Thursday, 10 December 2015

Da Nang me!, Da Nang me!, and if I have to leave, please hang me! (or Life at the BEACH)

After a short but amazing ride of 2.5 hours, the train arrives in Da Nang.  Even though the ride was an experience in AMAZING scenery, I have been feverishly waited to get to the destination.  Why?  Because my hotel is at the BEACH !  

I  get to  Ga Da Nang, and it's sunny. Add to that a temperature of 28 degrees and guess what I want to do? But first I have to get from the train station to the hotel. Too far to walk.

All of a sudden there seem to be two  taxi  drivers looking at the screen of my laptop.

What is going on.  After they see where my hotel is located, I close the laptop and look at them questioningly. Whose taxi am I going to ride in?

The shorter one makes a motorcycle gesture and I wave NO and point at my backpack.

He fishes out a BOOK and shows me two photographs of luggage strapped to the back of his bike and says "I GOOD driver".

Now it's time for a survey: 5 km with 2 backpacks on the back of a motorbike with a driver that's about 5'2".  Would YOU say YES or NO?

I said YES.   And I'm rewarded by instant KARMA.

He fishes out his book again and now I realize it is a GUESTBOOK.  Then he asks me my name and where I'm from.

He introduces himself as Mi from Easy Riders.


I've been reading about the Easy Riders outfits located in every major city in Vietnam.  They offer 1,2,3,4 .... you name it days tours. Either you ride on the back of someone's bike or you can ride your own.  Everyone who has ever done it, LOVED it, that much I already gathered online.  His guestbook does not contain a single entry that is less than one page long.  I've been meaning to get in touch with one of these outfits, but you know how it goes ...
Now they found me !!!   

On the way to the hotel we stop once, because he forgot the name of the hotel.  Oh Oh, a forgetful guide ;-_

I open my notebook and show him again. When we get to the hotel 2 minutes later  we first of all settle business. I pay him 50,000 Dong for the ride (ludicrously cheap), and he will pick me up tomorrow morning at 9 am and drive me around all day for US$ 50.    Oh Oh.  I just checked the weather forecast and  it is predicting rain for tomorrow.  That's OK, that just means that my imminent sunburn will have to wait for the day after.

At first he wanted me to go on a 2 day tour, but I want to walk my beach in the evening and in the morning.  I think I might want to ride my own motorbike on the following day though.  

It seems I have found the right spot.  Thoughts of Nha Trang are GONE and  even images of Cambodia are getting fainter and fainter in my mind.  We'll see.  Maybe I'll get bored of this gorgeous beach location quickly ;-)

The overeager busboy (boy?  He's not a day younger than me) squiggles my luggage into reception, I receive my key card, and bus boy shows me to my room.  

(Now that I think of it, he might be mute, because he hasn't said a word all day)

Anyhoo, he opens the door to my room and I think I've died and gone to heaven.  There is only one other room I know that could compare to this one and it is located at plage de Sillon in Saint Malo.  and costs 6 times as much.  I'm paying US$ 27 per night including breakfast and all I see from my window is beach and ocean ;-)

Not only is the room freshly renovated and gorgeous, when entering the door one doesn't only see the beach through the  window but also reflected in the TV and the mirror. Nice touch ;--)

That's it!
Screw Nha Trang!
I'm staying here ;-)

I  put on my never wet-worn Hanoi-bought swimming trunks and head to THE BEACH.

OMG,  it even has the same sand as Plage du Sillon, meaning the sand is so fine and compact one could ride a bicycle on this.

There  is the  white lady buddha.

There is the rest of Da Nang.

One thing that is sad is the huge number of construction sites.  Good for the Vietnamese, but for anyone like me who likes a piece of beach of about 1 km length to me exclusively, this is bad news.  in one or two years time, this entire beach will be lined with hotel highrises and Air Transat will be selling package tours to Da Nang.  

Glad to have come here before that inevitable happens.

this is what ALL of Da Nang Beach will look like in a few years

I've found some supermarket sign on Google Maps that is only 5 minutes away.  As soon as I leave the beach promenade and enter the narrow and Westerner-free side streets, the Hello calls start again.  Even the driver of the local garbage truck that I get stuck behind (these are narrow streets) greets me in English  with a huge smile.  These people are amazing !

When I reach the supermarket I realize it is a wild dark maze of shops selling clothes, flowers, fruit,and  everything else you could think of. A typical Vietnamese market.  I walk around on the outside first but when I don't see cigarettes, I dive into the dark aisles.  Holding a cigarette pack in front of me and putting on my puzzled look, I am quickly directed to a stand at the opposite end.  20,000 Dong for the good brand. 

