Leaches, my special little friends
OK, well we arrived in Nah Trang at about 6:30am, got to the hotel and just crashed.. slept till about 12:30 then went for a walk up the beach.. this was back on the 27th of may.. interesting walk.
Nah Trang seems to have dual personalities.. one a cute fishing village/town, the other a beach resort "hell on earth" (to my way of thinking...) - think deck chairs, fat men getting massaged and half the beach being "private" so that a stroll ends up with you being chased off... heh - oh and I did I forget to mention the couple of syringes I almost stepped on up the far end of the beach.. woot ;o)
At 2pm I headed up to some local Cham era ruins which are amazingly well preserved (compared to other Cham ruins I've seen) and then onto the local "attraction" - some medicinal mud baths - which was nice, so I soaked in hot mineral water, mud baths, steam rooms and got an hour of full body massage all for the princely sum of around $10 US. If your in Nah Trang it's well worth it, and the one thing we all noticed was how good your hair feels afterwards...mmm
That night we hit some of the local iconic spots.. drinks at the sailing club (nice view, hugely overpriced beers) - then hit the best little seafood restaurant in town for a 100,000 dong bbq... which included 4 lobsters, scallops, mussels, squid (which was gorgeous), fish... the list goes on, it was a truely huge amount of food.. and the fun thing is that it's just an outdoor restaurant that sets itself up in a bus stop on a road corner - classy!
Later that night I made myself "comfortable" in the Red Sun bar.. had 3 "zombie" buckets made with the local rice rum.. each bucket is about a litre... kinda catches up with you after an hour though.. like any cheap spirits I guess.
The following day we went for a "cruise" on the harbour with dodgy old Papa Langs "second best island tour" - visited an Island that was half fishing village, half "super" aquarium.. shaped like a giant gallion made from coral.. it was truely awe inspiringly tacky... I loved it... played with some turtles... watched kids tormenting the turtles... (Vietnamese aren't too clued up on animal cruelty) and went on our merry way.
That afternoon we did some swimming/snorkeling over some reefs... had a nice lunch that the crew of the boat prepared "on the fly" with a little gas cooker (more squid, honestly the squid in vietnam is the best I've ever had... mmmm) - and then got dropped off on an island beach (Mimi?) that was deserted.. so I lay around listening to music while watching the world go by, and interspersed it with cooling off in the sea. Pretty damn sweet.
Burgers and beer for dinner... *bliss*... yes it's not traditional vietnamese fair, but to be honest .. most vietnamese food is pretty boring and bland compared to their surrounding cousins (other then the seafood).
Off to the Central Highlands
Grabbed a bus to the central highlands.. Dropped our big packs at Buon Ma Thuot to drove out into the country side... originally there was going to be a 1km walk to a local E-de minority peoples village, but there's a big hydro dam project taking place that's ripped all the roads to shit (and though providing work for the local tribes people is probably going to displace them all once it's complete) - this is the difference between vietnam and it's neighbours (excluding china obviously)... it's just a buzz with industrial projects - the entire country is like one giant roadworks project.
So... the big hydro project meant big bulldozers on muddy roads.. which also meant our bus wasn't going to get very close to the village... so we ended up walking about 3 km's through the hydro project (which I quite enjoyed) before we finally got to the village/farm stay. The E-de village was an interesting spot... the people weren't particularly engaging.. I didn't mind but some of my fellow travellers thought they were rude and unfriendly people (the fact that they didn't attempt to engage them and of course that all these people had just worked 16 hour days didn't really enter there minds I suspect...) - though it was a lovely spot and I got to play with some pigs - the next day we had an 18km trek up through vietnamese jungle to a M'nong village called Buon Triet.. This was a nice walk, though about half way through it we suddenly entered leach country... A new experience for me - and not that pleasant.. the little fuckers get into everything... climb up your shoes, and can even slide through alot of fabricks weaves ie. socks - I had to keep nocking them off every 5 or so minutes for about 3 hours, and still ended up with 8 of them attached to me...
..a couple got really big before I finally got rid of them (wish I'd taken a picture) - at which point you look like you've been mortally wounded because your blood wont clot (due to the anti-coagulent they secrete) - kinda creepy, but pretty harmless in small doses.
That afternoon/night I got on the piss with the locals... After my experiences in Lao I'm pretty "ok" with rice wine... we did it the "traditional" way where by you do shots and have some cooked meet and greenery to chew on in between - I love drinking with locals, even though of course I get far too loud (A drunk Henderson is a loud person, even to the vietnamese ;o) but it was loads of fun and the older and more respected men of the M'nong villages (ie. Buck's and up.. me being just a lowly "em") are hilarious to watch.
The next day we got up and walked out to where a bus should have been to pick us up.. on the way we got to see a motorbike accident and get some first hand experience as to east meets west first aid..
