After the huge welcome we received on arrival, the hotel I was booked into was virtually opposite the boat. No need for a taxi – absolutely perfect! We were issued with passes to get in and out of the marina – there is an immigration type booth at the entrance. We were told that if we lose those, we can’t get on the boat. Now there’s a thought…………
As we had been doing deep clean on the way in, and the celebrations seemed to take a good few hours, there was no one going back to the boat to carry on the work. Yippee. I really could do with not getting straight on with it. After a much needed shower and clean clothes, a campari was called for and food that was not boat food. What a treat. On the top of the Novotel there is a bar called the Sky Bar, which is an open air bar with a fantastic view up the river to the Dragon Bridge. Everything is lit up at night – I think they are trying to emulate Hong Kong. Quite spectacular though. Another campari was had before retiring to my king size bed for a whole eight hours sleep!
At 9.00am the next morning we all had to meet at the Clipper Dome in the marina for a team fitting by some local tailors for a traditional Vietnamese Dress, Ao Dai, we are having made for the Gala Dinner and Prize Giving Ceremony. We all had measurements taken, although none of us have any idea as to what we are actually getting. It will be a surprise. We all were measured, including Chewie, Sandra and Emilia. They are part of the team after all!
It was a day of finishing off the deep clean, finishing counting all the food and generally making sure we have everything ready for the next part of the leg, including plugging leaks on the boat that made several bunks wet. The spinnaker we damaged was taken off the boat and laid out on the stage in the marina just so we could make sure that we had repaired all that needed repairing. We hadn’t, so that was a good job we checked. As I had the washing machine, I had the job of washing all the tea towels and waterproof mattress covers again. That will take a few loads!
Dzung (pronounced yum) is the liaison we have been given. Each boat has a liaison and a team bus – a first yet again. Anything we need, we ask Dzung. I needed washing powder, so off we walked to find a washing powder shop. The shop we went to was not too far from the boat, and was a narrow corridor like shop that had lots of cardboard boxes stacked up in. Dzung, I presume, asked for the washing powder and the lady fudged around in a few boxes and came up with a pack of Omo. Not sure how we would have fared if there was no Vietnamese speaker to help. Not even shelves of goods to point to or pick up. I pushed my luck and asked for conditioner as well – and got it! Three packs of Omo and a strip of ten single conditioners were just about £2. Not bad value!
The next day was another maintenance day. Very handy that I lived just over the road, because I could go quite easily backwards and forwards to put washes on. The one not so good thing was that the washing machine was also the tumble drier, so once the wash was finished it then had to be dried before another load could go in. I made sure my foulies came to the hotel with me, as there was talk of everybody elses going off to a launderette. I wanted to be in charge of my own destiny this time – at least if I get a soggy bottom I can only blame myself. Talking of soggy bottoms, as soon as I could shower I repaired nicely. Unlike some of the crew on other boats, who seem to have got it rather more badly than any of us. They seemed to be still in agony a couple of days in.
Emily arrived at the hotel at around 10.30am after flying out from the UK on the way to a conference in the Philippines. It was lovely to see her. Everybody was pleased to see her when we got to the boat. She had brought some re-proofer, so hopefully the foulies will be as good as new when we start the next leg. She also brought chocolate for Val, and Sudocreme for Kat. Lovely pressies.
We had seconded Dzung and the bus in the afternoon to have a look around for food. He took us to a couple of places that looked very promising. We went to another tiny little shop that stocked a good variety of gluten free products, and then went on to a wholesalers. It seemed to have a fair bit of western type food, so it doesn’t look as if there will be too much of a problem putting together a menu for the couple of weeks we have to get up to China. Walking through the wholesalers in our Danang tee –shirts, a guy comes up to us who went to school with Steve’s wife, and whose sister has sailed with Wendo. Small world. He gave us the low down on several bits and pieces, and also told us where to get our hair cut. Random, but reminded me that I could do with one!
At 6pm we had to be back over to the Clipper Dome for a fitting of our clothes. Wendo and Matt had theirs completely made up, and could model the beautiful outfits.
