Day 11: Nha Trang, Vietnam. Fruit! Boat ride, Mango Smoothie 🥭, Mid trip panic
This morning, instead of waking up to the sound of roosters at 5am, we woke up to Vietnamese opera music playing over the loud speaker of the overnight train. The train was still moving when I went to sit up in my bed and it took a few minutes to ground down and find steadiness. I had never woken up on in a bed on a moving train before. The music was entrancing. We could see the sun come up over the mountains and I had one of those, “I am going to remember this moment forever,” feelings in my heart.
We took a rickety old bus to our hostel in Nha Trang, Vietnam.
Check out those sweet electrical wires.
Nha Trang is a beach community just North of Ho Chi Minh City, and being a smaller community, there is much less traffic and much less trash.
The streets and sidewalks themselves were wider, and there were many trees planted creating this jungle/beach combination. One of the most emotionally arousing things that I noticed was all the FRUIT stands, with SO many different colors and shapes, some fruits that I had never seen before, but was so stimulated to try.
We arrived at the Bondi Backpackers Hostel in just a few short minutes. Because it was just after 6am, our rooms weren’t available for check it, but we could leave our belongings there while we explored until check in. We all dropped our stuff and headed for the beach.
We walked a few blocks to the South and then turned east to head to the beach. I noted to the Princess Jewelry Store at this intersection as a landmark.
The town was wide awake. Fruit stands, vendors, coffee shops, convenient stores were all open. Sochea told us that the locals get up at 4am to workout or enjoy the beach before the tourists get up and then usually have a nap around 11am. Thats a lifestyle I can get behind.
We almost get plowed by a “Into the Wild” VW van as we cross the street to the beach. There is a big building in the shape of a lotus right before the sand and Sochea tells us its symbol Nha Trang is known for.
We take a few group photos to mark the moment. My pants match the flag and I blow Sochea a kiss.
He asks me to teach the group a yoga pose so I go with the classic Tree pose.
We head to breakfast at the Ice Coffee Cafe. I order a cappuccino and a few eggs. My dish arrives and looks underwhelming. Bryony got eggs benedict and it looked much tastier. I joked that I was going to take a photo of hers and pretend it was mine, but here is a photo of both, because I’m not a liar. All my eggs so far on this trip have come over hard. Bryony gave me her ham. I love cappuccino.
I spend a little bit of time on my phone, being anti-social and trying to add photos to a blog post while I have access to WIFI. I meet a young man named Dylan, from Seattle. He looks reasonably stoned that hour and we chat for a while about our travels. He asked me where I was going next and I told him I had no idea. I’m just kind of going with the flow, but we have an itinerary app that I look at when I want. He comments that he could never travel like that and I tell him I am working on letting go of control and embracing the unknown. He looks at me like I’m a fucking freak show and goes outside to smoke a cigarette. Haha. I am pretty desensitized to that response when I dive into the deep end of a conversation with someone (typically a man) that I just meet.
We continue chatting when he returns. He is on a tour too and his tour guide approaches him and lets him know what’s up with the day. I introduce myself to her and we get to chatting. She owns the hostel I am staying in and her friend owns a resort down the street. She is a yoga teacher too and I tell her I am interested in teaching yoga abroad. She says she will put me in touch with her friend at the resort because she is pretty sure they are looking to hire yoga teachers. Well, that’s an idea!
The plan for the day is a boat ride that includes a visit to two islands, snorkeling and lunch. We change into our swimming suits back at the hostel and take a bus to the docks. I sit by my new friend Ali and we get to know each other a bit. He was born in Iraq and brought up in Finland. His immediate family is in Finland but his extended family is still in Iraq. He loves to travel, doesn’t know how to swim, and has a huge sweet tooth. He shared pictures with me of him eating cupcakes and milkshakes all over the world.
I told him I’m not the best swimmer either, but I would make sure he didnt drown. We fist bumped about it and I am pretty sure we are now BFF.