This kid came hooning down past us, then turned sharply into a narrow driveway at about 40kms and missed it completely running into the deep ditch next to it. He was nocked unconscious and may have sustained spinal injuries... so (probably incorrectly) two of our fellow travellers first on the scene helped pull him out of the ditch and lay him on the ground... Then mark (our guide at the time) turned up and attempted to assess the situation... but at about this point an argument ensued with the local family that had come out because they
believed he needed to be rushed to hospital... on the back of a motorbike... at this point as a westerner there's really nothing you can do accept close your eyes and let it take it's course... but they proceeded to lift the unconcious guy up (without supporting his head which flopped back and assumed a rather sickening angle) and then sandwiched him in between two other people on a motorbike as he flopped around... they then started to take off and after a couple of metres noticed his feet were dragging on the ground and decided it might be a good idea to pick them up... erk...
After the incident Mark talked about a sweedish guy who had hit a logging truck while on a bike in vietnam... he survived (amazingly).. and woke up in a sweedish hospital with massive facial reconstruction and most toes missing from either foot... ground off on his rushed trip from the scene of the accident to hospital on the back of a bike... hmmm... the moral of the story is dont get injured in these countries if at all possible.
At any rate.. after that our trip to the bus continued.. but it had broken down, so we hung around with some local kids playing "photographer" and then eventually got some "local" transport to the next town where our bus was. Local transport consisted of an old jeep that had no clutch and no brakes... needless to say the trip was pretty amusing (they'd start then thing in first gear and god help you when you needed to stop!)
After all the mornings activities I had a lazy afternoon as I borrowed Helens portable DVD player (will have to take one of these next time I travel ;o) and watched a couple of random things... Love Actually and Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind... I kinda enjoyed the later, though that could just be because I like girls with blue hair that wear hoodies.
Hoi Ain Ho!
On the 1st I flew to Hoi An (Well to Danang from Buon Ma Thuot, then took a bus to Hoi An) - the flight was short (just under an hour) .. and it's the first time I've been in a turbo prop aircraft... there a little bumpier, which is fun. Hoi An is a unesco protected world heritage sight.. with a lovely "old town" sector, a nearby beach, rivers and some good eating spots - all in all it's a lovely spot to chill out for a couple of days.
After arriving in the early afternoon I went for a cycle round town.. had lunch in the cargo room (lamb rack...mmmm...) then retired back to my room for a brief nap, swim and then headed out to Tam Tam's for dinner and drinks... being Low season most of the night spots aren't exactly going "off" - but personally I think that makes it better... I'm into just chilling out at the moment and squeezing as much relaxation as possible into my last few weeks of tripping around.
The following morning I decided to go see woman slapping eachother with fish in the local fish market... which is pretty funny as the old ladies get fairly heated in their negotiations :) ... bought myself a vietnamese coffee dripper and some coffee (they do gooood coffee in vietnam...).. Walked around the old town, hilight being the Fujian Assembly hall which is a very cool old building. Did a little shopping and had a quiet'ish night of drinking, eating and savouring the delights of a local patisserie ;o)
On my 3rd day in Hoi An I took a motorbike out for a bit of a ride (with roger on the back) and visited a local orphanage and got shown around by a volunteer coordinator (Nicole Woods, a laywer from Australia) who's been there since october last year.. it's interesting to get the "low down" on the rather depressing circumstances that result in kids getting shipped off from home - often they aren't so much orphans in the traditional sense but the refuse from a widowed wife, who upon remarrying, the new husband doesn't want the children - either because of financial reasons, or that it might discourage the woman from wanting to have children to him - sometimes the parents just cant afford to keep the children, this is especially common with the subsistance fisherman in the near by Cham islands.
The kids in the orphanage are currently being fed on about 5000 dong a day per child... $0.33 US cents a day :( - and these aren't small kids, they range from 7 to 20 years of age. Even in the local market I could only buy a small bottle of water and baguette with animal parts pate' for that... hardly 3 square meals - needless to say they eat a lot of plain rice.
That night I'd arranged to do a cooking class with Mr Hai... Mr Hai is umm... interesting :) he was completely sozzled at 6am before he'd even started to do our 2 hour cooking class... very very funny - I'm not sure what I learnt about vietnamese cooking ;o) but I had a good laugh - and ended up drinking with him for a few hours afterwards - he definitely seems like a bit of institution in Hoi An, and until the 11th of this month he was one of Vietnams oldest (and dodgiest) bachelors.. but alas no
more, as he's marrying a woman who doesn't look good but smells great... or something to that effect, I couldn't really understand him alot of the time. Finished off the night drinking Majitos in the "Then an Now" - probably the mintiest one I've ever had.
And today (the 4th) I'm leaving Hoi An for my next destination in an hour or so... Hue.. should be interesting... Though the heat in Vietnam is pretty nasty at the moment, seems to be averaging a very uncomfortable 40 degrees... the real problem though is the humidity.. as your sweat just doesn't evaporate... fun and games, ugh!