We gathered in one of the lounges at 8 am and left soon afterwards. Everyone had to have Vietnam landing cards along with our room card to exit/enter the ship. (Our passports and visas were held by the purser). Mom and I had a dockside view from our balcony, and dozens of vendors were camped out, waiting to pounce on the passengers as we entered the pier area. We quickly walked by them on the way to the bus, planning to shop when we returned in the afternoon. As soon as we left the pier, we saw what I consider a "true" Asian/Chinese/Vietnamese scene -- rice paddies filled with workers in traditional bamboo conical ("coolie") hats and surrounded by water buffalo.
We rode along the beach, marveling at the huge light golden sand dunes on the beach side of the road and lush green hills on the other. The dunes were so high, we only got glimpses of the ocean until we got nearer Da Nang. Vietnam is a big exporter of sand and silica, and the pier was piled high with brilliant white silica awaiting loading. The drive to Da Nang was relatively scenic, with a couple of small villages along the way before we reached the suburbs of Da Nang, the fourth largest city in Vietnam (about 1 million residents). One thing was immediately clear--everyone must have a scooter/motorcycle/motorbike in this country. They are everywhere! The bus passed through one long tunnel (about 4 miles long) through the mountains, and our guide said that the motorbikes are not allowed to go through the tunnel. They either have to go over the mountain, which is evidently a scenic, but very dangerous road, or pay a truck to haul their bikes through the tunnel, while they ride in the truck. We also saw many traffic policemen, and the guide said it was one of the most lucrative jobs in Vietnam since bribes are accepted.
On the lunar calendar Vietnam uses, the day we were in Da Nang was the 28th, which is considered a very lucky day for weddings. A young engaged couple's parents select the "lucky" wedding day by consulting with a fortune teller. Eight is a lucky number (our guide got married on August 8). So, we saw about a dozen huge restaurants filled with wedding parties. According to our guide, it is not unusual to have 500 people at a wedding party. Everyone rides their motorbikes to the restaurant and hundreds filled some of the parking lots outside. The doors of the restaurants were decorated with flowers, and we saw one wedding party walking single file down the street. The bride was already at the restaurant, and the groom (who looked about 14 and was wearing a white suit and carrying a large bouquet) and his family were walking single file down the sidewalk on the way to meet the bride and her family. We were glad we returned to the ship by 2:30 pm, because evidently the streets get pretty wild following the weddings. Just picture this--hundreds of drunk wedding revelers riding their motorbikes home after the wedding! Our guide said that motorbike accidents were a major killer in the country, and I believe him.
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