Happy New Year's...Again!

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March 1st 2012
Published: March 1st 2012
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LUSCIOUS WHITE SAND! ALLURING TURQUOISE WAVES! There’s just something about the combination of these that makes me go weak in the knees. The word beautiful is not adequate to describe this devastatingly handsome landscape of Nha Trang. A sleek, modern city scape runs parallel to the white sands that slope gently into the clear, aqua waters. Dark forest green mountains jut up over the horizon. Nha Trang transformed us from thrifty backpackers to indulgent revelers without even asking for our consent. We ate delicious food, partied like rockstars, swam in the sparkling waters, and ravenously absorbed the sun’s rays.The guide book says that Nha Trang is party central, and they are not kidding.

On one of our first nights in Nha Trang we went out to get a beer at a nearby bar, intending to head back to the hotel afterwards and relax and work on the blog like we usually do. We were sitting in a quiet corner, sipping our drinks and minding our own business when a blonde Canadian woman approached us. She had obviously had several drinks and had apparently decided that Travis and I needed to join her and her friends to the party spot in Nha Trang, a large club on the beach called the Sailing Club. I had been itching to dance for awhile and I figured this might be a good opportunity to get it out of my system since I would have some ladies in tow. Travis was not so convinced; we were a bit tired and grubby as usual, hardly in party attire. But after some prodding, he acquiesced. We downed the rest of our beers and followed our new friend, Denise and her group of ex-pat ladies out the door. All in all we were a crew of three Americans, one Canadian, one South African, and one Austrailian. We strolled up to The Sailing Club, a super swanky nightclub with an infinity pool, fountains, and a dance floor in the sand, ordered some jars (literally large jars of alcohol and juice) and hit the dance floor. The crowd was almost entirely white, mostly ex-pats and people on holiday from Europe. After a couple of hours of dancing to pretty horrible pop music we decided to hit up the after bar at Bar Why Not?. At this point the ladies were all pretty drunk (they were already tipsy when we met them in the beginning of the night) and any guise of decorum they had was shed. They had been pretty spank happy all night, but now things shifted into overdrive – it became an all out spank-a-thon. They spanked each other, they spanked strangers, they spanked us. There was chain of spanking, a circle of spanking, a spanking dance. It was A LOT of spanking. At some point my bum couldn’t take anymore so I went off in search of Travis hoping to drag him home. I found him in the middle of a pool game which he had apparently bet money on. What!? I finally dragged him home around 4am.

We spent the following day recuperating with several cups of the world’s best coffee, ca phe sua da (literally ‘iced coffee with milk’). Mmmm! Vietnamese coffee is made by brewing a very dark roast coffee in drip filter then mixing it with sweetened condensed milk and ice. It is heaven in a glass. Later that evening we emerged from our hotel room to go watch the fireworks on the beach that were being set off to celebrate the Lunar New Year. The entire city was buzzing, there were crowds of people in the park and on the beach and everyone was smiling and cheerful. As we walked into the lobby on our way out the receptionist stopped us and said that we must join him and his family for a new year’s eve party upstairs. We weren’t really in the mood for another party, but our excuses were weak and we soon found ourselves being escorted upstairs to a table full of food. The family that owned the guesthouse was throwing the party and they had gathered up a handful of other guests to celebrate with them. There was fruit, bread, some kind of meat pate, a desert made from mashed up green beans and sugar (not my favorite), and multiple bottles of wine and champagne. Glasses of champagne and small red envelopes of money were shoved into our hands (apparently it is part of the tradition to give out ‘lucky money’ during Tet). The television was broadcasting a live music production taking place in Saigon. It was New Year’s eve all over again…Hadn’t we just done this in India? At ten to twelve we all raced up to the rooftop to watch the fireworks display over the water. Afterwards we were escorted back down for more cups of wine. We spent the rest of the night talking to the family about their life and their traditions, including those of Tet. We learned that this new year is the year of the Dragon, the most auspicious of the 12 years of the lunar cycle, making this year particularly celebratory. Dragons are given special status in Vietnamese culture because it is believed that the Vietnamese people descended from the mating of a dragon with a fairy goddess. We excused ourselves at 1am because we had to wake up at 8am the next morning for a boat cruise, but the festivities were far from over - every time we entered or exited the hotel from that night forward we were offered food and glasses of red wine.