The boys were then all fitted with theirs. All the women didn’t hang around, but decided to go to the shop the next day. A ploy, I believe, by the shop to get the women in so they could buy more! Emilia and I stayed so that we didn’t have to go to the shop, but it turns out they didn’t bring ours anyway. So, we had stood around for an hour and a half for nothing. I think they could see I was not impressed, so offered to bring mine to my hotel in an hour or so. Which they did. It didn’t fit very well, so it is a good job we had a first fitting. I think the Asian women are a lot more “delicate” than I am, with my fat arms and broad shoulders. I also want to be able to reach over for the salt without bursting out of the seams!
As we didn’t do much damage to the boat, the last scheduled day of maintenance meant that the whole team didn’t need to be there. Emily and I walked along the river, and went to a shopping mall. After the fitting of the dress last night, I felt that my underwear needed to be upgraded from a sports bra, which really did not do anything any justice. It seems that Asian women do not have the need for larger sizes, and everything here is padded. I did purchase something, but feel that it may only get one outing!
We then went back to the hotel, and treated ourselves to a massage. I really needed that – my muscles are not feeling themselves at the moment! A bit like the whole of my body really. And then I went to the shop the chap in the wholesalers suggested for a hair cut. Might as well sort out a few things at once. That was an unusual hair cut. The sinks were on the end of a massage bed. The hair wash came with a half hour long head massage, and then they gave you cotton buds to get the water out of your ears. Not had that before. The chap who cut my hair didn’t speak a word of English, so I had another girl trying to ask me what I wanted. Didn’t get very far, so just told him to do what he thought. Didn’t turn out too bad, but it could have been worse!!
We had a beach restaurant offer our crew a dinner in the evening, so the crew bus picked us up and took us to the 4U restaurant. It was a seafood buffet type meal – plenty of it, and quite tasty. Then Pete started giving out shots of vodka – I did not partake, but most did. I think sore heads the next day were going to be in order.
A tour operator we work with in the UK, Indus Experiences, had offered a tour to Hoi An for myself and five other people. Val, David, Craig, Emily, Chloe and myself all set off early the next morning with Binh the guide. He was a very knowledgeable chap, answering every question Valerie had. That is no mean feat! It took us just under an hour to get there. Hoi An old town is a UNESCO Heritage Site.
We went initially through the markets – the sights and smells something to behold. So much food – much of which I had no idea what it was. Fish and shellfish – some of which was still moving – took up many of the stalls. There were also ladies cooking – all sorts of weird and wonderful and aromatic dishes.
We walked around the old town, the tiny shops and lantern filled streets and over bridges that had been built many, many years ago.
Silk is one of the “good value” buys here, so a silk liner was bought for my sleeping bag. It is -7 in Qingdao at the moment – any extra layer will be of use I feel! I also bought a beautiful oil painting – hopefully Kirsty’s mum will transport it back to the UK for me. Not sure it would fare well on a damp boat for the next six months. We then went to what was described as the best restaurant in Hoi An – Morning Glory. It certainly was an excellent choice. Our six course taster menu of traditional Vietnamese food was beautiful. A lovely way to finish the tour. Thank you Indus Experiences – it was very generous of you to provide a tour for me and my team mates.
On a Saturday and Sunday the Dragon Bridge over the Han River breathes fire. Tonight was the only night that we would be able to see it. Not wanting to hike all the way up the river with crowds of people, I had a very good view from the Executive Lounge in the Novotel (which, bizarrely, has very few alcoholic drinks, but they do have campari so I visit there quite a lot!) so had a comfortable seat for the five minutes of dragon breath. Apparently, those that are close are covered in kerosene or water. Or both. I think I made the right choice.
Monday morning was an early start for a City Tour put on by the City of Danang for our boat. We had a guide take us firstly to the Marble Mountain. We also went to a marble factory. They showed us a couple of work men sitting out the back chipping away at great big chunks of marble. There were huge marble statues everywhere. Not wanting to sound cynical, each chunk of marble was still in the “chunk” stage – nowhere near looking like anything. There was no other workshop nearby. I am sure all the statues and tables and chairs and smaller items really are marble, but I think they may be made elsewhere, and maybe not by hand. Or am I completely wrong?
