4 days ago we boarded our first nightbus of the trip from Saigon to Nha Trang. Despite the double decker bunkbeds it was surprisingly comfortable. The difficulty falling asleep came more from our death-defying driver who seemed to think of the oncoming traffic lane as a much better choice than our own. Whenever we were stuck behind a lorry he would peek out from behind to make sure any big vehicles weren’t coming from the opposite direction (scooters had to swerve out of the way) and then gun our bus past the truck whilst flashing his bright lights. This did not mean we avoided close encounters with oncoming traffic…there were enough bright lights and honking to keep us awake well into the morning.
We spent the first few days on the beach in Nha Trang, compulsively applying suncream and taking turns to cool down in the sea which was anything but cool. As usual in the evenings we sought out good local food which almost always involved fish, water spinach and lots of garlic. One of the highlights was stumbling upon an outdoor restaurant where we enjoyed a mixed seafood salad, water spinach with garlic, of course, and squid steamed in coconut water right in front of us. The fact that we were the only foreigners suggested that this was a good local spot to eat.
As far as nightlife goes, we were staying in a place literally named Backpacker’s House, meaning our evenings were spent mostly with Europeans. We even met someone in Astrid’s year from LSE, it’s a small world.
Finally, tired of the beach (it’s a hard life) and eager to see the countryside we looked into seeing a waterfall 40 minutes’ drive away. The two alternatives were driving a motorbike there ourselves or hiring Vietnamese drivers to take us there. You’ll be glad to know we chose the latter option, and Hung and his buddy have been “Easyriders” for over 30 years. We were in good hands (and are writing this post so made it back safely!).
We started off the day by visiting Monkey Island. Clearly geared towards tourists, we were brought to see the monkeys and then saw a slightly horrifying display of what might be considered animal cruelty. The monkeys were led by a leash around the neck and dressed up in bright costumes. They then performed several tricks and rode around on bicycles; if they did not perform quickly enough they were prodded with sticks. We seemed to be the only people who didn’t find this incredibly amusing. A group of men from the Vietnamese navy in veritable “sailor boy” outfits were cracking up next to us.
This was followed by lunch which consisted of a spicy tuna, squid and veggie hotpot with rice. After filling our bellies we headed for the waterfall, which was located at the end of a country dirt road surrounded by a dramatic mountainscape and rice plantations. At the waterfall we sat in the freshwater lagoon and were led upstream by a group of Vietnamese girls. After drying off, we tasted ostrich for the first time, courtesy of some Vietnamese boys who had swum across the lagoon to meet us.
After a long day we headed home through several villages, occasionally stopping off to have a cup of iced tea or see some handicrafts. It was a memorable experience being able to go off the beaten track. Tomorrow we are taking our second nightbus to Hoi An, where we plan on mixing cultural sights with a fair amount of shopping.