We get on the boat and are told to put life jackets on. We embark the mainland and once we get a bit further into the bay, the captain tells us that we can take the lifejackets off and that was just for show. I am supremely caffeinated and stimulated by everything around me. I ask Bryony if my positivity and enthusiasm is annoying and she says “Absolutely not!” But, I was for sure like a child high off too much Halloween candy.
There are cables with cars strung in the clouds like Christmas lights hang from a Christmas tree, dipping pole to pole from the mainland to the big island across the bay. The island features an amusement park and we can see the Ferris wheel and make out a castle and coaster. Sochea tells us that it is $40 entrance into the park and additional money for the cable car to get there. First of all, is it really a car if it’s in the air. Its more like a gondola at a ski resort. But, whatever. He said don’t bother with all of it, the Chinese tourists overtake the amusement park and, even though on an island, is just a standard amusement park. Its not Chinese culture to wait in lines as other cultures do, so Id imagine getting on the gondola or any ride at the park to be like a feeding frenzy of a group of starving stray dogs and a single morsel of food. #violentAF
The boat ride is fun! There are two coolers of beer and one of coke and water. We are each given a towel and take turns lubing each other up with “sun cream”. There is a big speaker that was lugged onto the boat and one of the new Brit Boys starts playing old school gangter rap. I find it too ironic to be on a tour boat off the coast of Vietnam with a bunch of white people getting down with Biggie Smalls and Snoop Dog. Did I mention, I ABSOLUTELY LOVE EVERYTHING ABOUT IT!
We could a place to drop anchor and swim. We took turns jumping off the top deck. Some people were scared to jump. They asked me if I was going to jump and I said FUCK YEAH I AM. They had little circular floated and I floated for a while out in the open sea, in awe of the moment I was living. I am here now. I connected with Olivia from London and she told me about how she quit her job as an occupational therapist and decided to travel the world. I loved her story and it sounded similar to my own. We talked about fully accepting and being grateful for all the decisions we have ever made in our lives, good or bad. If any decision was made differently we wouldn’t be off the coast of Vietnam having this conversation right now. A jelly fish stung my right butt and we were told to come back on board because the jelly fish were overtaking our area.
We get back on the boat and the deck has been transformed into a dining area. While we were in the water the crew folded down the benches creating a table for us to eat at. We were served plates and plates of chicken, Morning Glory Greens, calamari, vegetable spring rolls, tuna steaks, and fried noodles. Just ganster rap and the sound of chewing for the next 20 minutes or so.
I look up and realize Ali isn’t with us eating lunch and walk to the back of the boat to see him floating in the water by himself. #imabadfriend He couldn’t get back to the boat on his own. Shelly who is a strong swimmer, swam out and pulled him back to the boat. We didnt want to embarrass Ali, so no one really mentioned anything about it until he said, “Did anyone get my rescue on film? And you better have saved me some spring rolls.”
We moved to a different area with less jelly fish. The crew member that referred to himself as the “bartender” as the beginning of the trip busted out a tupperwear with orange liquid and chunks of pineapple and kumquat in it. They mentioned a floating bar at the beginning of the cruise, but we assumed it was just a joke. He created a bar top with life jackets and a tray and poured cups of jungle juice for everyone. We all had floating doughnuts and made a big circle around the “floating bar.” We cheers’ed and cheered while splashing in the ocean. I raised my empty fist to the sun, so big deal.
Everyone got back on board and poured another glass. I went to the upper deck to read and I could hear multiple beer cans cracking open over the ganster rap pulsating in the background. I read and practiced yoga on the top of the boat until my feet started to burn and was forced to go back to the party on the shady lower deck.
We disembark around 3pm and head back to the hostel. We are all still quite energized, so Olivia, Bryony and I decide to go for a walk to the beach and explore on our own. We somehow run in to the boys on the beach and they have us judge while they race into beach. It was adorable and reminded my how much fucking older I am then they are.
