Note #1: Pictures from the last few days can be found in the album to the right titled, “Vietnam: Hoi An & Nha Trang.”
Note #2: I’m trying a new format for this post. Please e-mail me or leave a comment and let me know what you think! The idea is to minimize writing all about the little details (resulting in less lengthy posts) and focus in on a thing or two that really stuck out to me. So, I will do a brief recap, and then write a post. Feel absolutely free to skip the recap if details bore you!
Recap of the last few days:
- Nov 19: Took bus from Hue to Hoi An (~4 hours), met Francizka from Switzerland, decided to room together at pricier hotel (Phuoc An), wandered Hoi An and loved it, swam in hotel pool, found tailor shop and picked two things to have made to order, had cao lau, local specialty noodles made only with local well water, fried crisp with crabmeat and tomatoes, slept hard
- Nov 20: Wonderful breakfast in hotel, wandered Hoi An on my own, visited tailor shop for fitting, bicycled to the beach with Francizka on free rickety hotel bikes, got a coconut palm hut and drinks and chairs, swam, relaxed, had very nice dinner out (white rose, gazpacho)
- Nov 21: Got up at 4:30am for My Son tour through hotel, old Champa ruins beautiful in the morning light and my group was the only one there, back in time for hotel breaKfast, Francizka and I bicycled to the beach again, picked up clothes from the tailor, parted ways, dinner at Laughing Cafe and watched domestic street life with kids running around, parents chatting and chasing the kids, overnight bus to Nha Trang, got front, left, top bed, much better though still not terribly comfortable, bus swerved a lot and tool case brought out several times throughout the night
- Nov 22: Arrived Nha Trang 7am, looked at first hotel which promised elevator (not working), room with two big windows (one was looking into the hallway) and AC (cost extra if you wanted to use it), found a hotel for $9/night with two beds, called Francizka to see about sharing, she had a much nicer one across the lane so we bunked together again, first stop breakfast (meuslix, fruit, honey, yummy!), next stop beach, swam and napped and sunned, had Italian for lunch (spaghetti), booked a three day, two night motor bike trip with local Easy Riders to Dalat, back to the beach, shower and put on new sun dress made in Hoi An, dinner out
And now, the post itself:
My dad used to call me his water baby, a very accurate nickname in light of the absolute joy I found in almost any body of water. The past few days have consisted of beaches and a pool and me swimming at both, and I couldn’t be happier. The weather has been mostly good, with passing clouds and a rain shower here and there. With my ever-dawning sense of Vietnam and the ways of the tourist trail I’m following on my way south, I have been enjoying my time here more and more.
Diving into the South China Sea at Dai Cau beach to the east of Hoi An, after a somewhat harry ride on a rickety bicycle with no gears and sketchy brakes, was such a relief! The waves tossed me about quite a bit, and I got sand everywhere, but this is what a beach visit means and I was pleased. I let myself bake a bit in the sun before ordering a coconut shake, which was part of the deal of using the beach chairs and shade. It felt like heaven! We were on the beach for perhaps two and a half hours total, but that was all it really took for me to really relax for the first time in awhile.
When I think back to Hue and my negative reaction there, I come to the conclusion that a number of factors collided. First, I was tired from the night bus experience. Second, the weather was damp and hot and cloudy. Third, my frustration with understanding Vietnam and why it seemed to me a greedy and third-world country when I hadn’t expected it, had come to a head. Fourth, my emotional discomfort with being an American, female, solo traveler in Vietnam was peaking. And fifth and finally, I had settled for a cheap and crappy hotel room.
This does not a happy traveler make. It brought to light a truth I’d read about pre-trip: sometimes you just have to leave a place! Hue was not for me at the time I went there and so leaving it was the best thing I could have done. A fresh start in a (to me) fresh place, meeting someone I could talk to and room with, treating myself to a nice hotel; all of these things helped me re-center and focus. I did very little sight-seeing in Hoi An, with My Son being the only real tour I took. I was able to appreciate it, though: amazement at the history and fact that the Champa had made and mortared bricks in a way still a mystery to today’s scientists; the sorrow of knowing that B-52 bombs, dead on impact, exploded years after the war and killed several Vietnamese tourists and destroyed most of the ruins; and pleasure at seeing an ancient civilizations works that had survived thirteen hundred years, weather and man-kind’s wars.
It also highlighted a very important travel-fact about myself: going to a beach or body of water, swimming and floating and relaxing, will help me to reset myself. It’s good to know a cure for the doldrums or depression or loneliness that will inevitably strike again during this year. And so, while in Nha Trang, I plan to get my fill of the beach and sun, do some snorkeling, and enjoy what Vietnam has to offer with, hopefully, a more tempered understanding and the joy only travel can bring on. In short, I plan to be a water baby.