Wednesday, 9 November 2016

YA vernulsya v Nha Trang (or I'm back in the USSR)

Yes,Я вернулся в Нячанге
Google Translate insists that this means 'I am back in Nha Trang'. 

Why a title in Russian?  LOL, You've never BEEN to Nha Trang, have you?

I was here in February and even my Cam On at the end of a transaction was not actually answered by the same or at least Thank You, which are the standards everywhere else in Vietnam, but by Spasibo

5:15 am. Time for another sunrise, still in Quy Nhon

5:45 am Let's take a shower with the NOT-HOT water.  I did that for 2 weeks at a beach in Italy when I was 18 years old and the water was colder there.  Now I'm older and know that a slight early morning chill can always be remedied with some ruou vang do. LOL. I do make myself sound like an alcoholic, but I have NOT managed to finish the 2 bottles of wine that I had bought in Da Nang yet. Time to switch to a higher gear !

6:15 Breakfast time.  OMG, I wanted Pho Ga yesterday and they didn't have it and the second thing he says is "Chicken?". And he wasn't even the waiter yesterday, which means my choice of food was the subject of talk.  STRANGE but in a way flattering.  Yeah right. I'm one of two whiteys in town, so OF COURSE people talk.   I order Fried egg with bread and the next question is "Ua sai, too sai?  Only when he flips his palm upside down do I realize that he is referring to the difference between Sunny Side Up and Blind Eye Egg by saying "One side, Two sides?"

6:45.  Time to check out and walk into the alley and make one of the taxi drivers' day again.  The half hour ride from Dieu Tri station to Quy Nhon came to 170,000 VND (US $7.60), which is quite a substantial amount here.  But all those big bucks probably go to the taxi license holder and I can guess how little the actual drivers make every time I leave one a tip of $1 or less. You can tell that a) they don't expect it b) are REALLY happy about it

7:20  Ga Dieu Tri.  I walk into the ticket office and present my prepared sheet of paper to the clerk:  Train SE5, 7:56 am, Dieu Tri - Nha Trang, Soft Sleeper.

She looks at it, and writes something right next to the 7:56.  It says 7:30. I check my watch (7:21) and my head starts going up and down rapidly.  

This could be the 4:45 or so train with more than 2 hours delay. It could be a train I didn't know about.  It's highly unlikely that the train is simply leaving early, but I am not complaining because travel karma is with me and as soon as she issues the ticket and I walk to the platform, I get to board the train.

This is where the RICE comes from !

10:15 am. Mental calculation.  My 7:56 train was supposed to arrive at 11:40, so that is that?  3.75 hours.  Now start those 3.75 hours travel time at 7:30 and that means I should be in Nha Trang at 11:15.   Only one more hour on the train.
Another guy gets into the compartment.  You can tell it has been a while since he showered.   Not smelly as that horrible BO one gets a whiff of once in a while in the West, just not a fresh smell.  Maybe had to walk from his village to the train station?
10:30 am. It dawns on my that the hotel that I gave a too nasty TripAdvisor rating last time I was in Nha Trang (It wasn't great at great hotel and I have changed since then ;-)  could indeed by the same hotel where I have booked a room in tonight.  Hotel names in Vietnam mean NOTHING, they can change overnight.  Or maybe I'm in the hotel next door.   Oh Oh. IF it is the SAME hotel, was it the one where the door didn't lock properly?  
food money smiling guy shows me us$ points at me and the menu invitation for lunch?
I catch Mr. No-Soap looking at me and smile at him in return. He's not sure whether he should smile back or look away, so he does one after the other.  Kind of cute in a rough unwashed mid 30s way. 
He is studying the train's food menu with vigor.  I hand him one of my packs of cookies and he accepts them but puts them away.  Then he says something to me while pointing at the menu.  Funny, he does the same thing that tourists do when no one understands what they're saying. He repeats it slower and louder.  I shrug my shoulder but place money out in an offering way just in case he's hungry and can't afford the prices.   He declines the offer.

A bit later: He is studying the menu again.  Then he points at the food and shows me 3 US$ bills, which is enough to pay for the food. He leans over and with emphasis keeps repeating something.  God, I HATE language barriers !
After he points at me and the menu (Again he declines assistance) we determine that we both get out at Nha Trang.  
He touches my knee to get my attention and again tries to communicate SOMETHING.