There are caves up Marble Mountain, and a lot of steps. There are Buddhas in the caves, and a pagoda or two around every corner. As well as a lot of tourists. But it was worth seeing. Once! We then went on to the Champa Museum, which has very, very old sandstone statues and bits of buildings in. There are many historical buildings and pieces of art in Vietnam that are older than their counterparts in Cambodia for example, like Angkor Wat. But nowhere near as famous.
We then went to a local restaurant for lunch, before driving to the Son Tra peninsula to visit the Linh Ung pagoda with its huge lady Buddha statue. One of the smaller pagodas had “scaffolding” all the way around it – although it wasn’t scaffolding as we know it. I think it was made of bamboo – with not a straight bit amongst it.
When we got back to the City, we had to go to the race office to collect our Vietnamese Dress for the evening’s Gala Dinner. Hopefully they would all fit! Mine did – although some of the men seemed to have the wrong tops in their bags. Chewie had Chris’s who had Marc’s. Just a little panic there for a few minutes. I only had orange flip flops to wear with mine, so the dress lady lent me a pair of her black sandals. They fitted lovely, and were very comfortable. Wonder if they want to throw them in?
We were collected by the team bus to go to the Furama Resort for the dinner. We all arrived, headwear in place. This was a model of the USS Enterprise for the ladies. Or a Frisbee. Or a bird bath. Or several other non complimentary names.
The men had head pieces as well, although not quite as elaborate. Our crew went in together, and looked amazing. If somewhat different to all the other crews. Different is not bad though. Just wish I was a size 10, as the slim ones looked fabulous. I was told I looked like the queen. Great. She is 85! The dinner was the best we have ever had on any prize giving. The only sad thing was that we weren’t prize winners. Up until now the Stormhoek Award has been given on votes – and we, once again, had more votes than any of the other teams. But it went to Visit Seattle – I think the judging process has changed a little. They had a very good crew blog on day 14, which clinched it for them. Well done!
There was an after party which most people went to. Except me and a few others. The stories coming in from the party the next day were quite amusing – including Pops and Shona going skinny dipping in the sea, and Kirsty and Skipper Max falling in the swimming pool fully clothed. Amongst others. The trouble when you give out free beer……………………..
I really need to get the food sorted out. The menus haven’t been finalised, and the lists have not been made. But I also needed to get a pedicure, so did that. There was a shop just a few streets away from the hotel that had been recommended, so trotted off down to there. An hour and a half later, and much hard skin left at the shop, I returned to the hotel to meet An who was going to accompany me to the fruit and vegetable market. I was on time! Fifteen minutes after he was supposed to be there, I put a message out on our “Danang in Danang” messenger group to see if anyone had seen him. Nobody had, but Qui had his mobile phone number. She phoned him to see where he was. The answer? Busy with the local media, and could I just hop in a taxi. Don’t think he really got the point of what he was needed for. Qui stepped in, as she spoke fluent Vietnamese, and off we went to the market.
We found a lovely little lady on a wholesale fruit and vegetable stall, who could supply us with all we needed. She didn’t speak a word of English, so I wouldn’t have got very far if I was on my own. I said I would get the list together and drop it off for her the next day. We also had a few tastings of other products that I have no idea what they are, but they tasted good so have ordered some. They will either go down well on the boat or not!
A couple of Team Co-ordinators thought it would be a good idea to arrange a get together for all the round the worlders, as we are now half way round. This was in a local pub, and was meant for us to talk to people who we see in every stopover, but don’t really know. It actually turned out that we spoke to the people we see in every stopover, but already know. Just a bit of a catch up really. Nice evening out. The pub was doing some food for race start day for a couple of boats, so I ordered some sandwiches for the lunch, and tagliatelle for dinner. Worth the trip in the evening with the food for race day sorted out.
I started to do the menus and the spreadsheets for the food shopping the next morning. This stopover is going so fast. Lunch time we had been invited to An’s home for lunch by his parents. They are so proud of him. He is a little media star here in Danang – not sure how long that is going to last after we have all left, but he is enjoying it whilst he can. His parents put on a beautiful lunch, with uncles, grandparents and neighbours all coming to join in. A 20 something year old bottle of whiskey came out – we all had to have a glass. I thought I would get away with having the smallest of sips, but they insisted on everyone draining the whole glass. Yuk!! Not really my thing.
