A brief stop at a resort which mainly involved sitting at places, looking at the sun, and eating Italian foods.
10/03 – “Benidorm for Russians”
In a personal Vietnamese first, we arrived in Nha Trang early, at 5am. Bleary-eyed, confused and directionless, we just began walking, hoping to head towards a hostelly area.
Along the way, we meet Kevin: a six-foot tall American with a shaved head a drunken swagger. “D’you guys wanna have some beers and watch sunrise on the beach?” Naturally, we obliged.
We asked Kevin where the backpacker alley was, so he took us back to his hostel, and gestured grandly at “where all the hostels are, man.” All padlocked shut, we headed off in the opposite direction.
Planning to head back to the hostel where the bus had dropped us off, we stopped en route for breakfast. Ordering eggs and bành for 40,000₫, we set about finding a hostel online, when lo and behold my travelling companion sighted some of his companions from a week previous.
Although constantly in flux, the traveller community along the main routes through South East Asia certainly feels like a small town in terms of familiarity. The balance lies in meeting people outside of that circle; but not restricting yourself within it. That’s not to say it’s never beneficial to meet people from different backgrounds or different countries who share your interests (namely, travelling) but did you really fly across the world to meet people that you could meet at home? I think not.
Eventually, nestled between Nha Trang’s tower blocks and tourist shops, we found the Reunion Hostel (110,000₫ pppn), and checked in ahead of a beach morning.
While on the beach, we were approached by a local artist, who sells his landscapes (all painted in vivid colours on Vietnamese silk) to local tourists. “English and Australian? Yes I can tell, you smile when you speak. The rest don’t smile, they are rude. But they pay a lot of money. I still like English better though.”
When speaking to Vietnamese that work in the tourist trade in Nha Trang it is interesting to note their preferred hierarchy of tourists. Known as Benidorm for Russians, Nha Trang hosts a significant tourist population of Russian tourists, who generally know as much English as the Vietnamese know Russian. This makes communicating difficult, which coupled with the cliché-that’s-sometimes-true that these tourists are particularly rude, certainly irks the Vietnamese to no end. Not too much higher up are the Chinese tourists, whom the Vietnamese seem to hold some sort of long-term grudge for all the invasions; again, coupled with the occasional rudeness and difficulties in communications there’s little wonder.
There is something pleasantly refreshing in being part of the welcomed tourist group; backpackers are often more willing not only to be polite to the locals, but also let them practice their English on them.
Travelling with someone who has already spent a fortnight eating pho, we went Western for lunch and had a 105,000₫ pizza, before spending the afternoon relaxing, reflecting, and preparing for the next destination: Đà Lạt.
The receptionist went above and beyond to welcome the mix of travellers staying at the hostel. As well as offering up genuine activity recommendations (I’m talking about beyond the tours; a welcome difference) she offered us some “Vietnamese cake” to try.
Not wanting to offend her, especially given the history of this cake that would celebrate the harvest and offer sustenance to peasants working the fields, we tentatively took a bite from this gelatinous substance – and tried hard to hide our confusion at the bizarrely blandness of the goo. Trying to not offend her, we ummed and ahhed politely – until she laughed at us for thinking this was something that was meant to taste nice. The Vietnamese sense of humour certainly takes advantage of Westerners that are cautious to not cause offence.
We then decided to head for a beautiful Wat, which in my map-reading-confusion, ended up taking us to a large Catholic cathedral, just in time for sunset.
Still full from the carb-fest of the pizza, we decided to stick with the Italian theme and dine on ice cream, sat on a pavement, overlooking a roundabout. Despite the general overcrowding on the roads, with hundreds of honking scooters at every turn, there seems to be a stronger sense of order and calm on the roads. At first glance, it appears chaotic, but look closer and you can see a delicate choreography to road users; who pirouette around respecting other drivers, keeping an eye out at all times.
With an early morning to catch the bus up t’mountains, we soon headed back, to sleep, perchance to dream… You can read the start of my adventures in Đà Lạt here.