We found a beach bar called Happy Beach and stopped for a smoothie. We all chose mango, and I assume our server was quite happy about the unified decision. We watched the sun set and I was thinking how much I loved being a part of the G-Adventures tour group. I never would have known to stop at this beautiful town and I never would have met these amazing people, had I traveling completely solo.
I had another, “I am going to remember this moment forever” feelings in my heart.
There was a rooftop bar at the hostel so we all met there before dinner. I met the other owner, the husband, at the bar that night. He was Australian and quite outspoken. He kept giving me shit about being an American. Thats all I will say.
We went to dinner at an actual Vietnamese restaurant called, Lanterns. Apparently the majority of the Vietnamese restaurants in town are ran by Westerners, so are not authentic.
I sat in the middle of a 17 person table. They went around for drinks and everyone around me excluding a few people, ordered beers or fancy cocktails.
I was talking with Bryony about her next trip right after this one, from Bangkok to Bali and potentially joining her for another 34 day jaunt through Indonesia. 🤷🏻♀️ I checked the trip but it was booked And it made me sad. We were on the open rooftop, so there was so option for air con and the outside temperature was still high in the 80’s even though it was now passed 7pm. I order vegetable spring rolls and they are yummy, though I started to feel claustrophobic, hot, sweaty, and super uncomfortable in my surroundings. The thought of going back to New Jersey overwhelms. When my main course came out, and I tasted a foreign flavor of meat, I started panicking. It was all too much. I went to the bathroom to take a break and splash water on my face.
I go back to the table after ten or so and pretend like nothing is wrong. I sit back down in my spot and eat the vegetables in my stir fry. I talk a little with Johnny who’s sitting across from me. I tell him I think its time for me to go vegetarian and he tells me he has been vegetarian for two years now. He decided to just go a month, but then never stopped. Ive successfully abstained from alcohol, maybe its time to test my control again and make the conscious decision to abstain from meat. I love animals too much and being a meat eater has stopped making as much sense to me. Why am I thinking about adding this other curve ball to my life mid panic?
I pay as quickly as possible, though with 17 people is not quick at all, and Bryony and I leave the restaurant to head to the Night Market quick, before going back to the hostel.
We get tiny little strawberry popsicles for 25 cents And talk a little about my anxieties about going back to the USA. The rest of the group play to head to the SkyBar, which is a rooftop rave like party.
On the way back to the hostel, I announce I need a Thai Massage and inquire at the first place I see. I talk them down from 320 dong to 250 dong, which is around $10. They all call me madame and the one lady leads me upstairs to a room with multiple massage beds. She leaves the room and I use the bathroom. When I leave the bathroom, she is already back in the room and tells me to remove my dress. I don’t even care about her seeing my naked body and just take my dress off and start to lay down. I notice her phone is in her hand, and I thought how honored I’d be if she took a naked photo of me and blasted it all over the internet. During the massage she mostly kneeled on my glutes, which felt amazing because the majority of my pain comes from my hips and lumbar area. At one point she sits on the middle of my back, and I can’t breath. She treats my body like a rag doll and tosses me to and fro. I liked not being in control.There is another woman in the room, but I don’t really care that my chest is completely exposed. At one point I hear my lady, texting with one hand and massaging with the other. Over all the massage was great.
Apparently there is more then one Princess Jewelry and I roam the streets trying to find my hostel, in the exact mental state one should not be while roaming the streets in a foreign land late at night, foggy and careless.
I find my hostel by accident and prepare for bed. The room is hot and I wonder why the AIR con doesn’t work, but don’t muster up the energy to ask about it. Apparently you have to ask the front desk to return it on for you. I fall asleep just in time for my roommates to come back from the Skybar, but they are considerate and quiet.
I try to read Eleanor Oliphant in the heat of my lower bunk cave, but I find too many resemblances to myself and have to close it for the night.
My day was so overwhelmingly amazing, I got a little concerned for the following day. In the life of Tara the day following such a high, can sometimes be low, and now about midway through my trip, I start to feel random glimpses of panic for my return to the USA and all the “What now?” questions that come with it.