11 am. Google Maps tells me we are driving along the inlet that contains Monkey Island.  In February I rented a scooter here and rode along this gorgeous coast.  It seems I'm back to retracing my steps.  Quy Nhon was new to me, but there is no great suspense about Nha Trang.
I briefly see my 'conversation partner' again on the platform of Ga Nha Trang.  i smile and nod at him but I keep on walking.  I will never know whether he wanted my help, tried to pick me up, or wanted to buy me lunch.   HATE that language barrier !

11:20 am. I'm stepping out of the train station. The usual posse of taxi drivers and one guy shouting "motorbike". I go with the motorbike guy but it's actually only a scooter he rides.  I strap the small backpack to my front and hold on to the monkey bar like hell.  

When we get to the hotel after a 4 km ride, I ask "How much?", and after some fishing in his wallet he produces a 500,000 VND bill as an example of what I should pay him.  I can't help it but start laughing out loud as I shake my head with a big grin.  It's the shoe-repair guy in Ha Noi all over again but the shoe-repair guy had a cuter smile.  I offer the motorbike rider 50,000 VND which is a fair fare for this distance but he shakes his head.  I probably could have insisted on 50,000, but I'm already fed up with this guy so I add another 50,000 and turn my back on him.   I'm not really mad at him.  I'm mad at the tourists who have managed to convert some of the Vietnamese, a people who just didn't (and in many places still don't) know what greed is and would not expect payment for a service not provided, into these scam artists.  I knew of their presence in the tourist centers of Ha Noi and Sai Gon, but of course Nha Trang must have its fair share.    In Dong Hoi and Quy Nhon, already tourist towns, people still hand back a bill when you tip them because they think you have miscounted and would never even think about taking advantage of that  After having arrived in Nha Trang, I miss that even more!

 The room is fabulous.  Given the location of the hotel I had already expected the 'sea view' to be not more than the sliver of actual ocean I can see. No problem.  No water kettle. Now that is a problem!  I head out for a shopping trip and the receptionist promises to have one ready for me upon my return.
I head down along the street AWAY from the beach on purpose because I know that the most expensive stores are usually close to the beach (Russians don't like to walk far?).  I find Ruou Vang Do for 90,000 VND, Toblerone (after so many chocolate-free days I feel I deserve one), Salty Pretzels (I am SWEATING), and local kiwi yogurt. 
Self-made incense holder ;-)

Western overeating reflected in the hotel right across from me
 2 pm. Then I get the "It's STILL the Year of the Snake feeling". It's NOT, but I am priviledged to be out of rainy dark Vancouver and should be doing something spectacular with the time that is granted to me here.  Go swimming now?   Take the LONGEST over-water cable-car in the WORLD (>3300 meters) to Vinpearl Land?  Doesn't matter, must do SOMETHING !

Hmm. Just found out that the price for the cable car includes admission to Vinpearl Land (Think Disney!) but that there is a water park AND beach in Vinpearl land .....   what is 600,000 VND anyway? HOLY SH*T. That's CAD $36.

5 km is far to walk there, in particular since yesterday's walking caused my skin to be rubbed off by the relatively new sandals.

At the reception desk, they answer my question of how to get there by "Taxi or bus number 4".  What does one learn in a taxi?  Nada! So I head to the main street and very quickly learn that I have NO IDEA what a Vietnamese bus stop looks like.  I side track to the beach and the water on my feet feels wonderful.  
It's the new religion !

NOW, is THAT a bus stop ???
 Ah, this seems strenuous. Let's take a short excursion to the beach ;-)
 Now that's a MANLY shadow above.  And a very stylish kimonoesque silhouette below !
 Oh. This is NICE !
 NO, this is VERY NICE !  (I remember the temperature of the water from last February; it takes only half a second to get used to being in there and you never want to come out again !)
Then I see Vinpearl Land across the water.  
Hell NO, I'm not taking a gondola that will lead THERE, even if it is the longest in the world !

That's IT, screw Viet Disney, I'm not going to spend a Vietnamese weekly wage for a gondola ride. So I march back to the hotel, drop everything of value or what could suffer in the water, and return to the beach.

