Stickman Readers' Submissions May 7th, 2004

Tour De Force Round 9

Nha Trang?

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Stocked up on my normal Padkos (South African for "food for the road") consisting of beer, beer and more beer and prepared myself for the next leg, not actually knowing where I would stop, but considering Da Nang or Nha Trat. I really enjoyed the late afternoon trip and the scenic vistas while traversing the Hai Van Pass were truly spectacular. Meandering up the mountain pass with the South China sea below I looked at my fellow passengers and could not believe what I saw. Mostly young "backies" they were either sleeping or reading, missing all the beauty around them! What memories would they have of Vietnam apart from the normal touristy things?? I saw this time and again as they went to all the LP (Lonely Planet) reccommended sites and totally missed out on the real beauty of Nam and it's people. Wake up people, get away from the tourist traps and experience the real sights, sounds and tastes of a foreign land. Rant over!! Came down the mountainside and the landscape began to change into the Vietnam that I had formed a mental picture of. This was it, the rice paddies with jungle in the background and the wisps of mist linking them. I could almost hear the sound of M16's being cocked and smell the fear of the rookies as they gazed into the impenetrable green mass, warily eyeing the local populace for an AK hidden in plastic among the rice plants. I snapped out of my beer induced reverie and as Da Nang was rapidly approaching I had to make a decision whether to stop here or continue the long trip to Nha Trang. I normally trust my gut feeling and approaching Da Nang it seemed a pretty squalid sort of place with not much happening, a typical port town, and I decided to give it a miss. The next stop was Hoi An and we arrived there after dark. The pit stop was a small lodge run by some Kiwis and what an oasis it was. Spotless flushing toilets and good food coupled with friendly staff made the hour long stopover very pleasant. Walking on the beach I was in a bit of a predicament as this seemed a good place to stay for a day or two, but I had to take various factors into account, mainly my dwindling cash supply and my desire to spend some time in Nha trang. It was with regret that I climbed back on the bus and continued my journey through the night. Heard later from other travellers that Hoi An was a very pleasant place. Oh well will revisit it sometime.

Arrived early the next morning in NT and booked into my now normal $ 10 hotel. Described as the "Pearl of Vietnam" I was at first disappointed by the quality of the beach and its surrounds. There is a lot of development going on in and time this should become a lovely place (with the potential of becoming another Pattaya????). Having arrived early in the morning I had the whole day ahead and promptly set about organising the snorkelling trip I had planned from home. Cashed my last dollars into Dong and booked the trip set for 9 am. Waited for the minibus and eventually got to the harbour and boarded the boat that took us to the numerous islands that dotted the coastline. The cruise was good and beer flowed aplenty as we hugged the coastline of the various islands and eventually anchored in a bay and got ready to explore the beautiful blue oceans that lapped the hull of our boat. After being totally upset about what I saw beneath the boat (broken and dead coral), I swam inshore and a new life emerged beneath my eyes. All the species one sees in a tropical marine tank were there before my eyes and I happily swam away a few hours observing the marvellous seascape beneath me. A nice Jap / Korean gent who had been watching me swim among the reefs asked me if he could use my snorkel and goggles and as I was tired I gave them to him. He preceded to put on the mask and then attempt to place the snorkel into his nose!! With a smile I showed him how to snorkel and he proceeded to flounder and splash away in that unique way Asians have when first encountering the sea. Another great lunch served aboard the boat, and we were on our unsteady way back to the harbour, all for the godly sum of $9. Man this is a great place!!

There is plenty of night life and if you want to put up with the drunken Farang crowd, hang around the popular bars and you will not be disappointed. I enjoyed Kim's bar and spent many an evening there and a few morning beers. Kim, the owner had gone to Canada and returned determined to raise the level and prosperity of the street children. Adjourning her pub and restaurant is a street child school that offers free lessons to the urchins. I was enjoying a nice cold frosty and watching the "school" lesson next door when one of the parrot mouthing pupils left the class and offered me a shoe shine, talk about mixing education and income!! The local Viet teacher was pretty OK and after exchanging smiles and glances she dismissed the class and then came into the pub. Sorry guys, but it seemed that I was destined not to come right this trip!! She was so impressed with her grasp of the English language and flaunted it in front of the staff that it was a turnoff. Bye!! At night the streets as with most harbour towns can be a bit dicey, so watch your wallet and your life (not that bad but rather safe than sorry). Nice enough place but with only a few days left and the cash running short I had to now move onto HCMC and the final leg of my journey….

(To be continued…..)

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