Friday, August 6, 2010

Alive and soon to be kicking underwater

It's funny how many people here ask me if I speak French.

It makes sense given that Vietnam used to be a French colony but it's just interesting when you think about it.

Obviously I don't speak Vietnamese and I'm sure they're thinking that their French is better than their English so that might be their best bet.

It's kind of like when I met someone in Taiwan and sometimes I would prefer to speak to them in Chinese because it was just easier. Or like the time the guy at Teppanyaki asked me if I spoke German because my Chinese wasn't good enough and his English was non-existent.

Oh the language barrier.

Yesterday I went to the Mekong Delta. It probably could have been more genuine, but I opted to book a tour because the Delta is huge and there's no way I could have narrowed it down enough.

The people on the Mekong were kind and despite the fact that it was tourist trap after tourist trap, they weren't at all pushy like they were in Saigon. I could smile, say "No, thank you," and easily expect them to smile back and move on. Funny what politeness will get you.

We spent a great amount of time on a motorboat just circling around the islands. Then we were taken to a place where they make their own honey (Tourist Trap No. 1), then a place where they make rice paper (Tourist Trap No. 2 yet unexpectedly yummy) and then a place where they make coconut candy (Tourist Trap No. 3 and absolutely delicious). 

It took everything in me not to buy a package of coconut candy which comes with something like 30 pieces of candy. Eventually I reminded myself I simply don't have the room in my pack for anything else nor do I need that much candy in my life. The idea is to lose weight on vacation, not gain it.

After another motorboat ride, we switched to some rowboats. This actually felt a little more authentic. No one was trying to sell us anything; The woman spoke nothing but Vietnamese; and We went through these small "back-water" canals. It was absolutely gorgeous.

Despite the uber-tourist feel, I still managed to get some incredible pictures, some of which have been posted on my Picasa web albums (see the right-hand side bar). I still have a few to post and I took a lot of video. I plan to make a video for each country I visit. Some will be longer than others, but it will still be nice.

After the Mekong Delta, we returned to Saigon where I got myself ready for my sleeping bus to Nha Trang.

Today I got into Nha Trang at 6 a.m. The bus dropped us off directly across the street from the beach and all I could think about was the gorgeous sunrise. Instead of finding a hotel immediately, I headed over to the beach, sat down on a bench and started taking pictures. I tried playing with the panoramic feature on my new camera, but I'm not sure how that worked out. It's hard to do with people walking around you.

After having a couple of the hotels suggested in my trusty Lonely Planet tell me they had no vacancies I started to get a bit annoyed. It was very early in the morning and I hadn't slept well on the bus because this woman kept talking. I couldn't tell her to shut up because a) she only spoke Vietnamese and b) she was an old woman.

I hate to be the one scolding an old woman to respect that it's a SLEEPING bus.

I managed to sleep some but I was ecstatic when I found a fairly new hotel in which I could get a one-bed guestroom with a private shower for only $8 per night.

The only trouble is it's on the fourth floor. Well that and after I checked in, took and shower and went to have a nap, a group of three guys checked in to the room next to me. The hallways are marble and echo quite a lot. Hopefully they are quieter when it comes to night time.

Either way, it's a great deal and I'm quite content to have found a gem off the beaten path.

After spending the morning catching up on sleep and then orienting myself with Nha Trang, I went to get lunch and set up my dives for tomorrow. It's a little on the expensive side, but I've read reviews of the place and talked to some people who had gone out with that operation in the last few days and they all liked it.

I think safety and the knowledge that I will have fun and educated guides is worth the extra $15USD. 

The rest of the day I spent hanging out on the beach. The water is super clear and seems really clean. I didn't see any trash on the beach which was refreshing. After a quick dip, I just sat on the beach and read my book.

This is book number three of my trip, by the way, and I'm already halfway through. I missed reading for leisure.

Now I'm headed to grab some dinner and maybe a drink. I'll do some more reading before retiring early. We leave at 7 a.m. from the dive shop in the morning so I hope I'll be there at 6:20 for some breakfast. 

It's amazing what it takes for me to be in a good mood about waking up in the mornings.

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