Then I get some mandarins at another stand.  15,000 Dong for a bag full.  WOW.  Then this older woman comes walking out of the dark and starts talking to me in Vietnamese.  She is not smiling.  The other (much younger) vendors wave her off, but all of a sudden I am painfully aware that my T-Shirt says  Honolua Clothing Company on it.  Wear the simple black Chinese shirt tomorrow!

Since the local  market had only limited selection, I decide to head to a 'real' Supermarket  an hour later.  The hotel offers 'Free bicycle service', but they don't mean fixing your bike but that you can take one of theirs for free.  

The seat only goes so high that I still look like a monkey or a frog riding this contraption. But as many of my female friends have noticed right away: It has a basket ;-)  One could think that a 2nd Oil Shortage Crisis had broken out, given the amount of RED RUST on the bike chain.  

But it rides like a charm.    So I think until I notice that I have a tail wind from heaven.  Which of course will convert into a head wind from hell on the way back.  Ah Well. The Vietnamese ride worse contraptions if they can't afford a scooter, so I'm sure I can manage.
The mall turns out to be quite posh

Or maybe not?  The wind is strong, and maybe I got used to that e-bike lifestyle a bit too much ;-)

The Old Man and the Wheel

It looks as if I was sitting on a camel 

Here is how advertising works:  

A bicycle on the BEACH promenade with the blue WARM ocean in the background ...

                    You want one, don't you?                      Would you like one?

HAH! Got you, you  forgot about the lack of oil, the non-extendable seat post, and the fact that you'll  look like a monkey riding it. 

I should have worked on The Price is Right:  A neeeew biiiicycle !

Naturally I bought some booze at the supermarket. Nothing better than a drink with ocean view!

Mystery Booze

All local (OK Singha is Thai)

I leave the drinking until later and head down to the beach again (for how many more days will I have this opportunity?

Yes, there are a lot of beach pictures here

But I love the deceptive simplicity of them
They're really fiendishly complex and no two are the same

 I notice a seafood restaurant close to my  hotel.  Eat here?

Ever leave here?  But WHY?

6 pm. I'm hungry and I head  back to the Seafood Restaurant 50 meters from my hotel. ONLY Asian customers in attendance.  I'm already ready to order the Snapper (market price) stir fried in sweet and soury sauce <sic> but caution lets me ask for the price first.

 800,000 Dong. That's CAD$ 50.

Ouch. No.

The head waitress, Ms Van  is disappointed and offers it to me for 700,000, but all I think is: This Is Vietnam; Only the Fat Cats can eat Here.

I end up ordering Baked Chicken with lemon leaves.  Ms Van warns me that it would take 20 minutes.  No problem.

After 40 minutes of waiting for my food I start complaining.  After 1 hour I'm ready to pay for my lousy glass of white wine and leave.  My chicken arrives less than 5 minutes later.  

Ms. Van explains that they had to pluck it first.

p l u c k   i t   f i r s t ...... It takes a few moments to sink in ......

O M G !!! They KILLED the chicken right in the back of the restaurant before plucking and cooking it !!!!

And I have THE WHOLE chicken on my plate.   Inner organs, the neck, and TWO FEET.  What George used to say in reference to Chicken McNuggets, namely "Eyelids and Arseholes" I now have on my plate.  Just why do I have two heads on my plate????   Is that because one of the legs seems to be missing????  

Time for another survey ;-)   Would YOU eat the freshly killed and plucked chicken with all its inner organs and 2 heads???

I do.  And it tastes divine. It tastes like DUCK. I haven't eaten chicken like this in at least 40 years !!!   Ms Van watches me and is amazed I like the salt and chilly dipping sauce.  She explains that chicken in Vietnam are MUCH MUCH smaller than Chicken in North America, close to one half or one third the size.   Of course, I say, they're not  pumped full of antibiotics and growth hormones.  

What good  is a free range chicken if all the bad stuff is injected and if it gets to lay around a supermarket shelf for weeks after being killed. 

Vietnamese chicken might be skinny but they are tasty !!!!

For a whole freshly killed and plucked chicken with two heads, one glass of mediocre wine, and one can of good beer, and one order of steamed rice I pay CAD$ 20 and I get to take half a chicken home.  I smear the salt/chilly  concoction over the pieces and it will go in the fridge in my room.

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