This is a continuation of our Asian cruise blog entries before everything went crazy. We were delayed getting these done because of very limited internet on the ship as we wandered around in the South China Sea for 14 days. Most of the internet on the ship was taken by people either trying to make an airline reservation or trying to cancel one. Things constantly changed on a daily basis. But more on all that in a future blog post.
Sailing up the South China Sea, our next port of call was Da Nang, Vietnam, the fifth largest city in Vietnam. During the Vietnam War soldiers went to nearby My Khe, known as China Beach for rest and relaxation. China Beach was featured in the television show “China Beach” as well as the movie “Good Morning Vietnam”. We were in Da Nang for two nights, giving us time to explore the area.
The first day we had booked an excursion through Holland America. Little did we know the excursion would bring an unfortunate experience.
Our tour guide was Melin, who had broken English and understood English even worse than he spoke it. This caused him to have a confused expression on his face most of the time.
Today’s main excursion was a five hour tour of Hoi An, located about an hour’s drive from the ship. Hoi An is a tiny riverside town that has remained unchanged for centuries. The town is made up of many narrow streets and our guide took us on a walking tour. Throngs of townspeople were out celebrating the second day of the Chinese New Year so the narrow streets were even more crowded than usual.
Add the presence of many motor scooters weaving through the crowd and it made for a nerve-wracking walking experience. I wonder how many people throughout Asia are killed by motor scooters. Even more shocking is to see three or four people, including babies and small children riding on these scooters. While we were told it is against the law to ride a scooter without a helmet, we saw many young children without them.
Early in our walking tour our guide stopped at an old Chinese school. While he was talking we heard a crash and a woman in our group had fainted. As she was helped to her feet, she fainted again. Thank heavens we had a retired nurse named Susan in our group and she stepped forward to help. Our tour guide looked panic stricken and helpless. After a few minutes it was suggested we all continue touring the area while they decided what to do about the lady.
This really was a pretty little scenic town and the New Year decorations and festive dressed locals added to the charm. At one point a friendly older Vietnamese gentleman stopped Bill and asked if he was American. He proudly told Bill he had once been a captain in the South Vietnamese army.
We learned the ill lady and her husband had been put into a rickshaw and taken back to the bus to rest until we all returned. Nurse Susan suggested three times she should abandon the tour and take a taxi back to the ship where she could see the ship’s doctor. She refused.
After our long walking tour in the heat we were more than happy to sit down in the coolness of the bus. Minutes after leaving Hoi An and heading to our next destination, the lady became very ill. Susan jumped from her seat and checked the lady and told the guide we needed to get to a hospital NOW! The guide panicked and started shouting at the driver in Vietnamese. Somehow the bus driver managed to turn the large bus around and we flew through the narrow streets with the horn blaring as motor scooters scrambled out of the way. Three miles later we pulled up to a very small hospital. The lady was removed from the bus along with her husband and Susan. We all felt really bad leaving them behind where language is such a problem and medical procedures are very different. Hopefully Susan will make her way back to the ship and the lady will be okay. I don’t know what we would have done without that Susan. What an angel she was.
This left us all shaken and pretty much just wanting to get back to the ship, but we did stop at famous China Beach for a photo opportunity.
In the distance on the hillside was Lady Buddha Da Nang, the tallest Buddha statue in Vietnam.
We also stopped at Marble Mountain where they carve large figures out of marble. The hit of this stop was the gift shop where we could all purchase cold soft drinks and bottles of water.
Next up: Our second day in Da Nang and a visit around town
Last minute update: We saw Susan the next day and she reported the lady is doing well. She was diagnosed with severe dehydration which caused problems with her diabetes. After being pumped with fluids for an hour she felt better and after five hours they were all able to take a taxi back to the ship (an hour away) where she was seen by the ship’s doctor. Susan said being at the hospital was very difficult because the staff were operating on a skeleton crew since it was a holiday and also because no one spoke English. They finally located someone who spoke a little English. We were so glad to hear the lady is doing well! We actually saw her several times much later around the ship. She was so fortunate!