Week 20: Vietnam part 2

08/08/2011: Day 29

On our first full day in Ninh Binh we both really wanted to take advantage of what the place had to offer. Luckily for us what the town has to offer is in abundance. The town itself is quaint but the real attraction is the surrounding landscape. On this day we began to see another side to Vietnam, despite being only a few hours from the hustle and bustle of Hanoi.

Initially we woke up with no real plans for the day. This meant that we were free to do as we pleased. Personally I am glad we did not book onto one of the designated tours for the day as tours often have a tendency to restrict our freedom. Instead we decided to rent some bicycles and cycle to the surrounding beauty spots.

Our first stop was Tum Coc. This was about 6km outside the town of Ninh Binh but since we had bikes, and a flat terrain, we were able to reach it in no time. However, the baking heat of the sun and the unpredictability of the roads made this journey quite memorable.

Once we arrived at Tum Coc, a natural river that runs though beautiful farmland, limestone peaks, caves and even graveyards, we hired a boat and a man to row us. Despite many of the rowers appearing to be middle-aged women in authentic Vietnamese hats our boatman was a young plump man wearing a motorbike helmet and sporting a cigarette. He seemed a character.

We boarded the boat and began to row up stream through the peaceful valleys. Both myself and James were fascinated by the mans ability to row with his feet. In fact, he dd not use his hands for anything other than lighting another cigarette for the whole journey. He seemed quite chilled out about the whole affair. For much of the journey we sat in silence admiring the area. I believe James imagined he was in Apocalypse Now, but was often brought back to earth by the quacking of ducks who appeared to own these waters. It was a really nice experience and such a contrast to the crazy city of Hanoi. It was already feeling like we had experienced two of Vietnam extremities. The boat trip lasted about an hour and a half and we passed several peaks and went through 3 long but shallow caves. Naturally our rower was quite low in the boat as he was using his feet so he had no problem avoiding the hanging rocks in the caves as we sailed through. Myself and James, however, had to be vigilant as we passed through the darkened caves as to not knock ourselves out on the rocks.

Eventually we arrived back at our departure point where our rower quite cheekily asked for a tip, he deserved it. Tipping is extremely rare in China and often seen as insulting, so I have begun to forget to tip anyone, perhaps Vietnam see things differently. We then returned to our bikes to find James’ back tyre to be flat. James was less than happy about this unfortunate incident but we were not short of solutions (although we didn’t know where we might find one). fortunately we managed to find a hotel within walking distance who had staff friendly enough to pump up his tyre for no fee. We were ready to get back on the road, but not before a cold beer in a bar where the staff were embarking on their early afternoon nap. disappointing the owner put ice in our beer…ice I believed was from the tap so had to remove. I have had better beers.

We then got back on our bikes and cycled another 4km to what we were expecting to be a cave. At this point the sky was blue and the sun was glaring at us. This made for fantastic sights along our bike ride, site we would have missed if we were on a tout. In fact I don’t think our location is available on the tours. When we arrived we parked our bikes in an empty parking lot and began to walk towards where we believed the cave to be. We then saw the cave but didn’t acknowledge it as the actual cave we had come so far to see ad it was just a small whole in the was featuring a weathered plastic tiger. Instead we made out way up the side of a one of the limestone peaks, as this seemed like the correct direction. At this point the sun was at its most potent and we were both dripping with sweat. I have noticed that my forearms sweat in Asia. This must be a new kind of heat.

The higher we got up the peak the better the view became but the steeper the climb became and the more we sweated. After about 15 minutes of hard work we reached the very top of the peak and the view was unbelievable. The small structure at the top of the peak offered us 4 differing views; from one side we could see the long and winding river that we had sailed down earlier, on another the miles of rice fields that we had passed on route, another offered a view of the distant peaks stretching miles into the distance, and the fourth saw the small town of Ninh Binh far into the distance. All of this combined with the clear sky and heat from the sun made the experience all the more worthwhile, We used this time to cool off and dry out our sweat ridden clothes before making our descent down the same route.

As we were making our way back to the bottom the atmosphere in the sky interchanged. The sun dimmed and clouds took over. Then the thunder began to make itself known. We knew what was coming, a storm. We made our best efforts to get back to the bikes as soon as possible and wrapped ourselves in waterproofs in preparation for the journey back. With haste we began to cycle back before being interpreted by some kids who told us they like candy with there palms held open. We told them we didn’t have any and continued on our journey back.

