Originally published on April 6, 2010 during my third Big Trip where I visited Southeast Asia.
Wok, the guide on the Nha Trang Four Island boat trip, spoke loud Vietnamese and unintelligible English into the microphone on the boat. A, L and I were three of about forty tourists – Asian and Western – together for the day on this boat trip. The itinerary said that until 4:30, there’d be four stops to correspond with the four islands: Snorkeling; lunch, dancing and singing, and a floating bar; a fruit party and beach stop; and a visit to an aquarium. All for $6, which was a great bargain.
The snorkeling stop was refreshing because I swam in bright blue water under the very hot sun. It was not that impressive (Dahab has spoiled me forever for snorkeling with it’s perfect coral reefs and fish variety). There was barely any fish, the most I saw of anything was other snorkelers’ legs. Unfortunately, the 40,000 dong “preservation fee” ($2) we all paid to snorkely in the area did not mean that the water was clean. I got out early because I found that I was swimming among garbage remnants and seaweed, this too reminded me of Dahab.
The boat staff turned down the benches on the boat’s lower deck and turned it into a table where they delivered the 60 or so plates of food with flourish. Also unfortunately that was the only flourish – the food was very bland. I covered my rice and noodles with loads of chili sauce to add some flavor.
After lunch we docked at our second stop and the party really began. We pulled up to the dock and joined three other boat tours with competing music. Our boat crew doubled as the rockin band over the bad loudspeakers. At first, Wok’s screaming voice was just noise at first and then it turned into the party man. His backup band included an electric guitar player, a backup singer, and the drummer. His “drumset” was buckets and bamboo poles, but did the job. Wok had to do some serious arm pulling to get any of the few bikini-ed girls on our trip to join him in dancing in front of the crowd to the band’s makeshift tunes. There were several older Chinese people who were having the time of their lives and jumped up and twisted again like they did last summer – they were the life the party needed.
When I read the itinerary as “Floating bar” I pictured a resort-like bar on the shore of the island where every one swims up to and we lounge around drinking daiquiris. Instead, Wok hopped into an innertube and began to pour tiny shot glasses of syrupy local red wine. I was among the few who jumped from the top of the boat -whhhheeeeeeeeeee – into a waiting innertube and swam up to join the frenzy. Again, one of the Chinese people, this time a woman, created the party. She grabbed the bottle away from Wok and started to chug all the while doing the dog paddle from her inner tube. At this time, Alex finally had energy and he was very entertaining trying to rodeo in his defective innertube at the “floating bar.”
The third stop meant a nap for the five of us. We didn’t want to shell out the dollar to sit on the rocky beach so we went to the top deck, grabbed inner tubes, and laid out on the dirty blue tarp. At the end of the stop, there was the “fruit party” and the group grabbed mangoes, papayas, pineapple, and dragon fruit from plates set out on the center bench/table. I loved the pineapple with a little salt and chili flakes poured over it. It reminded me of India.
The thankfully final stop, at that point I was so tired and ready to go back to land or sit by a pool, was at a very trippy aquarium. The Canadians did not go aboard, but A, L and I did and paid 35,000 dong to go into a huge cement structure shaped like a sea creature/pirate ship. Inside were tanks full of large fish and coral reefs, sans the floating garbage I’d seen earlier. The best part was the ice cream I bought and enjoyed while looking at the beautiful scenery. At the end of the day I said a sad goodbye to A and L, I hope to see them again some day and we traded facebook details.
I kept an early night and found dinner at a street stand and had a “wet barbeque” and spring rolls. The main dish was a soppy rice noodles and barbequed beef, which was actually very good. The owner was very friendly and asked me a lot of questions.
I will say at this point that every time a Vietnamese asks me where I’m from, I say that I’m Canadian. I doubt admitting my American heritage would mean anything more than a polite response, but the thing is, in Vietnam, I don’t feel proud to be an American here. The Vietnam/American war was horrible and a scar on this part of the world. I feel that if I bring up the fact that I’m American, even in response to this simple, polite question, I am bringing up this destructive history into the present moment, which doesn’t need to happen.
I went to bed at about 9, exhausted from the days multi-island activities.