We had an Art and Cultural Exchange evening – along with “Clipper’s Got Talent”. Clipper, apparently, has very little talent, as we could only muster three acts between the twelve boats. There were performances from the youth of Danang, and many in the crowd cheering everyone on.
Then they got out the bamboo sticks for the bamboo dance – never heard of it, but it looked easy. No. Not when your flip flop comes off half way through, and you have to keep a stiff leg to stop it from disappearing amongst several bamboos and legs. Didn’t make a good attempt at that at all. Some did very well though.
Thursday was definitely the day to get all the menus and spreadsheets done – we are leaving on Saturday, so that only leaves Friday to shop. Not good, to leave it that late. But necessary, as our boat has been open boat and going out on corporate sailing days in our home port. The Executive Lounge in the hotel has a printer, so I was kept in lattes and snacks whilst working – until they threw me out at 10.30pm! There was an “Evening Parade” of all the boats lit up with lights sailing up to the Dragon Bridge and back again. I had completely forgotten, not that I intended to sail on it. Not going to go on that boat any more than I have to!! I was chatting to Chloe in the Lounge whilst doing my menus when we realised what the time was. We had a very good view of the river and the Dragon Bridge from the balcony of the Lounge, so watched the parade from there. And the Dragon breathed fire on a Thursday night! Those that sailed on the boat said it was one of the most surreal experiences of their lives. There were drummers on every boat, and the crowds were ten or so deep – cheering loudly as they went past. Amazing.
Friday was an early start for the food shopping. The lists were done, with what I thought I would be able to get. We set off in the bus – Val, Shona and I. Qui wasn’t there – which was a bit of a problem as she was the Vietnamese speaker on the trip. She did turn up later, which was a huge help. English is certainly not as widely spoken as in some Asian countries – and labels on tins of food aren’t always bi-lingual! Goodness knows what we would have bought if it had not been for her!!
I had to get cash from the Clipper office, as some of the boats had had problems with using the boat credit card. £1,000 – my budget for this part of the trip – was just over 27,000,000 dong. That might sound a lot of money, but for 20 people for two weeks, it didn’t go that far. We bought most of what we needed, although there were certainly holes in the list. We stopped at another supermarket on the way back and got a few things that were missing, but not everything. I think this next leg will have to call on the imagination for some of the meals!
We got back at around 2pm – not enough time to get it all on the boat and packed before the 3.30pm crew briefing for the next part of the trip up to Qingdao. I wish I hadn’t gone. We were told that this would be a horrendous two weeks. The wind is going to be against us all the way, and the tide will be with us. This creates an awful sea, with huge waves that have no back. So the boat will be airborne a lot of the time, and crashing into the sea with a bump. A boat has been de masted on this leg before, so we need to look after the boat. A lot of accidents happen on this leg, so we need to look after the crew. Great. Two weeks of pure hell. Didn’t fancy getting back on before this briefing. Certainly not looking forward to it now!
We had the boat briefing just after that. Quite a few of the crew have been poorly this week with cold and fever – one still in bed and others not 100%. This is going to be a hard leg. How long can two weeks last??? Then we had to finish packing all the food away. All of our gear was meant to be stowed on the boat by now – it is still in my hotel room in the dry bags. I was going to go through it all to make sure everything was where it should be nine days ago. Where has that time gone? I am sure the next two weeks are not going to go quite as fast. Whether or not my confidence returns remains to be seen. I hope so, because I certainly feel rubbish at the moment. Very emotional, which is quite unlike me. I am likely to burst into tears for no apparent reason. Don’t know whether it is because I am scared, or had enough, or what. Just this afternoon, two more round the worlders from other boats pulled out. We haven’t lost anyone from our boat – yet. If Paul had been here at this stopover I think I would have come home with him. I don’t want to give up – if I do I am sure that I will regret it for the rest of my life.
I also don’t want to be so unhappy. A catch 22, as they say.
Perhaps when I get to Qingdao everything will be better!