The storm did not materialise until we reached our hotel but it seemed that we were not the only ones expecting it as the whole way back though the paddie fields was covered in swarms of midges. I have never seen so many flies in my life and I had to cycle with my hat over my eyes to stop them covering my vision. This did not prevent me swallowing a few hundred though. Whenever we got through the swarms we would have to stop to wipe our faces, necks and legs of the midges that had decided to attach themselves to us. James’ forehead was covered in midges that had splatted themselves on his face as he c cycled into them. An experience.

Once we were back we were able to shower and freshen up before dinner. It was during this period that James discovered the power of the days sun. despite removing his vest he still looked as though he was wearing one. The big man was in a lot of pain. As a result I had to play nurse; rubbing lotion into his back, getting some takeaway rice and tofu, and buying him the cold coke he desperately wanted. In fact, I even had to take care of the waitresses nappiless baby whilst our meal was cooked. But I think James would agree that a little pain was worthy payment for what was a great day.

09/08/2011: Day 30

As James had not fully recovered from the previous day he decided to take a day off to recuperate and get his energy back. Perhaps that was a good idea. However I really wanted to do some trekking whilst we were in a semi rural location with a national park nearby.

When James confirmed that he would be having a day off I washed and showered before going out in search of a way of reaching the national park without paying over the odds for a tour guide or a taxi (the national park is 40km from Ninh Binh). Luckily for me i soon came across a man who was willing to take me by motorbike and wait for me whilst I trekked before bringing me back. He would do this cheaper than any tour I had heard about.

Myself and the Vietnamese man set off on our motorbike adventure across all sorts or terrain; tarmac, sand, rocks, mud and water. The sights we saw from the back of the bike we great and well worth the numbing of my bum. In fact, after an hour of sitting on the back of the bike, a place designed for luggage storage, i could not feel any of the lower half of my body. It was worth it though. It was this point when the man decided he was hungry so we stopped off at a remote diner for something to eat. Eager to try new things I told him that I would eat the same thing as he. He ordered Buffalo meat with soup…what a choice. Whilst I was enjoying my buffalo the man returned to the table with a bottle of vodka. It was still quite early and I had not anticipated eating buffalo, nor did I expect to have vodka offered with my breakfast. However, my driver insisted that I had several shots of vodka with him as we ate. We both finished our food quite quickly, and almost finished the bottle of vodka too…which happened to cost the equivalent of 12p. So now, not only was I sitting uncomfortably on the luggage rack of a motorbike, but my driver was slightly drunk. He changed from a quiet man to a man who screamed when driving through puddles and meowed when driving around sharp bends. Perhaps the fact that I had joined him in drinking the vodka meant I saw this as more of an adventure than a danger to my life.

Eventually, after a very dangerous motorbike journey, we arrived at the start point of my desired trek. As I was about to begin I was approached by some monks who were interested in the buddhist bracelet I was wearing, but I did not speak to them for long. I then began my trail into the forest. It soon became clear that it was possible that I was the only person in the forest and that did not fill me with confidence in my own safety. In fact, I realised soon after I set off that trekking alone gives me a heightened sense of awareness and with that more fear. However, since I was keeping an eager eye on everything I spotted so many large spiders scattering away under my feet and several other insects who were not as interested in me. The trek was not particularly challenging but the sights and sounds of the forest made for a very interesting couple of hours. I was sure that I could hear the monkeys but accepted that it was unlikely that I would actually see one.

Eventually I reached the highest point of the trek where I was greeted by some local Vietnamese people who appeared to have entered the forest as a get away. They insisted that I sat with them whilst I took in some water and made me eat some of the sour grapes that they had brought with them. However, since they kept offering me grapes that I did not particularly like I decided to continue on my trek to the halfway point, the Thousand Year Old tree. It was also important that I continued as sweat makes me cold if I stop sweating, is that right?

