At this point I have gained 3kg. I do not have a beach body, but I am ready to be at the shore. I had heard so much about the beauty of Nha Trang. Only being familiar with Da Nang, I have a lot of coastline to discover. I was looking forward to some sun and fun. It was a 3 hour bus ride from Da Lat to Nha Trang. The hotel I reserved was nice, well, except for the color of the room and the refrigerator. It was pepto pink. The refrigerator kept turning off once you took the key out of its power slot. No cold drinks and no cold insulin. La Suisse was a block away from the beach. It included a breakfast in the price. It was also located in the most congested and touristy area of Nha Trang, surrounded by large luxury hotels.
The area is expensive and loud with Russian tourists. Those who vacation in Nha Trang are predominantly Russian and Chinese of the worst kind. They simply aren’t nice people. They never smile and expect you to get out of the way on the sidewalks or in the road. They’re cold even when sharing an umbrella on the beach. With direct flights from Russia to Nha Trang the city caters to them.
My first night there, I went to an all you can eat seafood bbq place. The coals and grill are placed on your table. A torrential downpour pushed a lot of people into this place. Staff insisted on grilling my food. I eventually had to push them away as one kid just flipped and flipped my shrimp overcooking it. I enjoy someone grilling for me, when they know what the hell they are doing. The kid just didn’t care and I could taste that in my shrimp.
The next day I walked along the beach and got too hot. After a break in the hotel I decided to take a cable car ride, but I didn’t realize that the ride took you to an amusement park, Vinpearl. I should have done my research because that’s not something I would do on my own. Within 5 seconds of realizing what was going on I wanted to return. I ended up getting in an argument about going back. They said I could only go back at 2130. Oh, hell no, get me off this island. They almost didn’t let me go back until I raised a little hell with the security who didn’t know what I was saying in the first place. If I had traveled with someone I might’ve stayed a bit to check it out. I was pissed at the amount of money I spent for the ride, but I guess it’s part of my Idiot Tax.
I made it back to my room to rest in some air-con and a bit of insanity called CNN. My head was still reeling from the amount of money I had spent. I tried to think about how I was going to get out of the touristy area for the cheap seafood. I didn’t have a clue as to where to go and didn’t think to blindly take a taxi. Considering I paid $10USD for all you can eat seafood, I didn’t think too much about it. It was fresh. It was also minutes from the hotel, so I just chose a place around the corner from where I was staying. I had some fried fish and French fries for dinner. It was $3USD.
Before I went to bed I booked a boat tour. It would include the boat ride to three different islands, lunch, snorkel, and cocktails with fruit. Let’s do this! I love boats, thanks to a good friend from college. I was the only American on the boat full of Vietnamese people, just the way I like it. One of the guides spoke really good English. He took good care of me.
Our first stop was an aquarium. I was the only one on the boat remotely interested in getting off. It was constructed of cement in the shape of a pirate ship.
Once I got back to the boat we went to do some snorkeling. I was excited to get into the water. Most people grabbed chairs in the shade and ate some food they had brought with them. Later, the guide told me how Vietnamese people aren’t strong swimmers so it doesn’t interest them. You need to be a strong swimmer there.
I took my mask and snorkel and jumped in. I wondered what the fish were like. I remember having a great time in Hawaii snorkeling. Well, the water felt amazing. It was the perfect temperature, clear and blue. Once I took my feet off the bottom I felt my body swiftly drift parallel to the shore away from where I started. I freaked out as I am not the strongest swimmer either. I tried to swim back and made little progress. Okay, this is not going to work out for me. I’m scared. I grabbed onto the rocks on the shore and crawled back to where I stepped into the water. Once there, I found my compatriots from the boat and began to splash about there. I kept the mask on and dunked my head under to see a bit of sea life. I saw a sea snake and I was done. Time to get back on shore.
Back on the boat, we had lunch together as we motored to the next spot. I thought we would swim some more, but instead we tied up to another boat and had some entertainment from the crew. It was a lot of fun with a little bit of drag. They gave a shot of a “cocktail”. It was some kind of hooch from a plastic water bottle. I began to feel real loose at this point.
We went to another island where parasailing was offered. Again, most grabbed some chairs. I met a guy from Houston, as I was wearing my Texas tanktop. There was actually a sandy beach here. I stayed to myself and tried to not let my Havaianas float away. I found some pigeons eating coconut and thought of my Northsiders. I wondered if I would find a local football team to support while in Vietnam. With not much else to do I grabbed my clothes and drank a few beers before it was time to get back on the boat and return to the tourist harbor. On the return to the harbor I commented on a guy’s shirt. I gave him a thumb’s up and he asked me in perfect English where I was from. So, I had a chance to speak to someone else other than the guide. He had lived most of his life in Australia, but was from the countryside outside Can Tho.
