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Published: February 1st 2010
Traveling in Vietnam is great, in fact traveling South East Asia is great, it’s like a giant Contiki tour only there isn’t just one bus carrying only 30 people but rather 100’s of buses carrying as many people all eager to explore and have a party. As a result you meet people in one place, part ways for a bit and then meet up again a city or a country later having collected a couple more new friends along the way, it’s brilliant.
It just so happened that we ended up sitting next to a British couple that Andrew had become acquainted with, some days prior, on our overnight bus to Nha Trang. The five of us commandeered the very, very narrow top level of bunk beds at the back of the bus, watched a movie on my comp, spoke some smut and then endured a harrowingly bumpy twelve hour bus ride between Hoi An and Hue.
6:30am and the five of us stumbled down the street in pursuit of a spot for Kenny and I to stay for our couple of nights in Nha Trang and for a days haven for the other three that were heading onto
Welcome to Nha Trang
The View from our hotel roof
Saigon later that night (we weren’t envious of them at all having another twelve hour journey ahead of them after the previous nights crazy bus ride!). In Vietnam hotel and restaurant owners are all too eager to get you to part with your money and the hotel we managed to find for our stay was no exception. The lady opted to take us on a tour of her hotel including their roof top deck before showing us our room as if a nice roof top deck was make us compromise on a dodgy room. I have to admit I was less than charmed about our hotel tour since I was carrying my heavy backpack the whole time and all I wanted to see was the room and be done with. Thankfully the cheap room was more than adequate, in fact it even had a sea view so we parted with our dollars, freshened up and then went to enjoy breakfast on the, admittedly, very nice deck that overlooked the sea and the neighbourhood. We were all in disbelief when we looked at the time because by this point we felt like we had been up for hours but our watches
Walking to the beach
only said 8am!
After so much average weather we had all been praying like anything for good weather for our first day on the beach and as soon as a bit of sun appeared revealing a blue sky behind it we donned our costumes and set out for a full day on the beach. The Nha Trang beach itself is not bad except for one huge irritant...the Nha Trang Hawkers, they are an absolute nuisance in fact maybe plague would be a good word. Initially we had one young girl Mun who came to pester us but she was quite funny so we indulged in some banta with her bought a couple of snacks but by the time we had collected a crowd of about 4 or 5 hawkers selling everything from sunglasses to chips to water to handmade bangles to Vietnamese papadums our patients was wearing thin and so we opted rather to sleep off the plague. Only trouble with sleeping off the Hawker plague for two hours in the semi-sunny just warm weather without sun cream is that instead of just parting with a couple of thousand Vietnamese Dong and incurring some initial irritation, you instead go
Walking to the beach
a shade of bright red, endure a week of serious agony and lose a good couple of layers of skin! It’s safe to say that Kenny and I were rolling sun burnt Vaalie style on our first day in Nha Trang, not very bright!
At around 4pm after a full day of sun burning be headed for the nearby streets to have a late lunch followed by a yummy ice cream before heading back to the hotel so that the others could freshen up before their night bus and we then went to commandeer our roof top once more for a couple of drinks and to meet a new friend, since our other three would be heading out that evening. We ended off our evening bantering about rugby with a Kiwi at the Yacht clubs beach bar before calling it a night.
Without looking retrospectively, we signed up for a boat tour around the Nha Trang islands, so the following morning we got up super early and headed down to the lobby to await our pick up. I tell you Ken and I were starting to think we were cursed because who should be waiting to embark on
the very same tour, none other than a guy round the age of 65! Ken and I feared a repeat of our Hue experience and were cursing the fact that we had decided to embark on yet another organised tour but what could we do, we had already parted with our $6’s and had also gotten up that early so we were going to suck it up regardless. Thankfully when we finally got to the harbour it would turn out that there were lots of boats all carrying thirty plus people of all ages and nationalities and Kenny and I would not have to fall prey to any mature bullies this time!