The thousand year old tree was big but did not look as old as advertised. But I am not one to doubt. From the tree the path seemed to change. Beforehand the path was obvious and well-formed. However, now it appeared that there was a faint path but it still required me to force my way through some of the plants and forest. It soon became apparent that I may have taken the wrong exit from the tree. Especially as I seemed to be walking a lot further than the 3km promised. Despite this being quite scary, stuck alone in a Vietnamese forest, I was amazed by the diversity in he wildlife I was. What was especially fascinating was a massive blue spider sitting in its web. I could easily have walked into the web and on closer inspection I was very glad that I didn’t as the spider didn’t look too friendly. However, the highlight of the trek came later when I saw movement in the trees above me. Then out of nowhere a hairy fellow with 4 limbs jumped from the trees and into the undergrowth. It did not give me a chance to pay closer attention but it was either a small monkey or a hairy human baby. I was later told that what I saw was either a monkey of a giant squirrel. I am glad that I was told that giant squirrels exist after my trek as if I came face to face with one before I may have screamed.

Thankfully, my little adventure off the designated path ended and I rejoined the original path, I had perhaps taken a half hour detour. Thankfully I was now close to the point that I had agreed to meet my motorbike. As I arrived at this location the heavens opened and we were hit by a tropical storm. Not wanting to waste any time, and perhaps still running on the alcohol in the vodka, my driver suggested that we brave the storm and motorbike through the forest in the rain. This sounded like the best idea anyone has ever had ever. I jumped at the chance. So we both removed our shoes and put on ponchos before getting back on the bike. Here, with the rain falling so heavy that it often hurt, we began to ride through massive puddles, getting both of us soaked. It was an amazing experience and one that I think he also relished.

After about 15 minutes, and having survived the storm, we arrived at the next location on my itinerary, the cave of prehistoric man. I was told it was one of the oldest evidence of human civilisation in Vietnam, yet I still had not seen another tourist. This time the trek to the cave was a little shorter and I had reached it after about 15 minutes. Inside the cave I had to use a torch to see anything. It was very spooky. There were three chambers to the cave and each housed hundreds of bats. I was not confident enough to stay there for long. Fascinating stuff.

Then, after my driver had finished his tea we made our way to the final stop before heading back to Ninh Binh. This was an endangered primate centre, It cost about a pound to go in and I was only given a tour around the sanctury for about 10 minutes. The centre rescues monkeys from hunters selling them for food or to China for medicinal purposes. This meant I was more than happy to pay for my entry ticket and got to see lots of different monkey species.

The return journey was a different route to the first and didn’t seem to take so long. My driver maintained his enthusiasm for driving through puddles, which kept my mood good despite my tiredness and wet with sweat and rain clothes. He delivered me directly to my hotel and I was grateful to him for making my day amazing.

I was then met by a revitalised James as we prepared for our evening bus departure by researching the next leg of our tour, Hoian. We got some nice dinner before boarding our sleeper bus.

10/08/2011: Day 31

Today saw our arrival in Hoian, however it was not without a surprise or two along the way. Not least a 5 hour stop in a city we had not intended to visit. But perhaps we would have missed out if we had not ended up there.

So we had been travelling overnight towards Hoian when the light from the sun appeared to wake everyone on the bus up simultaneously. At which point we arrived in the city of Hue, around 8am. Many people from the bus had Hue as their destination for the journey. We, however, were intending to travel another 180km down the coast to hoian, so we stayed on the bus.

However, the bus only moved another 200m before asking us to remove ourselves from the bus too. Surely we weren’t their already? We believed it was probably safe to assume that we would be transferring to a smaller bus as there were now fewer passengers on our original one. Yet, as seems common in Vietnam, the bus company contracted what all of us had been told by the people we purchased the tickets from. We had originally been told that we would arrive in Hoian at 11am but were now told that the bus would not depart from Hue until 1:30pm, giving us 5 hours to kill.

Initially this was met with grumbles and frowns from all of our contingent. However, we then realised that we had 5 hours to explore a new city, a city renowned for its flamboyance. As a result both me and James set off on exploration (not forgetting to buy breakfast along the way). consulting our map we decided upon a couple of interesting looking landmarks within the city and decided to approach them on foot. A motorbike man approached us and told us we should go with him as it was too far to walk. He justified this by telling us that he had friends in Ipswich…I dont think he does.

After crossing a large bridge we arrived at what seemed to be the old city walls. However, they were not as hard to cross as they perhaps once were and we were soon in the old city. I was surprised to see many houses with gardens and well maintained streets. Our intended destination was the ‘Forbidden City’ in the centre (reminiscent of that in Beijing). Once we arrived there we realised that we seemed to have taken an alternative route to the other tourists as there were many of us there. We were then old that it would cost us a few pounds to enter the palace walls so we decided the view from the outside would suffice, especially given that we were not in the city for long.

