Asia | South East Asia | Vietnam | South Central coast | Nha Trang – City Life (or is it ‘Tourist Life’..?)
It’s spring and the weather is getting warmer without it being too hot. I stopped dressing up as a bankrobber when I go out in the sun and it’s okay walking around being one of the tourists.
Today’s a lazy Sunday. I’m tired and my throat is soar because I’ve slept too little these past days. Besides saying bye to four Australian guys who flew to Ha Noi this afternoon I haven’t done anything. I watched an old American film (I have cable TV in my room) and now I thought it was time to write about my adventures in the city so far. It’s great to be in Nha Trang. I’m spending time with people my age and I’ve been going out every night since I moved here. It’s so easy to meet people who’re travelling. And every night I fall happily asleep behind a closed door.
Claude’s four story house is narrow. There’s no front door but iron gates painted green that fold away to the sides like an accordion. First floor doubles as livingroom and garage + there’s a washingroom. On the second floor there is a little landing with another sitting group (so both he and I can sit on a sofa without having to see each other..) and then there’s my room with its own private bathroom. On the third floor there’s the kitchen and a balcony that goes along two sides of the house + Claude’s room and bathroom.
And on the fourth floor, which is a terrace with a roof, lives the baby monkey. She’s tiny and comes to sit on my lap when I go upstairs to read.
Claude’s French, runs a restuarant here, and has been living in Nha Trang a couple of years. He has two kids my age but they’re in France. They’re half Vietnamese like me so many people just assume that I’m Claude’s daughter. I can stay in this room until Tet. It suits me fine as I’ll be going to Cam Duc on February 8th for the New Year’s celebrations anyway. I think I’ll stay a couple of days in Cam Duc to experience Tet with my relatives before I pack up all my things and say the final good-bye. (Maybe not final final.. I’ll be in the country through May.)
I have until Tet to decide if I stay in Nha Trang or go somewhere else. So far I haven’t come across an interesting place to work or volunteer. I should party less and search more.
So much has happened during the one week I’ve lived in the city, it feels like I’ve been here at least a month.
Right after I moved in Claude went away a couple of days with David. They went motorbiking up in the highlands where the scenery is fantastic. What didn’t start with David is now over. We had a 30 second let’s-be-friends-talk and I think he’s just as happy with that as I am.
I’m starting to really know my way around and I act as a guide when I go on day trips with people I meet. I’m not so good at driving a motorbike, I’ve tried a couple of times. It’s not the driving itself that’s hard, but the traffic – it makes me nervous the was they drive here – so I prefer going as a passenger.
With an Irish guy and some English and Australians, 8 of us all together, we rented motorbikes and drove to a place with mud- and mineral baths about 10 minutes from Nha Trang. It was wonderful. We left a little before noon and spent most of the afternoon there. We sat in a big tub of liquid cool mud (that really didn’t taste good) to start with. Then we sat in the sun to dry a bit, it was like having a facial mask on your whole body, before we showered in mineral water outdoors. After that we sat in a steaming hot tub of mineral water, one of the English girls fainted and the doctor had to come and everything. It was just the combination of being tired, hungry and warm that made her faint. Next was a high pressure.. not sure what to call it – it was like going into a car wash, we got sprayed from both sides.
By that time we were getting really hungry so we had lunch at the restuarant before hanging out around the big warm mineral water pool (it was too hot to swim there). There was a ‘waterfall’ and I sat there for ages having my sholders and neck massaged by the water.
Riding back I felt so warm and relaxed. I am definitely going there again.
At the mudbath-place I met three English lads while the others where sun-bathing. I met them again that same night at Crazy Kim’s and we decided to rent motorbikes and take the scenic route out to the beach I used to bike to when I lived in Cam Duc the next day. A girl from Australia, a Swedish guy and a Dutch guy also came along – making us a group of seven.
It started well, I found the little roads that took us out of Nha Trang, but it turned out to be quite a bit of an adventure.
First the Swedish guy ran out of gas. His meter that showed almost full tank was obviously not working. With help from two Vietnamese men by the road and an empty water bottle we tapped petrol from one of the other bikes and poured it into his tank. We got to the beach without further problems. As the Australian girl got off the bike she brushed her leg against the exhaust pipe and got a burn on her leg. Pretty ugly.