The trip made me very happy, but my ears were beginning to hurt again. After managing to get some eardrops from a pharmacy I ate some crazy looking seafood. I had some mantis prawns. I also had some scallops, tiger prawns and tamarind crab. All of that for about $20USD. That is an extravagant price, but I did it again the next night without the mantis prawns, they looked so alien. But I finally ate sea urchin. It was so good, tasting like the ocean.
I felt so good that night I decided to take a cyclo. It had led lights on it, so “Why not?” Even though I negotiated he price before getting in he wanted to leave me in a strange area for that price. So, he really took me for a ride charging me double to get back to where he picked me up. On the way back I had to fight off people offering me whores and drugs.
The next morning, I went on a motorbike tour with Mr Hau. He’s another Easy Rider I met through Tam. This was going to be an all-day affair. He picked me up at 830 and we were on our way to the countryside. The first stop was to see how they made grass mats and rugs. The grass used grows alongside the rice, but it grows much thicker and taller. It goes through a process of stripping and drying before it’s dyed and dried again. Using a loom, the grass is woven.
We then crossed a toll bridge and saw a large group of baby ducks.
Rice being the main source of food in this country, the people enjoy some type of variety in how they eat it. I got to see how noodles and rice paper is made.
The day began extremely hot, but there were a few downpours that made us stop on the side of the road and wait it out. First, we stopped at a granny’s house. She sat in her hammock as people would pull off the road on their scooters and sit under the tin roof of her front yard. The rain let up a little bit and we got back on the road until there was another deluge. Our second stop was in an abandoned brick building along the side of the road.
Once it went back to sprinkles, we got back on the bikes to stop at a tiny roadside market. There we bought some flimsy panchos. It’ll stop raining when we put these on. Mr. Hau said. Sure enough, 3 minutes later we drove into an area that hadn’t seen any of the rain that we drove through. I was drenched in my own sweat under the suffocating pancho. There wasn’t any rain on our way to the pagoda.
This was the most impressive of pagodas I’d ever seen. Not pictured are some new sculptures being carved out of wet cement. Tru craftsmanship.
From there we went to Ba Ho Waterfall. It was chance to swim! You pay a small price to get into the area. You hike about 800 meters to a crop of boulders. After the path ends red arrows painted on the boulders show you the way to different pools to swim in. Mr. Hau suggested I swim in the first one. More treachery. Climbing to the first pool was extremely hard. I once climbed some stairs to see some orangutans on the island of Sumatra. The stairs were half the size of a three year old. I watched that three year old climb up like a champ. The boulders were ¾ my size. I was sweating so bad and when I finally reached the first pool it began to rain again. Soak with sweat I changed into my swim shorts as others were leaving the pool. I just earned a swim dammit.
The water was cooler than the rain. Jagged rocks were just under the surface of the water. I had to gingerly lower my body in and navigate around the rocks. I shortly began to feel little nips on my feet and shins. I brushed my body a few times and didn’t think of it too much. I just thought my skin was twitching under the coolness of the water. Then I got a barrage of nips. River monsters! I’m done! The rain had stopped, but there were things in the water with me.
As I toweled off, disappointed in my swim, I saw one of the river monsters…it was one of those fish that they have in tanks to massage your feet. I did that massage once in Cambodia, but I knew they were in the tank and I could see them. This time, I didn’t appreciate the massage.
I luckily made it back over the boulders without an accident. They were still slick with rain. Through the humidity there was no way I was going to dry off. Deep in my bag was a dry shirt that I had while everything else was soaked through. My shorts eventually dried on the bike as we rode back to the beach. Mr. Hau stopped a few more times. One stop was a fishing village and then a Cham temple. I saw my Vietnamese boat buddy again there and we chatted a short bit.
It was a full day and it was good, but I hadn’t had a full day at the beach. I decided to extend my stay one more day to lay on the beach and drink some craft beers. Beach body be damned. Compared to most of the Russians on the beach I was still looking pretty good.
I read more of Langston’s life, colored in my coloring book, swam in the waves, drank and napped. I found a place to eat nem nuong for a late lunch and took a nap before packing to leave for Can Tho. I was going to need to take the train and then a bus to get there. I was able to get the train ticket at the front desk of my hotel and for $.25USD have it delivered to the hotel. My last meal was seafood and went directly back to the hotel to finish packing. I went to bed early as I was taking the first train the next morning.