Having had breakfast and looked around the old city we were surprised to see that we only had two hours remaining in Hue. We then intended to visit a pagoda with a monastery about half hour walk away but then thought better of it given our restricted time. Instead we headed towards the Ho Chi Minh museum…which was closed. Instead this enabled us to explore the atmosphere of Hue a little more, and exchange some money. Since I only have Chinese currency I am finding it increasingly difficult to change to Vietnamese Dong, as they seem to prefer the Swiss Franc to the currency of their neighbours. I was later told, by the motorbike man, that I had something wrong’ in my head for not paying him to take me to a Pagoda.

Eventually we did arrive in Hoian, some 7 hours after anticipated. Our spirits were not dampened given we had the opportunity to take in an additional city, Yet, we arrived in the city tired enough the accept the first hotel we came to, a double room at £4 each a night.

Once we were showered and had submitted our laundry we went to explore Hoian at night, with the intention of finding a suit and having some dinner. Hoi-an is the tailoring capital of Vietnam and every other shop is a tailor. James had been bright in looking at reviews of different tailors online before arriving here. Therefore, our intended destination was Me Xe’s tailoring. We could only hope to get a gooden.

We soon realised that the Hoian old town can be explored in less than an hour, and it was almost impossible to get lost despite the inaccuracies of the hotel map. Hoian has a different atmosphere to both Hanoi and Ninh Binh. It certainly holds more history (I think it escaped American bombing) and the people seem to be a lot more welcoming. It reminded me a little of Lijiang in China, a huge compliment for Hoian.

We managed to stumble across Mr Xe’s shop quite easily. His staff were incredibly helpful and were offering us tips on what kind of suit we should buy. They even had a Next catalogue for reference.I was a little concerned given my budget (which I believe is a lot tighter than James’) as the suits of good quality would cost us around $100 (£65). I came to the conclusion that the opportunity to get a good quality suit tailored to my body for a cheap price was too good to pass up. I considered it my birthday present. Once we had chosen our design we were both measured by Mr Xe. He is about 5ft 3, clearly homosexual, extremely flamboyant and has the highest pitch voice on any man, Vietnamese of otherwise. James was first up and had to strip down to his boxers to be measured by the little man. It’s fair to say that Mr Xe did a little too much touching in places that did not require to be touched, much to James’ pleasure. We were both measured quite quickly and were told to return in the morning for our second measurement. We were both quite anxious about how our suits might look.

On the way back to the hostel we came across a nice little Vietnamese restaurant with a very friendly hostess. She served us some much needed food and gave us a discount at the end for no reason other than she wanted to. Hoian had already made a good impression on us both.

11/08/2011: Day 32

Today was a good day to relax, especially as the city of Hoian appears to encourage a care-free attitude and relaxation.

Our first job for the day was to eat breakfast. Vietnamese breakfast, as well as many other aspects of the country, still has a french feel about it. And baguette are right up my street at the moment. However I have begun to feel that I am eating too many eggs in Vietnam.

Anyway, we were then required to have a second measurement (no doubt both of h=our waists were a little wider after a big breakfast) before we could officially start our day.

The hostel had provided us with free bikes to explore the city. As it is flat we were able to breeze through the old town and get to many places very quickly. Having planned to take advantage of our bikes we intended to visit a beach recommended to us by some an Isralei in our hotel. As most of the attractions in Hoian are to the south we decided to head to the beach in the north. Our reward: Sun, sand, sea, beer and peace.

The beach was simply beautiful and we were able to relax there for a few hours. James decided to try to remove the tan lines on his back that indicated he was always wearing a vest. Im not sure he succeeded though. I, however, couldn’t seem to stay in the sun very long without requiring entry to the warm and clear sea. For the afternoon we were in paradise.

We both, quite sensibly, decided our bodies may have had enough of the sun by mid afternoon and so decided to eat before heading back to the old town. We ate at a restaurant and were served by a young Vietnamese girl who claimed to speak English, French and German. We were in no position to question her.

After washing the sand from our bodies and inspecting ourselves for sunburn we were able to revisit Mr Xe for our first fitting. When we both put on our suits we looked quite smart. Although I can’t help but think I look like a child whenever I put a suit on.