The boat tour started off a little averagely with a trip to the most awful aquarium I have ever been to, followed by snorkelling and swimming in an area where the visibility was 30cm and there wasn’t a fish to be seen. We could have rented jet skis or gone parasailing but naturally prices were through the roof so we opted to sit on the deck covered in layers of sun cream and our towels to protect our severely sun burned bodies while the other tourists indulged
the money making trap. Thankfully both the stop at the aquarium and at the “water sports” spot were brief enough so just as we were yet again questioning our decision to go on the tour we set out again to find a good spot to moor our boat for lunch.
Lunch was the turning point of the trip. Two more boats came to join us, mooring on either side of us. Once we were all settled the crew proceeded to lay a fairly impressive and very large spread of very welcome lunch in front of us. I managed to land myself next to a very well intentioned but slightly over attentive Vietnamese guy who insisted on dishing food into my bowl at random intervals even when I had not motioned to take anything from the table. After mastering the forceful yet polite “No thank you” when offered my third helping of spinach, squid and spring rolls our plates were cleared and we got ready to be entertained by our Tour Guide Funky Monkey and his band of accomplices.
While getting myself a good posy on the edge of the boat, I stupidly placed my camera next to me
and stood up for a second to adjust my sarong and when I looked back....no camera. I hadn’t heard a splash and there were no bubbles or noticeable ripples in the water and no one, not even the lady next to me who was swinging her legs off the side of the boat looking down at the water saw or heard anything and sadly the guys who were sitting next to me on the adjacent boat also suggested that they had not seen a sinking camera nor had they seen anyone take the Camera so I was suddenly bleak and cameraless and again questioning why we had joined the boat trip in the first place.
Thankfully Funky Monkey is an artful entertainer and by the time Kenny was called up to play lead vocals for the Funky Monkey band with her rendition of the Bangles “Eternal Flame” (don’t ask, all the others called up to represent their country sang songs associated with their nationality but clearly the Mandoza phenomenon hasn’t reached Funky Monkey yet). Once the singing festivities were done it was time for the floating bar so a horde of us jumped into the warm sea, donned a
tube and had a good laugh around the floating bar where the only rule was that you couldn’t say “no” to anything! Lunch on the Nha Trang boat trip, aside from the brief bleak camera losing incident, was super fun and really made the boat trip 100% worthwhile!
Funky Monkeys crew deposited us back at Nha Trang harbour around 4:30 and then ferried us back to our hotel so that we could get ourselves together so that we could catch the night bus on to Mui Ne but not before a trip to the Police station so that I could get myself an affidavit for the insurance company.
Let me tell you we talk about the dodgy dealings of African cops but I’m wondering if they don’t get shipped off to Vietnam for pre-service training! Kenny and I started down the road following the instructions and the map given to us by the receptionist at our hotel and we admittedly walked right past the police station, it was that nondescript. Once we were directed back we enter a small unmarked room with a desk in the middle and a glass fronted room in the one corner where we
watched the slothful officer and captain get up, irritably, from in front of the TV to come and see why the two westerners had bothered to come and pay them a visit. I politely asked if the officer if he spoke English to which he said yes and so I proceeded to explain what happened with my camera and I asked if I could get a report for my insurance company at which point he suddenly decided he couldn’t speak English and that the matter was no longer something that he could help me with and that I should rather go an hour out of my way, at 6pm I might add and a mere hour before our bus, if I wanted to report the matter. After he started getting very rude with me I made him call our hotel so that he could explain to the lady on the other end exactly why it was that he was being so obstinate so that she could then translate. What transpired was that he was happy to “do me the favour” of completing, stamp and sign one of the numerous white report forms lying on the table for the small sum
of 100 000 Vietnamese Dong or a pack of cigarettes and a bottle of water, have you ever! Without agreeing to anything I managed to pry a report form off the officer who then allowed me to complete it before heading out of the back door of the station leaving me sitting there with the sergeant who promptly took out a piece of scrap paper, turned it over and wrote down 100 000 on the blank side and showed it to me with a broad smile on his face.
I suspect my facial expression told the officer exactly how I felt about being taken for a ride because he didn’t push the issue and when the officer returned with my stamped, signed and copied affidavit no protest was made as I motioned for the door, super dodgy situation! With my affidavit in hand we headed back to the hotel to get some food and then hopped on board the night bus happy to be bound for Mui Ne.
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