The Slow Boat to China part 6


Dawn, Vietnam

Wednesday 28 October 2014

I awoke suddenly from my cocoon under the sound deadening pillows to see the light before dawn and a very big island out of the cabin doorway (we have a balcony cabin with a sliding glass door). There were ships and boats gliding around everywhere, many with lights on. I shot a lot of video. I’m finding that my SLIK tripod with its central bubble level, plus the little Cullman tripod head with its bubble levels, plus the built in level gauges in the Olympus E-M1 are allowing me to do some nice steady video shots. The tripod head is marvellous. It’s not meant to be a video head but it’s doing a great job, very smoothly panning and tilting. Nice.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is a big bay leading to the harbour for Saigon, Phu My. Very, very slowly we moved closer to a huge concrete pier, finally edging right up and stopping.

The Phu My container port was revealed, and what a contrast with Bangkok! All the machinery is here, scores, almost hundreds of container cranes and transporters, but no business! Nothing happening. No containers.

I can’t help wondering if this illustrates the difference between a free country, Thailand, and a Communist one, Vietnam.

Jan left for the 2 hour drive to Saigon but again, I can’t face that so I’m staying “home” for a day off. Ha.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMidday – the tide’s gone out. All the stone around the pier is exposed and the ship must have sunk several metres.


Keeping the peace?

At 3.30pm it’s lunch, and very nice too. It’s very hard to resist all the delicious foods when you can take whatever you like and as much as you like. I keep feeling I should go back so as not to miss something. But I don’t.

Random thoughts

  • I’m having difficulty reading, and especially, seeing the LCD screens of my cameras. My eyesight near/far accommodation is getting very much worse. My distance vision is fine, but I’ll have to get bifocals asap. Maybe in Hong Kong they could run them up while I wait?
  • What ugly people we Westerners are. Some people are just plain lumps with bumps. Not me, of course.
  • The cranes on the wharf here in Phu My have all their static weight limit markings in English, and some of the other signage is in English too. For instance, out the door at the moment I can see the “Tan Cang Cai Mep Oda Terminal”. They use the actual word Terminal.
  • There’s a TV channel available called Prime Telly and it’s running the ABC News 24 channel at times. But I discovered later that it’s just a five minute chunk and it’s repeated several times during the day, the same piece. What a waste of time.
  • Australia is getting international condemnation for banning people from the three Ebola countries from getting visas to enter Australia. That’s this wonderful Liberal government for you.
  • Several other channels are Chinese — news, drama, documentary. All except the last are in Chinese with Chinese subtitles. Must be dialects.
  • I’ve forgotten my bathers. It’s no problem, I can either wear one of my colourful PTUs as bathers, or use my shorts. They’re made of nylon stretch material much like bathers. (As it happened, I never went swimming due to my leg skin problems. More on this later.)
  • My legs are much improved though, with no skin breaks that I can see. But it’s a worry about going into the pools, a worry both that I might pick up an infection, or that I might leak. I think I’m probably worrying about nothing. The pools all look very clean, crystal clear and chlorinated.
  • Wow, there are some senior Vietnamese army guys here, both on the wharf and in the dining room, er, dining. I mean shoulder boards with four gold stars, gold braid all around and gold braid on their cap visors too. That says General to me. There must be an awful lot of ‘em.
  • There are no maps for Vietnam in my TomTom GPS South East Asia set. I don’t need them here, but it would have been nice to have them in Hanoi. Booger.
  • I have maps for Hong Kong, though. Big help, not.
  • I’ve been studying the brochure for HK tours and there are two I’d like to do, but US$169 for one of them and US$109 for the other. Ouch. This ship is all about making money from us.
  • There’s no Wi-Fi internet access anywhere I go except through the ship’s system. I can access the ship’s website right here in the cabin, but can’t get any further without paying big bucks. It’s US$0.79 per minute, and they warn how slow satellite internet is, i.e. many minutes to do anything. Grrr.
  • Six days so far without email or web access and I’m feeling it. It’s become such a vital part of my life.
  • I brought three letters in the side pocket of my carry-on bag in Perth, intending to post them at the airport. But of course, I forgot. Two of them are not important but one has a deadline for payment of a charge of 6 November. I asked Jan to take that one with him to Saigon today, just on the off chance of finding a post office (it needs stamps over the Aussie ones), but as he rightly says, you need local currency. Pot luck. No success.
  • I haven’t opened my wallet since last Friday’s taxi to Perth Airport. All we have on board is a plastic card that does everything from opening the cabin door to paying for drinks. Yesterday my total was US$123. They get you.
  • The ride to the airport in Perth was interesting. The driver had just had the gastric bypass operation done. He said the weight is just falling off and he’s not having any problems. He weighed 185Kg before! And I thought I have problems at mmmmKg, which I do, of course. I might have to rethink my cancellation in May. I’m dying this way. Anything’s got to be better. I asked if he can still drink beer and he said “Yes”, in a slow, qualified way. That’s OK.
  • I remember when I used to travel and thought nothing of a 2Km walk to get somewhere. I used to walk all day, and I didn’t even give a thought to moving around. But now I feel tiredness in all my muscles just getting up from my chair. The thought of even 100m walking is daunting, unless it’s slow and easy. I’ve really, really lost it.
  • The tide went out today and it’s come back in again. At 16:13 local time it’s nearly where it was at 07:00. We’re due to push off at 17:30 local, only 1 ¾ hours away.
  • Exploring the ship after lunch, I found the lifts to two more decks above deck 14, the dining room deck. We’re on 12, we eat on 14, but there are two more decks, 15 and 16. Both have pools, so that means there are pools on 14, 15 and 16. I find that amazing. Each has two spas attached, and a wading pool section, so there are many hundreds of tonnes of water right up the top of the ship. Why doesn’t it tip over??
  • The day turned very grey and cloudy, but no rain unfortunately. I was hoping for a big thunderstorm. There was some thunder and lightning, but not much.

Jan got back around 5pm tired but happy enough. He said the traffic this time wasn’t too bad. He’s very disappointed that a major park in the middle has been almost completely torn up to build a new underground railway. He feels it was historic and will never be the same.


Phy My, Vietnam, the port with no business.


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