On the way back to the beach I almost kill myself laughing.   5 Russians are waiting at a Zebra crossing.  A joke could start this way, LOL. If you've ever seen Vietnamese traffic, you know what will happen next.  NOTHING.  They would have to stand there until the onset of the exhaustion of the world's oil supplies for someone to stop and let them cross. This is NOT how you cross a road in Vietnam, LOL.   But the Russians haven't learned that yet.  It took me about 10 seconds to cross each of the two lanes and when I get to the other side, I have to laugh out loud.
Their baton does not say Inspection though ;-)
Right on the other side of the street there is a tiny tent with two chairs and there are two Vietnamese in blue uniforms sitting in it.  One of them just got up and you can tell by his facial expression that he is shouting some curse to the other guy. In his hand he holds one of those traffic directing tools with a red circular front and the words STOP written on it, LOL.   The Russians are keeping these guys BUSY !

Naaa. HIS belly is WHITER than mine !

There are NO pictures of the swimming episodes obviously!

When I take my shirt of I realize that I am the WHITEST thing since JAWS.  

LOTS of 'solidly-built' Russian men with Putinesque 'manly' boobs hanging over their 'manly' guts. That's what you get if you eat AND drink potatoes!

Burnt Babushkas in pink bathing suits that somehow look like an inflatable life preserver or air mattress (think bicycle pump action) lie spread-eagled on the sand and the Viet driver of the beach-cleaning tractor patiently and calmly makes patterns in the sand around them.

But the water is divine !  Think bathtub temperature after you have let the water sit in there for 25 minutes.  Just fabulous.
I had put wrapped my smokes in my shirt and weighed the bundle down on one of those beach loungers provided all along the beach.  When I come back out of the water a man comes up to me, points at the lounger and rubs his thumb and forefinger together.   Just WHERE do you think I'm carrying my money ????   I get off the lounger and squat in the sand. That at least is still free.  

I remember this from previous Vietnam trips. The further south I travel, the less I like the atmosphere.  There is a North-South gradient of decreasing friendliness and increasing income. Or maybe there are just more tourists down there  This is why I never really managed to explore the Vietnamese Mekong Delta. And I won't this time either!  I just booked my flight from Sai Gon to my so far favourite kingdom on this planet on the earliest possible day.  An element of suspense?  Good, gotta keep that going, but here is a hint: Sorry Brits and it definitely ain't Belgium (after all it's not Tuesday, LOL !)

But hey, I'm still in Vladi-Trang or Nha-Vostok or whatever this place is called ;-)

I check for somewhere good to eat on TripAdvisor.  Maybe eat something solid today?   How about #15 out of 350 restaurants?  It's 28 meters from the door of my hotel. Now if THAT is no burning bush, I don't know what is (apart from a real burning bush, of course ;-).
Nice place (OF COURSE, it's not Vietnamese food, but it's actually inexpensive, and it employs Vietnamese).  I order a 4 Stagioni Pizza and a cocktail.   There is no G&T !  

Why anyone would drink a B52 in Vietnam is beyond me.  I shy away from the Screaming Orgasm and settle for All around the World (NO CLUE what that is but that's what I'm here to find out !)

On first tongue-contact it feels just like any other pineapple juice. But the taste buds in the rear of the palate waste no time to scream a warning to the brain "BOOZE! A LOT of it! Make sure he keeps his panties on !"

The pizza is a disappointment, but I spare the restaurant a nasty TripAdvisor review because the staff is really nice.

That's it pretty much for this time's stay in Nha Trang.  No Cable Car and no Monkey Business!  I'll be boarding a train tomorrow morning at 8:30 (or whenever it will show up, 1300 km is a long enough distance for a train to accumulate a hefty delay).
I look at the map and I feel a touch of pride creeping up. Every idiot can shelter him or herself from the surroundings by renting a car and driving for a long time. 

Think about that, it REALLY doesn't take that much, LOL !  ANYONE with a number of neurons sufficient to enable them to visit a gas station once in a while qualifies.  

And guess what, you don't even need THAT MANY neurons to vote in a US presidential election (Snicker, snicker ..)

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