Saturday, 23 April 2011

Re-hitting the Beaches

I'm back at the beach, as you would probably have gathered from the title of this blog. And by the beach I mean the city of Nha Trang. The drive from Da Lat to Nha Trang was out of this world. The bus cruised down and battled up one of the longest mountain passes I have ever seen. I've watched many a Tour de France and I can safely say that the pass we came down would probably kill everybody in the peleton. It wound for approximately 40 kilometres down the sides of mountains with waterfalls cascading down next to the road.

A view down the pass
The view from the top was stunning, but the bus driver wasn't stopping for anything but his lunch break so I had to snap that (left) while hanging out the window of a moving bus.
The drive after the incredible pass was not too impressive and involved a lot of hooting from our bus driver and other cars.

I arrived in Nha Trang, met up with Xan and Joe and arranged a room for the night. It was late the time I arrived, so I couldn't do much more than find a place to chow some food. After a really good bowl of Pho I headed back to the hotel with Gad and was told about a boat tour of four islands in Nha Trang's bay. It was very reasonably priced and looked like a lot of fun so Gad, Joe and I booked for the tour. Later that night I overheard a woman on the phone telling someone how much fun it was. I had wanted to see the giant, seated Buddha today but decided to postpone that until tomorrow.

I'm pleased to announce that the boat tour has gone into second place in the great experiences leaderboard, after the Easy Riders tour. It was an amazing day out on the bay and the tour guide was such a funny character. Bao was his name and he made the whole experience even better. He was full of jokes to share with the tourists and had the craziest laugh. I'm also pleased to announce he has taken second place in the tour-guides' leaderboard, Dunhill is almost impossible to outclass.

Island number one

The boat trip took us out of the harbour, under the cable-car to Vinpearl Land, to a small island far out in the bay. We stopped at this island and were told that we could snorkel there for an hour and a half. We were then given the least effective snorkel and goggle combination possible, but weren't really disappointed because there wasn't much to see. The water was post-card-esque (the only way to describe it) and was really warm. Needless to say, the swim was really refreshing and much-needed.

Bao and his boys...
On the way to the next stop lunch was served, hundreds of plates of food appeared on the table and everyone tucked in like it was their last meal. While we were eating lunch we arrived at the next stop, a floating platform just offshore from the second island. We were told we'd have two hours on this platform and were bitterly disappointed to hear that. The platform was really small and there was no way to get on to the island. We were sure it was a tactic to get tourists to rent an overpriced jetski for 15 minutes or take a boat ride at a ridiculous rate. Thankfully, tour-guide Bao proved us wrong. A few minutes after lunch, he announced the arrival of a Vietnamese boy band. The boy band consisted of three old-timers on guitar, bass and drums with Bao the lead singer. Bao entertained us with some local hits (and one of his own songs about his ex-girlfriend who weighed 100 kilos and broke his cyclo) before introducing the main attraction, a 'lady-boy' dancer and singer. They played a few well-known western numbers before packing up and announcing that the floating bar would now commence.

The floating bar was nothing short of epic. Bao had told everyone they'd be receiving a free cocktail from him in the floating bar. The floating bar was a ring of buoys tossed in the water and manned by Bao. Joe and I were the first people to take the plunge into the water from the deck and head over to the bar with our flotation devices. Bao produced his 'cocktail' which was served in plastic cups and was probably 80% vodka and 20% orange juice. I was sure he'd only give us one 'cocktail' each as that is what he'd told us. This was not the case. Bao literally poured the first cup of that vile stuff down my throat and proceeded to give me six more in the space of 5 minutes. After a 30 second swim back to the boat I was well and truly tipsy. Joe, Gad and I dived a few more times and soaked up some sun before the bar was packed up and the boat headed to the next stop.

The third island
We were charged to use the beach at the next island, but it was cheap and was well worth the money. We spent the two hours at the third island jumping and diving off a pier into the water below. Joe and I perfected the running swan dive and Gad got video evidence of it. There isn't much more to add about the third island except that we also sat in the shade of palm trees.

Between the third and fourth island, fruit was served. Watermelons and pineapples were devoured very quickly by all on board, but especially by us three who had worked up quite an appetite. At this point, to my relief, the 'cocktail' was wearing off and I could enjoy the sun beginning it's downward journey. The fourth island was a bit of a waste of time as it had an aquarium which nobody visited due to the ridiculous price of a ticket. Most of the people on the boat opted to have icecream and wait for the boat to leave for the harbour.

The trip back to the harbour was short and sweet. We said goodbye to Bao and thanked him for the great tour then got on a bus and headed back to our hotel. Upon arrival at the hotel I sat down and started writing this blog.

Keep your dong in your pants if you meet a lady-boy

P.S. I've been asked to add a little bit about Crazy House as I didn't really explain it's origins too well. Crazy House was designed to look like a giant banyan tree, by the architect Dang Viet Nga. Each room has a theme (bear room, eagle room, etc) and can be rented out by people wishing to spend a night in the Crazy House. The inspiration for Crazy House is rumoured to come from the paintings of Salvador Dali. The garden contains concrete mushrooms, animals and flowers and has a strange, surreal atmosphere. It's basically a really weird place which people like to look at.

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