In the morning we were picked up and shuttled to the harbour to join a boat cruise to some of the nearby islands. We sputtered along to Mieu island where we got off to explore the Tri Nguyen Aquarium. You could see the several story aquarium, disguised by the façade of an ancient sea vessel from miles away. Inside metallic sharks, neon fish and other colorful marine life swam around behind long glass walls. The fish were huge, some of them 4 – 5 feet long. It was incredible to look at these huge, hulking creatures glide through the water so seamlessly. After an hour or so we climbed back aboard and drove to our next stop, Mun island. Somewhere along the way we began talking to an American couple, Maria and Preston, who were currently living in China. They were both super outgoing and full of energy. We quickly befriended them as well as two young backpackers from Holland, Leike and Brenda. Once at Mun island we were given about an hour and half to do as we pleased. Most people decided to spend it laying out in the sun but Travis and I decided to have a go at snorkeling. We grabbed the gear they provided for us and jumped in offshore. Unfortunately, the current was quite strong and kept pushing us downstream so we spent most of the time trying not to float away. The water was cloudy as well due to the wind so we didn’t see much of anything. It didn’t matter though because the view from Mun island and the sun’s warm rays were more than enough to keep me satisfied. I was reluctant to leave when I heard that it was time to move on. Our third stop was at Tre island. We docked the boat next to two other tour boats and the crew served us a large buffet lunch. The food left much to be desired – it was cold white rice, a fried egg, and a pathetic little fish. What was interesting though was what happened next. When everyone finished eating a band began to play on the boat next to ours. It was the typical honkey tonk, cheesy music that you would expect from a cheap, organized tour so Maria, Preston, Lieke, Brenda, Travis and I retired to the top deck of the boat. At some point in the middle of our conversation we heard the word “ladyboy” yelled from a microphone. This got all of our attention. We stopped what we were doing, looked over the edge and were greeted by the sight of a flamboyant, young Vietnamese guy standing on a floating inner tube, gyrating his hips wildly and pouring red wine over his head. Loud dance music began pouring out of the speakers and inner tubes rained down from the sky. We were flabbergasted. I had read that there was supposed to be “entertainment”, but I thought the bad karaoke band downstairs was it, not this amazing, feminine, dancing boy gyrating in the water below. Within seconds we had all jumped off the deck and were floating in inner tubes holding small plastic cups of red wine. It was hysterical. The day had gone from languid relaxation to a raging party in a matter of seconds. The water filled up with bodies rapidly until there were a good 20 of us splashing around and guzzling the syrupy red wine. Then, just as abruptly as it had started, the music was shut off, the dancing boy disappeared, and we were told to get back on the boat. Never in my life have I attended such a fantasticly short party. Best half hour party EVER. We reluctantly boarded the boat and headed to our final destination the Hon Tam resort on Tam island. The resort was luxury at it’s best – there were multiple pools, a bungalow bar, a long stretch of powder white sand, and even a water slide. We were like children at a candy factory, practically drooling at the sight. Our first stop was at the bar of course, with the water slide as a close second. We greedily slurped down the cold drinks, swam in the calm waters of the pool, the tumultuous waters of the ocean, and laid out in the sun to dry. It was a fantastic end to the day. As we were headed back to the mainland Maria and Preston invited us out for drinks that evening. It was futile to resist.

After some dinner and a healthy dose of aloe vera we headed back out to meet the crew. On our way out the owner of our hotel saw us and shoved a glass of red wine in my hand. I was in a hurry so I drank it as quickly as possible and handed the glass back to him. He took the glass from my hand and switched it with another one before I could react. Oh my, I thought. This is getting silly. We met up with everyone outside the Sailing Club along with the addition of Kate and Sebastian, an Aussie couple that Maria and Preston had met while hiking up north, and headed to a small, local place for a round of mojitos. I may or may not have shared my traumatic Indian massage story. We decided to move on after awhile and ended up at a rowdy, little dive bar filled with backpackers. It had a much more laid back vibe than the Sailing Club had. After a round of “jars” and a spot of dancing we wandered off, ending up at Bar Why Not yet again. Henceforth began an epic night of dancing. There was some salsa action, some 70’s funk moves, maybe some hip-hop, and definitely a little MJ imitation. I think we did the train at one point. As the night went on we got more goofy and carefree. I danced until my head was spinning, and my body ached. It felt fantastic. By the end of the night I felt like I had known everyone for years.

Travis and I decided we’d better get out of Nha Trang before we turned into alcoholics so after another day of recuperation we left for Hoi An.

To see more pictures from Nha Trang check out: http://www.flickr.com/photos/thejarvisproject

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