We then had a nice Vietnamese dinner at the harbourside before going to a bar for a free ‘bucket’, which turned out to be jar of juice. Having had a relaxing day we then returned to the dorm, greeted with our clean laundry….clean clothes!!!’

12/08/2011: Day 33

This was a great day for me as I got to see one of the most renowned places in Vietnam; My Son (pronounced something like Me Sen

James decided to take the morning off to recuperate but I decided the appeal of the ancient relics was too good for me to pass up. Therefore I left our room about 7am to catch breakfast before a bus to the site, around 50km away. I had previously told James that I would cycle there but was laughed at for being ridiculous by a Vietnamese man for being ridiculous. Once I was on the bus I could see why such a suggestion was laughable.

After just over an hour I arrived at the relics and was introduced to the site with other tourists by a tour guide. The guide was clearly not keen on Americans for how they destroyed most of the sights during the war and even consoled the french people in my group because they were…french. From what he was saying it seemed as though he had reason to be angry as he was clearly passionate about My Son and angry towards the french for stealing some of the relics and storing them in the Louvre. It made the initial meeting a little awkward though.

He then guided us into the ancient ruins, which are a source of pilgrimage for some Vietnamese who worship their ancestors there. Not only does it date back hundreds of years and have cultural and symbolic significance to the Vietnamese people, but it was also a major feature in the American war, as it was a structure in the jungle visible to American aircraft. Many of the Vietnamese soldiers were hiding in the surrounding jungle.

The first section of the relics was the best preserved, apparent from some bomb craters that featured in the land. The structures were amazing and I was quite surprised they were still standing as they didn’t look the most secure. Our guide, however, was more interested to point out a phallic looking rock in the middle of the area. He told us that it resembled a males ‘magic stick’ and that if a man touched it he will have a better ‘magic stick. The rock also had a round whole in its side, our guide claimed that men who stick their own ‘magic stick’ in the whole will have a bigger one when they take it out. He then asked for a man to remove his shorts and try it out. unsurprisingly no one tried. This was particularly awkward considering there were women and children in te group, some had already been insulted by his french and american remarks. He was a character.

The section featured the remains of relics after the war. They still appeared to have some symbolic significance to the Vietnamese and were still as impressive as those that remained complete structures. These did not seem to draw as many people in which meant i was able to explore them quite peacefully. The final section was relics being repaired or held up by scaffold. It seems the My Son relics days as originals may be numbered.

After visiting the sights we then boarded a boat instead of a bus to return to Hoian. This was amazing as we were able to see wild animals coming out of the jungle to drink from the river. We were also presented with a free lunch. The boat trip actually turned into a real experience, which I had not expected. As we were progressing down the river we anchored into a small Hamlet where we walked around and witnessed people creating crafts from their houses. I felt a little guilty that I didn’t buy anything.

It was then only a short trip back to Hoian, which luckily dropped us not far from the tailor, Mr Xe. Coincidently James had just arrived to pick up his suit when I did. This meant that we were able to pay together and return to the hotel with our suits. Mr Xe threw in a free tie for us, what a nice man.

On the way back another coincidence occurred, we bumped into Catherine (the Danish girl we met in Hanoi). She was a little flustered and claimed that she had been walking for an hour in the heat with her backpack looking for a cheap hotel, and had no luck. We invited her to join us on our trip back to our hotel where we were able to find her cheaper accommodation.

With a rather eventful and cultural day out of the way we boarded our night bus to Nah Trang. Luckily these buses has more leg room. What was unlucky though is that I was surrounded by americans dudes. Duuuude.

13/08/2011: Day 34

Today was our first day in the seaside town of Nah Trang. We had read and heard such great things about the place that we were both a little excited about it.

We woke up to the sound of Vietnamese music on our bus and the sight of a packed beach and a beaming sun. How long had we slept? Little did we know that it was actually only 6am and the beach was full of Vietnamese locals enjoying their hometown before work or school. Shortly afterwards we were kicked off the bus.

It didn’t take us long to realise that Nha Trang is not that big at all and we were able to find our hostel on foot in no time. Given that this meant we were very early to be checking in for the night we used the free time to relax and freshen up. Thankfully we were offered the key to a dorm at around 10am. Then our day could officially get started.

