Monday, September 7, 2009

Nha Trang

Hello Hello! I finally found some time to post about my numerous Nha Trang adventures. I arrived pretty early in the morning around 5ish via train from HCM city. The train ride was moderately acceptable; we were in a 6-person cabin, which was pretty small on its own. It ended up being only Brian, I and one other local in the cabin. Then the oppressive music playing ensued, the local lady promptly pulled out her cell phone and started to play Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On" loudly and abruptly. While I do appreciate her love for popular Canadian artist(s), I did not particularly enjoy such obnoxious banter at 11 at night after being up for almost 20 hours. However, she fell asleep fairly soon and I turned her phone jukebox thing off. The train ride was 6 1/2 hours, I slept for most of it, when I woke up we were just a few minutes from Nha Trang.

We had no idea where we were staying so we caught a cab to go to the beach. We were pretty excited, Nha Trang is known for its pretty beaches and clean water. It is also one of the most popular destinations for local Vietnamese tourists and international backpackers. The beach was quite beautiful, although their was some litter on the beach, it was not so much that you could not enjoy yourself and "paddle" in the water. We ended up finding a hotel that was recommended by Lonely Planet, we paid 14$ for 2 of us, which we deemed as very suitable. First day didn't involve much; we hung around on the beaches, drank a few beers, and met an asset manager from Singapore named Shohn, pronounced like Shawn. The water was really remarkably clean, so I went for a quick dip. There is considerably less traffic and peddles in Nha Trang, which is a pleasant change from HCM City where one could not walk 30seconds without being asked to buy goods or services. It is actually illegal to sell your wares on the beaches here now, the government has implemented new rules to where you can or can not sell your goods. This was witnessed as a sunglass saleslady was dragged away by local cops despite her strong objection. Apparently when you get dragged in, they take all stuff away, this time being sunglasses. We saw met up with a friend Blair, had a few pints, and a nice meal at our hotel. We went to bed pretty early that night, due to severe exhaustion.

The next day we went on one of the best boat trips ever. We were picked up at 830am and shipped off to the local port to visit four islands. There were numerous Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, and English tourists on the boat, which made for an interesting mix. On the first island we went snorkeling for a bit, there is a plethora of neatly arranged corals on the ocean floor, which was beautiful. I didn't snorkel for long and went about to sit on one of the beach chairs with my new friend Laura from London! London, England not the one in Ontario. Turns out we had to pay for the chairs we were sitting on, 100,000 VND (6 USD) per hour to be exact, being the budget cheap travelers we were, we decided to go sit on some less-comfy concrete steps instead. One must be careful where he/she puts their bum on in Nha Trang. Everything from beach lawn chairs to chairs under the shady trees is pay-per-use. We found that out pretty quickly, the lawn chairs in Nha Trang was only 30,000 VND for the whole day, which is far more agreeable. Turns out Laura is a corporate lawyer in London from a top50 firm in the UK. Exciting news indeed! You meet a diverse group of people when traveling. We entertained each other for a good hour conversing about politics in the UK, British Labor, and life in the legal profession. I got some good advice that I undoubtedly will use later on. She was on her way from North to South, so her next big destination is down to Saigon where we just came from. Turns out she was on an economic recession holiday due to the credit crunch in the UK, thanks Gordon Brown.

On our next island we ate lunch, which involved a variety of fresh seafood, including shrimp, cutter fish, squid, pork and beef. It was quite light and refreshing. The Vietnamese seem to eat much healthier than greasy deep fried Western diets. Most people here seem pretty fit and slim compared to people back home. Then we all dove into the water for a "floating-bar" party. This was probably the best part of the trip; we all jumped from the top of a two story boat and floated in inner-tubes while being served a Vietnamese wine. I had maybe half a bottle and came out of the water a bit tipsy. There was a fair amount of dancing, music playing, and debauchery going on, which made for some delightful entertainment. We headed back to the boat and headed for the third island, there we sat around, chatted, and relaxed while watching travelers go para-sailing. We got some good R&R and time to sober up with a few beers of course, as Laura described it, it was pinch-yourself moment. It was times like that, that made you not miss anything back home, especially not work..

The next island we stopped of at an aquarium. This was the shortest part of our trip. We saw a few sharks, turtles, and various fish that were indigenious to that area. Then we were on our way home. The whole tour including food was only 7$ and was well worth every penny. After which we went back to our hotels, got dressed up, and went out for dinner at the sailing club. The Sailing Club was a great establishment that catered to western tourists, thus prices were higher than usual. The Indian curry there was quite delightful. We were able to shoot some pool, which I lost miserably. My pool skills seem to have gotten significantly worse after leaving Canada. After pool we headed off to a local brewery, had a few pints and called it a day around 1130. Took the long way back on the beach, and dropped Laura of at her hotel! It was one of the best days and evenings on my trip, perhaps the best, and I hope I will meet more interesting travelers on my backpacking trail. We fly out to Hoi An tomorrow morning, being a UNESCO heritage site, there should be lots to see and do. Much to entertain indeed. I'll try to post again soon, and will upload pictures from my Nha Trang adventures.


P.S. Happy Birthday to my good friend Jessica who turns 24 today

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