Experiences of a med student with an incurable travel bug.

Nha Trang

Upon arriving in Nha Trang, we checked into Duy Hung Hotel, one that had come highly recommended by Rot (“Wrote”), the extremely helpful manager of the Pink House in Dalat. After dropping off our things in our room, we wandered the area for bit until we found a
boardwalk/night market sort of set up that had a bunch of little restaurants as well as souvenir vendors. Dinner was at Roses, a little sushi place in the midst of the lantern and string-light ambiance; the rainbow roll was great, but after all the spices of most Vietnamese food, it could have used a little more spices (apart from the wasabi). After dinner we wandered amongst the vendors and then along the beach before calling it a night.

Wednesday I grabbed a baguette with an omelet, cucumber, and hot sauce inside for breakfast from one of the street vendors before our minibus (old van with extra seats and even more people crammed inside) picked us up for the island tour we’d signed up for. The “Nha Trang Boat Tour” took us to four local islands for swimming, snorkeling, and lunch. The water was perfect, and the snorkeling was fun once you got far enough into the coral to find a few schools of fish. The other people on our boat were a lot of fun as well and it was entertaining sharing stories.

While talking about a variety of bizarre encounters, we got talking about the relative size difference between most of us and the locals. Two of the girls, who were both very large in addition to just being taller, told us about how they’d been walking along the street one day when all of a sudden the both got slapped on the backs of their legs; when they turned around, there was this itty bitty little old lady crouched on the ground laughing while exclaiming “So, big, soooo big!!” with her arms spread wide. Considering that even normal sizes around here are large compared to the locals, anyone who is bigger than average does stick out and garner extra attention.

Anywho, back to the boat. After swimming and snorkeling at the second island, we dropped anchor at the third one for lunch. Seeing as how we were on a small boat with a small galley, we weren’t expecting anything spectacular. First they brought out plates of noodles. Then plates of cooked spinach. Then plates of pork, of fish, of chicken, of squid, of spring rolls, of bananas, and of rice. We couldn’t figure out where all this food came from in such a small space, but it was incredible. There was way more than enough for everyone and all of it was absolutely incredible.

While we let our lunches settle, the tour guide and crew set up a little band right there on the boat, complete with electric guitar, bass, and a tin drum set. The “Nha Trang Boy Band” proceeded to regale us with some fabulous music while we waited for the noon rain to subside. The best of their songs was easily “Cyclo”, a song with “Sweet Child of Mine” instrumentation but totally different lyrics:

“Every morning, I ride cyclo,
With my girlfriend, 100 kilo,
Ooh, oooh, ooh,
She very heavy.”

The song continues to detail how she ate all his food, drank all his beer, and broke his cyclo (the motor bikes that somehow manage to be more numerous than people on this continent).

After that fantastic entertainment, it was back in the water for a floating bar! We didn’t sign up for a booze cruise, but that’s what it turned into: we went through a good six to eight 1.5 liter bottles of rum and pineapple juice before all was said and done, all this while singing rousing renditions of “Cyclo,” of course.

There was just one island left after the floating bar, so everyone just grabbed a floating ring and relaxed in the water, most with a Tiger Beer in hand. Very relaxing, and there was still cloud cover so we weren’t being baked, either. By the time we started to head back to the boat, a pretty strong current had developed, and I actually ended up towing in one of the Brits that I’d met because he was a wee bit too drunk to swim against the current, particularly with his precious beer in hand.

By the time we got back to Duy Hung, we were both pretty tired from the day and ended up napping for a while, getting up to watch a little American Idol (did I mention that every hostel here has had cable so far?), and then actually just go to bed.

Thursday was our last day in Nha Trang. I had a baguette with a ham omelet for breakfast at Thanh Thanh, a little café that came complete with two kittens for me to play with until our food was ready. The rest of the day was dedicated to walking around exploring the city and searching for dresses. After looking in several shops and not finding anything that I both liked and was reasonable, I just went to a fabric store to pick out material and have a dress made. Sounds easy, until you factor in the language barrier. After a while it became clear that we weren’t understanding each other, so I headed back to the hostel to see if one of our receptionist friends would be willing to help out translating. When she got off her shift, she accompanied me back to the fabric store. Turns out, they couldn’t actually make the dress there, but they referred us to a tailor. Sure, the tailor could make the dress, it would only take her an hour…once the power came back on. Well, the power was out for about eight hours that day and didn’t turn back on until right before we left, so no dress that day.

After a bit more wandering on the beach, looking at the vendors’ goods, we tried some Bubble Tea. I’ve loved the bubble tea I’ve had at home (ok, so I’ve only had it once, but it was delicious), so I was excited to have it here. It ended up being good, but not great; it was less sweet than I expected and the pearls/jellies less flavorful. Still good, just in a different way.

Dinner was at Fami Café, a little place right across from our hostel. After some delicious stir fried veggies with garlic, we went back to our hotel to wait for our bus. Vong (I’m sure I’ve butchered the spelling), my favorite receptionist friend, shared some spring rolls and two different kinds of cake with us – all of it was fantastic and a great send off. Shortly thereafter, our sleeper bus arrived to take us back to Ho Chi Minh City.


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