SInce we haven’t done any laundry since Ninh Binh I have run out of clean underwear (I am heavily criticised for the state of my underwear as it is….they are my travelling pants I don’t mind leaving behind). I have now the ingenious method of washing my pants whilst I shower and using the dry pants that I washed in the previous shower to wear afterwards. This was I am constantly wearing clean underwear and only using 2 pairs of boxers.

Anyway…once we were checked in and relatively settled we sort after our plan for the day. The most famous aspect of Nah Trang is its beaches. Some suggested the beaches are the most beautiful in Vietnam, we were to make our own judgement. We decided to check out a beach and set out to look for it. On route to the beach we were approached, as has become expected, by sunglasses sellers. I managed to get a pair for £1 after he set the extortionate starting price of £3 (I sat on my last pair).

Once we arrived on the beach it became clear that it would take some beating. The sand was white and the sea was clear. This, added to the clear sky and happy sun, made for a perfect beach day. Both myself and James took turns in going into the sea whilst the other looked after the bags. That is until it became too hot for either of us to sit on the sand and we both submersed ourselves in the warm water and risked our belongings. I bought a coconut and pineapple cracker from a masked woman dressed head-to-toe in winter clothes…it tasted ok.

Following a few hours in the sun we decided to give our bodies a rest and have an afternoon nap before heading out for the evening. It was premier league kick-off day (despite the riots in England) and we needed all of our energy to be ready for this football. We left our hostel soon before any of the games kicked off and looked for some cheap food before we settled down with the football. We walked a little longer than we both intended but we were quite lucky with our eventual choice of restaurant. This one had 3 Vietnamese women standing outside calling us in (although I am pretty sure one used to be a man). They asked us if we would like to join them in their restaurant for a staff meal to celebrate one of the waitresses birthday. Free food! We sat awkwardly at a table full of strangers and felt a little like the poachers we were. It turned out the Vietnamese birthday girl was only 23 and her Kiwi boyfriend (50ish) had paid for the banquet we were about to eat from. He later revealed that he has only met her twice. It became a little awkward when the birthday girl, and mans girlfriend, failed to acknowledge him when he gave her a present and hardly spent a minute with him all night. I think everyone felt the awkwardness. Also featuring at the meal was a lad called Kevin, aged 1. He was half dutch and half Vietnamese and incredibly cute. However, the waitress were giving him bottles of beer for him to suckle on. Both myself and James were flabbergasted at this, particularly as it appeared to be a normal thing to do for them. Kevin later appeared to be slightly drunk when he was dancing with one hand in the air and trying to hit me with a bottle opener. Still, his father put him on his lap when he left on a moped. The meal was gorgeous and we made sure we stayed in the bar for the first round or matches, although this meant watching a slow stream of the Birmingham game as it wasn’t on TV, shock.

Later, after a pretty dull Arsenal 0-0, no description required. We headed to the beach as we were told this was where all the activities were (it was a full moon). When we got there it was getting a little late and it appeared that the party was dying down a little. However, we tried to make the most of it and followed everyone to the Why Not bar afterwards. The crowd of tourists in there were unlike any other I have seen in Asia. Somehow they have alll congregated in Nha Trang.

I ordered a takeaway noodle soup on my way home and soon realised that they had handed me 4 bags and a bowl. One bag contained soup water, another meat, another noodles and the final one had leaves. It was less of a takeaway and more of a D-I-Y soup meal. I quite enjoyed missing it all together with the security guards at the hostel. That was until the English lads from our dorm arrived and demanded the taser from our security guard and started playing around with it. I tutted like and old man and went to bed as soon as my soup was finished.

In fact, it was when we returned to our hostel that we first realised the kind of people we would be sharing a dorm with. In England we refer to them as ‘tossers’ and of course they were English. They were disrespectful to Vietnamese, other people in the dorm, stole things from people’s beds and were generally behaving like they should be in Ibiza. Clearly they should have been.However, although concerned about the reputation of my country I couldn’t help but thank God that they are in Vietnam and not England because if they were I think the riots would be a little more pathetic.

However, we had a great first day in Nha Trang, free food with some Vietnamese people being the obvious highlight. It seems that there is a lot to do in Nha Trang, most of it quite relaxing, we think.

14/08/2011: Day 35

In order to secure our free breakfast we had to get up before 10am despite our late night. This is a great incentive as it gets us up and about without being lazy. Naturally the breakfast consisted of a baguette with fired eggs. I believe I have now eaten 412 fried eggs in Vietnam (or there about).

