Thursday 13 December 2012

A Nha Trangover

Note to self: it helps to put suncream on one's back when snorkelling in 40-degree heat. Carrying a backpack on a blistering, red back is excrutiatingly painful.

But the pain was worth it - my snorkelling trip in Nha Trang was sensational. One of the pleasant surprises of travelling so far has been the number of French and German speakers I've met along the way - I've had more opportunities to practise my languages in Vietnam than I would normally have back home in England! The boat trip to the islands of Hon Mun and Hon Mot was no exception - the other participants were all German, other than two lovely Aussie girls who persuaded me to throw myself off the top deck of the boat with them many a time, despite almost losing my bikini on several occasions (no wonder the fish swam a mile as soon as we came close...).

We got to see some amazing coral and fish, including one with a very long nose that I called a 'pinocchio fish' (I'm fairly sure it has a proper name, but you get the idea), and lion fish. It was my first time snorkelling and to be able to swim in such crystal clear water and get so close to the fish was wonderful - we could even pick up the jellyfish and throw them at each other (not that we would ever do so cruel a thing).

Our boat was basic but had everything we needed - sun loungers on the top, and the wherewithal for our guide to cook us a fabulous feast of prawns, frog, fish, egg, noodles, rice and some exceedingly garlicky morning glory for lunch. The Vietnamese have a wonderful way of observing the law - we were told to wear our life jackets for a total of about 15 seconds as we left the port, before taking them off again.

As we made our way back to the harbour, we passed a hill with a huge Hollywood-style sign on it which read 'Vinpearl' - apparently it's hugely popular with the Vietnamese, who go wild for the kitsch rides and Asia's longest cable car (wow!) that connects it to Nha Trang. It certainly caters to local tastes (read: over-the-top and excessively commercial) rather than Western inclinations, so we gave it a miss and watched the sunset from the slightly less commercial (but still unashamedly touristy) Nha Trang beach instead.

Rather than lament the somewhat spoilt natural beauty of the resort, the Aussie girls and I decided to accept it for what it was worth, by taking advantage of the variety of free cocktails on offer to ladies in the many bars in the city. Nha Trang might be a party town, but when you're operating on Vietnamese time (getting up at the crack of dawn and being in bed by 9pm at the latest), it's hard to be a party animal. After sampling the dubious delights of 'free Oasis shots', having an ominous-looking blue concoction poured into our mouths from a giant bottle, and making our way through a 'jamjar', we could barely keep our eyes open. We called it a night and let the other travellers do the partying for us.

The next morning I enjoyed a lovely breakfast of banana pancakes on the roof terrace of my hostel, cooked by a very sweet girl who said I could be the next Miss World and asked if we could 'swap skins'. Perhaps not.

However, after another sizzling session on the beach (when will I learn...), I was willing to reconsider my decision. Let's just say that camomile lotion is my best friend at the present moment.

I soon decided it was high time to leave Nha Trang, lest I burn to a crisp. Stifling cries of pain, I mounted my backpack on my bright red back once again, and boarded a bus up to the hills of Dalat, a stark contrst with the temptations endless sunbathing on the beach, but equally charming in its own right.

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