General, Travel

Embrace the bizarre

For those of you who don’t know me, this is a rare event. For those of you who do know me, look how much I am embracing travelling and making the most of my time in Vietnam. I ELECTIVELY woke up and left the hotel at 4:45am this morning. We didn’t need to be up at all today if we didn’t want (well, not until check out at 12pm) and even with our boa trip, we didn’t need to be up for 2 more hours. Sunrise in Nha Trang was at 5:32am today, so we got up and left the hotel a little early to make sure we didn’t miss it. If we were bothering to get up early we may as well make sure we see the sunrise.

When Jade, Lara, and I arrived at the beach two things struck us. Firstly, there was people everywhere. Thuy mentioned at the homestsay that Vietnamese people were early birds, but 5am!! The beach and sea were 4 or 5 times busier at 5am than they were at 2pm! Everyone seemed to be a local, and the vast majority were excerising. I guess it is cooler to do it at that time. Secondly, when we looked out over the horizon, there was a huge storm cloud right where the sun was due to rise. Of course, we decide to get up, and the clouds are in the way. The lighnting show was impressive though. We decided as we had bothered to get up, we may as well stay. That was a good decision. The clouds started to part a little bit, and as the sun rose, the sky was filled with a beautiful array of colours. I wish the sunrise at Angkor Wat had looked like this. We took a variety of pictures in all sorts of weird and wonderful poses, it was a really lovely, and relaxed way to start the day. I definitely think I will get up to see sunrise at HaLong Bay.

Once we had exhausted all sunrise selfie possibilities, we headed back to the hotel, checked out, and met Lek and Katja for breakfast. Everyone is doing their own thing today, which is nice. The boat trip people were collecting us at 7:30am so we rushed through breakfast and went down to the lobby. When they arrived, we noticed how few people were there, and when we got to the boat, thinking another van load of people would arrive, they didn’t, so it remained just the 6 of us, and 8/9 crew. While everyone else was given a scuba diving brief, Jade and I sat at the front of the boat, wishing we had chosen diving, when the lovely captain wandered over and enquired whether we would like to change our minds. Let’s just say we were easily converted.

Jade doesn’t have a licence, I didn’t have mine or my logbook on me, and we only had enough money on us for snorkelling, but that didn’t matter. By the time we had gotten to the first stop, Jade had received as basic guide to using the equipement, which was essentially breathe and I will do the rest for you. I looked over my kit, and explained I would remain with Jade despite the fact I could go deeper, and we were ready to go. Wetsuited up, kitted up, we jumped in, and went diving.

The waters of Vietnam, specifically Mun island, were so clear, and the coral was so close to the surface that diving deeper was never going to be an option anyway. We could see loads of fish, different types of coral, and lots to see. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such an array of underwater life since I was last at an aquarium, and let’s be honest, that doesn’t count. It was really good. I kind of wish I had my underwater camera, but that is being stowed away for the Barrier Reef. When we surfaced, we were both smiling. The guy said to Jade before we went, if the regulator pops out because you’re smiling too much press the clearing button. I laughed at the time, but by the end of the dive I realised that was a distinct possibility!

When we got back to the surface and were out of the water and settled on the boat, they asked if we were doing the second dive. Again, we took little persuading. I can’t believe we had gone from nothing, to scuba diving twice! The second time we got to see a lot more fish. There was all sorts down there, a puffer fish, painted flute fish, giant blue starfish, clown fish, all sorts. It was amazing. I am definitely not doing it justice at all.

Once we surfaced for the second time, we were offered the chance to snorkel. We both said yes and jumped into the water, but it seemed rubbish in comparison to the diving. I am so glad we didn’t just snorkel when everyone else was diving. We got back on the boat pretty quickly, and not long after, lunch was served. It was really good, a mixture of traditional Vietnamese dishes. I hadn’t half worked up an appetite! Afterwards, we slowly made our way under the cable car to Vin Pearl island and back to Nha Trang. It was really nice to do something just us two, even though it would have been awesome if we all could have done the diving.

Once we returned to the hotel, we ran into Lara, and decided that we wanted to go and relax on the beach a bit before going to see the big white buddha at the Long Son Pagoda. The beach in Nha Trang is so nice, we just lay our towels below the palm trees and chilled out for an hour in the sea and reading. Not a bad way to spend the afternoon.We wanted to do a cyclo tour (like a reverse rickshaw, with the seat in the front) when we were in Ho Chi Minh city, but couldn’t justify the cost there, so we decided to get a cyclo to the Long Son Pagoda, and kill two birds as it were.

We located two cyclo drivers, and told them where we wanted to go. As soon as we left, I did think this could be a near death experience. The cyclo didn’t seem to follow any of the rules of the road that even the Vietnamese seem to obey. Cutting across round-a-bouts and junctions with traffic brushing past from all sides was terrifying. We arrived at some random location, and realised we didn’t have enough money on us to pay for the cyclo ride, so we attempted to explain the situation, and request the two men to take us back to the hotel. They were refusing point blank, and things were getting a little awkward. After some time, we reasoned with them, and they agreed to take us back.

As we turned round, we headed away from, rather than to, the beach. I have never felt so scared in my life. As we went further and further away from the beach, I couldn’t help but wonder where on Earth we were going and why we were going there. The guy turned down a random side alley, and I realised pretty quickly that Jade wasn’t following, panic stations! As we got to the end of the alleyway however, I could see what looked like religious carvings, and the guy revealed that the pagoda was just ahead. As a breathed a sigh of relief, Jade appeared round the corner. The men said they would wait for us while we went to see the buddha, and as we were climbing the stairs, we giggled at what had happened.

Half way up, a monk ringing a bell kept motioning us over to him, so we thought we’d check out what was going on. He kept indicating below his bell, it took us a while to realise that he wanted us to get in the bell and sit on the ledge inside. Once in, he began ringing the bell and chanting a blessing. We couldn’t stop laughing, and had to take a bell selfie – still a huge honour to have done. After we exited the monk’s bell, we made it to the top of the Long Sno pagoda stairs, and could see the buddha in all it’s glory. I was very glad we bothered, it was really beautiful. I had never heard of it before, and was pleasantly surprised by it. The views of the area were also stunning from up there.

As we walked back down, we noticed the men get back out of their cyclos and get ready to ride us back into town. I had to direct the man to the hotel at the end, preferable to getting lost, and after more crazy driving, and heated negotiations over price, we were back safe and sound, and up one incredible experience. Today has been jam packed full of funny events.

Once we were back, we set about preparing our bags and stuff for the sleeper train, and getting a shower that was majorly required. I think the day was starting to catch up with me, I was really tired. I also noticed the sunburn forming on my arms, with distinct lines indicating where my wetsuit had ended earlier in the day. Very annoying, at least it didn’t hurt!

On the way to the station, we were warned again that this sleeper train was not of the same quality as the first one we had been on. As we boarded, the linen was clean (an unexpected bonus) and the cabins didn’t appear to bad, if a little smaller and more prison cell like. They seemed comfy enough for one night. Once we put our bags down, and began preparing for the night, we noticed the cockroaches. I don’t mind the beasts too much, but I didn’t really want to share my bed with them. The train ssuddenlystopped, and as it did, we saw a mouse shoot under one of the beds. A few screams, and it shot out of the door and into the corridor. I think many people didn’t sleep that night. I was way too tired after my long day, and crashed almost straight away post-mouse incident.

My joint favourite day so far with Angkor Wat day. I am not sure what I have written has done any justice to the whole day.


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