Over breakfast we met a scouse couple. We were quite surprised to find that they were normal people despite being English. They too had had a bad experience with the lads from the night before. Realising that myself and James are also relatively normal (I think), we decided to head to the Nha Trang mud baths together. We quickly got changed and jumped in a legitimate taxi to the spas.

I had never experienced a mud bath before and wasn’t too sure about what to expect. We arrived to find many Vietnamese families bathing together in family-sized tubs of mud. Quickly we washed ourselves down and jumped into our own tub. Bathing in mud was surprisingly fulfilling and felt very nice. The only error we seemed to make was allowing it to enter our mouths, where it quickly solidified. The four of us sat in mud for about 20 minutes and probably looked quite odd to all the locals since we were enjoying it so much and putting buckets of mud over our heads. We were then told to sunbathe for 15 minutes whilst the mud became crusty on our skin. Since my face was covered in mud it almost felt like my face had solidified and froze. Naturally we all looked quite stupid. But since we all looked the same we were quite content about it. After this we washed our mud off in mineral water before hitting the hydrotherapy and mineral water jacuzzi. As there were 3 men to the one girl we did not quite feel as feminine as we should have done and all admitted to enjoying the ‘treatment. I must admit that I was loving it. Finally we were able to cool off in a warm mineral water swimming pool and eat an ice cream. The perfect relaxing day with a new experience to add.

By the time we had got back to the hostel it was beginning to get quite late. We then found out one of the English lads in our dorm had woken up with a big tattoo on his arm. This caused me to chuckle inside, but since he was big and drunk again I did not laugh at him. Instead we headed to a bar/restaurant not too far from where we were sleeping. Here I ordered a pork and rice claypot. Although the food in Vietnam is fantastic its claypots don’t quite beat the chinese. We sat through the Man utd game before heading towards the bar that offered us free food the previous evening. As we were walking along the street we were greeted by lots of women trying to get us into their respective bars with shouts of ‘oi man’, now James’ favourite phrase. One girl stopped us to convince us to go into here bar and as we stopped a familiar face appeared behind us, Emily. Quite coincidently she was in the bar that we were stood outside and had spotted us. We then joined her and her boyfriend, as well as an Australian and a Canadian. for a few drinks. I was quite pleased that we were away from the English rabble, but disappointed that this pleasured me at the same time.

We made our way as a group to the beach for a while and the additional company made for a better night that the previous, especially as we also met up with some Israelis with some stories to tell. It was what happened after the beach that provided me with my most vivid memory of the night;

James had already retired to the dorm when I began to walk home alone after finishing my baguette. We had been advised not to walk home alone but I took this as a universal suggestion. Apparently Nha Trang is a little different. As I was walking down the street 3 mopeds parked up beside me. From the back of the mopeds jumped 3 skinny Vietnamese women dressed in hooded ponchos (with the hoods up) They ran towards me like zombies and were shouting ‘bum-bum’ and ‘sucky-sucky’. A little scared and unaware of what was going on I tried to tell them that I didn’t want any ‘bum-bum’ or ‘sucky-sucky’ but then one of them gripped my crouch whilst another tried to pull down my shorts. Quite unaware of how to stop this, given that they were women, I have one of them a rather camp slap on the wrist. She let go and as I tried to retreat towards the only open bar about 20 metres away they all gave up and jumped back on the scooters and drove away. I was left in shock, not only that I had nearly been raped by 3 women in ponchos but also that I still had my wallet and room key. Looking back I was actually quite scared but it is certainly an experience to talk about. I later found out that I was lucky not to be robbed as these ‘Kamikaze Prostitiutes’ are famous in the area and rob any lone traveller after 2am. I think I was saved by the fact that I was not as drunk as they may have expected, nor was I as drunk as the English guys in our hostel.

In fact, when I arrived back at the hostel I found out that one of the English lads had urinated in someone elses bed. Quite selfishly I hoped it wasn’t mine, it wasn’t. Instead, and despite the chatter amongst them that noone wanted to hear I returned to the room to get to bed. When I got in I was greeted with the most unusual sight; James was brushing a small drunk strangers teeth with the most incredible concentration on his face whilst she stood with her mouth open. It is certainly something I am never going to let him live down but I went to bed puzzled.

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