August 12 - Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
August 13 - Nha Trang, Vietnam
August 14 - Nha Trang, Vietnam
In lovely Nha Trang right now - fantastic beach and people (well, some aren't so fantastic - more on that later). Finished off HCMC yesterday with a tour to Cao Dai temple and Cu Chi Tunnels. Had a killer guide, about 50, called Thong but his "Aussie nickname" is Slim Jim, which he asked us to call him - he met some Aussie bloke about 10 years ago when he first started being a tour guide that gave him the name, and then mailed him a book of Australian slang, so Slim Jim was pulling out all the saying to us - even some Tom didn't know (no wuckin furries, etc.) Awesome guy (picture on facebook) - phenomal vocabularly cos he used to be an English teacher in the Delta, probably speaks better English than alot of Australians.
So anyway Cao Dia temple is the centre of the small Cao Dai religion which was founded in Vietnam about 80 years ago and has about 2mill followers worldwide. Bizzare, bizzare religion. Mixture of Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism and Christianity. Worship prophets such as Victor Hugo and Shakespeare. From what I could understand the idea is to escape the cycle of reincarnation by adopting certain practices such as vegetarianism (good one!) and sexuality beyond reproduction (bad one...) Those that choose to attend services go 4 times a day - 6am, midday, 6pm and midnight. Every day. Mostly people too old to work that attend. We were there at the time of the midday service, was very very hard to follow though, not really sure what was going on.
Then went on to Cu Chi Tunnels - a tunnel system used by guerillas in the south to attack US bases, and to hide and live in (three levels, one, three and eight metres under ground). Saw heaps of the booby traps the guerillas used against the US - mostly holes in the ground where soldiers would fall and trigger bamboo spears, or one in a field where soldiers jumped out of helicopters straight into a pit of spears. Firing range here, Tom and I each shot 5 bullets from an AK-47, soooooooo fucking loud it was unbelievable. Very nerve racking experience, but made me appreciate how difficult it would be to be a sniper in the war - my aim was absolutely useless, missed the targets by a mile, and musta been so hard to put up with that noise all day, surprised you don't hear more about veterans being super deaf. Moved on to the tunnel system, only 100 metres open to tourists (alot of it was destroyed by bombs toward the end of the war) - had been doubled in size at the start, original tunnels 60x80cm. Tom and I the only ones that made it down to the bottom 8m level, where the tunnel was the original size - another example of being short an advantage. So fucking hot in there, unbelievable they lived there.
Arrived back in Ho Chi Minh and said "see ya mate!" to Slim Jim, grabbed some tea and a few beers - idea to help us sleep on the overnight bus to Nha Trang. Only problem was that beer makes you piss and bus had no toilet... About an hour into the trip I was in trouble... But we stopped after two hours, where we picked up some cheap vodka and whisky to knock us out. Had sleeper seatsup the back of the bus with some really cool guys - a Brit and Austrain. Austrian was really really intrigued about Tasmania, it was great, he kept asking us what the scenery, quality of life etc was like. A bit strange, but good chance to talk about how great Tassie is.
Bus took about 13 hours. I reckon I got at least maybe 4 or 5 hours sleep. Tom fucking hated in though. I found it comfortable enough. Hope up about 2 hours away from Nha Trang, really great scenery, some mountains for once which was a nice contrast to HCM and delta which were flat as. Got into Nha Trang about 7. Hit up the beach right away, beautiful. Some irish people in HCM told us it wasn't much chop, no idea what they were on about. Scored a great hotel - $11 each for a huge aircon room, including breakfast and internet. Could go probaby half this price - but why bother?
Spent the day on the beach and catching up on some travel admin stuff (photos etc.) though unfortunately lost a shiteload of photos as a result of a virus on the computer. SUper lame but not the end of the world. Went out for dinner, I was keen for a really quiet one after the overnigth bus but agreed to walk Tom down to the beachfront bar to meet a swiss dude from the bus Ramon. He was a no show but there were some really cool poms there that we met on the mekong, so we joined them for a few beers. This turned into a few "jam jars" which Tom kept buying (no idea what's in them, pineapple juice and some kinda spirits...), and I drank up saying "last one, then we're going" thinking this would work.
All of a sudden Tom's fucking off the show, even though we'd had exactly the same amount to drink and I wasn't even drunk. Ran down to the beach, acting like a bit of a fool and passed out. Met some really cool young Australians that were on our plane and we also saw in HCM but this was the first time we'd talked to them. Great way to start, they probably reckon we're knobheads now - Aussies getting pissed and passing out on Asian beaches! thumbs up, just the kinda guys we are... Hopefully we can explain at some stage. Tom out for over an hour, won't wake up - I throw water on him, slap him, nothing... Cops constantly wanting to know what's going on. We undoubtedly look like knobs. Evenutally tom wakes up and staggers back to the hotel, we get there about 2. So much for my early night, was not happy at all.
Drink spiked beyond reasonable doubt - probably by prostitutes, cos we ran into Matt, one of the poms today and he said he couldn't remember shit from last night either - said he got chased by a bunch of prostitutes and they stole his money and credit card right from his money belt... Reckon tom was safe cos he passed out and I stayed with him... Strange though cos the bar was not seedy at all. Matt reckons what happened was he bought 4 drinks, for us and his mate Ky, but he couldn't carry them all at once so some local girls helped him carry them.. Guess we all had a 50% chance of getting screwed then and Matt and Tom were the unlucky ones...
Tom like death today, had to cancel the island boat tour we were gonna tkae (spewing, do it tomorrow instead) took him to the hospital - owner of our hotel is absolutely fantastic and arranged us an appointment so we didn't have to wait for ever. Got some meds and he's doing ok now. Slept it off all day though, I just hung out on the beach reading, nice to have some along time actually. Tom saying this morning he ain't drinking again til my birthday... I call bullshit, that's almost 2 months. Rubbish idea anyway I think, we'll be right with drink spiking so long as we're together I should hope.
Very very very very quiet one tonight. No question. In fact I'm thinking of bed already and it's only 6:30.
Peace - Rob.
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