was an embroidery factory – a facility that crafts incredible artwork by hand made of the highest quality silk. Most pieces take weeks to manufacture – some several months. Prices typically start in the $100 range (which is what we were looking for) with many of the larger works of art upward of $5K. We were looking for something unique, inexpensive, and if found, planned to have it shipped home. Disappointingly, there wasn’t anything this year that had our name on it or fit our low-end budget, though after 90 minutes, Cheryl found some lovely clothing at a reasonable price.
After docking at 8:00am, we were among the first passengers off the ship to check the dozen or so shopping tents which were setup on the pier. We learned from last year that some of the most reasonable prices & variety of merchandise can be found in Vietnam, but particularly at this port. It was here we bought a large suitcase for just over $50 and this year was no different, only $8 cheaper. We purchased several Vietnamese clothing items as well – our tab started at US $160, negotiated down to US $130, and I’m sure a bill which would have exceeded US $500 in Phoenix. Good quality garments, manufactured locally, incredibly cheap – but you always negotiate. We were back on the ship within 45 minutes to drop our suitcase and other purchases. We gathered our backpacks, were out the door again & back on the pier within minutes to meet friends &catch the free shuttle bus to the embroidery factory. This is where the fun really begins.
First, our friends & companions for this particular trip were Bill & Mary McFadden (from Tampa) – a couple in their early 80’s (retired physician) and just as nice & dear as two folks could possibly be. They often refer to us as their children, and actually worry about us if they don’t see us in places around the ship when & where we typically frequent. So cute! They were aboard last year as well, and we now share a very special relationship. At any rate, we all agreed to go together because, one, we enjoy their company, and two, we didn’t want ‘mom & dad’ venturing out on their own as Mary can’t walk great distances without a rest and Bill uses a walking cane. The shuttle bus dropped us at a local hotel in Nha Trang, and the embroidery factory was then to be a quick ‘cab’ ride down the beach. Once off the bus, we were besieged by rickshaw drivers with their little 1-seat bicycles, all competing for our business. First one, then two, three, four, swelling to a dozen or more within seconds – we were smothered by them!
Allow me to digress a moment. When our 3 boys were young, we were quite the disciplinarians – we never allowed or tolerated any backtalk or disrespect at ANY time, particularly Cheryl since she stayed home and was the primary authoritarian. Any ‘lip’ and the boys could & would expect a firm slap – in later years, all Cheryl had to do was raise her hand and they would duck or run for cover. Couple that with her very firm ‘motherly’ intonation (a few octaves higher & louder) and they knew they were in big trouble. Long story short here. When these rickshaw drivers surrounded us (literally in our faces) struggling for our business, Cheryl reached the peak of her tolerance and as with our boys, raised not one but BOTH arms in a threatening manner. Combined with a verbal directive I won’t repeat here, these rickshaw drivers ducked and scattered as if they’d seen the devil himself!! After the cloud of exiting dust settled, a very nice young lady with a 4-seat golf cart appeared and for $8, offered to take us to the factory…SOLD! Cheryl hasn’t lost her touch, believe me! Ask any rickshaw driver in Vietnam – I’m sure the word’s out by now!
Once we were wrapped up at the factory, we made sure Bill & Mary were safely back on the shuttle bus to the ship, and we walked across the street and found a nice spot on the beach where we spent a few hours relaxing. At a nearby seaside café, we had pizza & beer. Total bill, $14. I gave the waitress a $2 tip and you’d think I’d given her $100. She was so gracious & thankful – challenged to a muster a word in English, she continued to bow & smile several times. I’ll share with you, aside from a few unrefined rickshaw drivers, all of our encounters with the Vietnamese have been wonderful – truly a great society based on encounters this year & last.
We were back on the ship by 4:30, and set sail for Singapore shortly thereafter . Scheduled to arrive Sunday afternoon at 2:00 – (750 miles southwest) – we’ll be there until 11:00pm Monday evening.
Update on our ‘Rummy 500’ games: Cheryl 22, Bob 20