There was no one on the beach but us. We swam, made sand castles, picked shells, ate a bit and just sat there until about five. Then we decided to ride around a bit before heading back.
The sun was soon setting so we took a left off the road down a sandy path to watch it. To the right there were some low buildings and across the river there was a factory. There was no one around and we didn’t even think that we might be trespassing. We left the bikes and walked around – the guys were taking pictures..
And then all these young uniformed men started coming out of the low buildings on the other side of the path. Some of them with rifles. We were on a military base.
They took the bikes. And we weren’t really sure what would happen. I thought it might be best if we were all just naive tourist who couldn’t communicate, but the others convinced me I had better start talking to them. I did, and I think that was the right decision. They took the bikes up to where the road wasn’t so sandy. All the army guys were out of their barracks by then.
And then the one that looked the most serious and imported started asking questions. Who are you? What are you doing here? Don’t you know that this is a military base? Where are you from? What are your names? How old are you? Where do you work? How long have you been in Vietnam? When are you leaving? What hotel are you staying at? Where did you rent the bikes?
It went on and on. In between on of the guys managed to ask me if I had a boyfriend yet. One of the young men wrote a statement, he even took down the registration plate numbers, and we all signed it after I had translated it.
They took the cameras. As they were all digital the guys were asked to delete the photos they had taken at the base. I said sorry on behalf of all of us, promised that we would never come there again, and asked if we could leave. They all had a good laugh and then they disappeared with the cameras. We were told to wait and sat down in a circle on the road. One of the army guys came with one glass and a thermos of hot water that he placed in the middle of our circle. The Vietnamese kept close by, but didn’t sit down with us.
It didn’t take long before a car arrived full of middle aged serious looking men in uniforms. They were captains or generals or something – anyway, higher ranked military men.
I was asked to come with them, the other six were to stay outside. I was led into a living-room and with six of these men I drank strong tea from small cups. Then they asked the questions I had already answered and then some more questions, and then they started investigating the cameras. They wanted to keep them. So I started explaining how they work, how the little chip is the ‘film’ and that the pictures are stored there. Then they wanted to keep the memory cards. I kept on explaining that when you delete it you can’t un-delete it. Everybody looked at the cameras and flipped through the pictures that were on the memory cards, we took some pictures so that I could show them how they’re taken and how to delete them. You should have seen us.
With lots of talking and smiling I managed to persuade them to give the cameras back to the guys.
We were kept on the military base for over two hours. By the time we left it was pitch dark. We were all relieved to leave. Just before we reached the national highway the Swedish guy ran out of gas again. But we knew how to transfer gas from one of the other bikes, so it was just a short stop.
The drive home was pretty chilly. They were all in shorts, and even in jeans and my green Peru jacket I was cold. Before we got to Nha Trang one of the bikes got a flat tire, they rolled the bike along a while before we found a repairman. And only a little after that the Swedish guy ran out of gas aGain.. But we got back safe and sound and had a late dinner at Claude’s restaurant.
The next day we just relaxed on the Nha Trang beach (just across the street) all day, and played pool and danced until 4am.
A couple of days later I rented motorbikes with the same Swedish and Dutch guys. First we went south on the National Highway to a place called Fairy Spring. We parked the bikes and 9 Vietnamese women walked with us along the little brook, past some damns and up to a waterfall. We went from rock to rock and it was a nice little walk. A bit much with all those women though. They carried soft drinks in buckets with ice that they hoped to sell us along the way. And they got pretty mad when we didn’t want to pay them for walking with us when we left. (Sorry, but did we even waNT them to come with us??)
I slipped and fell into the waterfall as I was climbing up, but I came from it unharmed (just very wet). It was a small waterfall.
The afternoon we drove north looking for a beach called Jungle Beach. We couldn’t find it, but we found another beach that was also in the lonely planet. Except the fact that I burned my leg on the exhaust pipe when I hurried off the bike to ask directions at one place, it was a nice drive. Now both Alina and I have our Vietnam wounds.
Meeting people is nice. It gets intense when you do lots of things with someone over a short period of time. It’s sad to say good-bye all the time and I wonder if I will ever see any of them again.