After a beautiful, winding bus ride down through the mountains, we arrived at our second destination. Nha Trang is one of Vietnam’s most popular beach towns, especially for the locals.
It’s definitely more internationally touristy than Đà Lạt, however. This became quickly apparent upon stepping off the bus and being accosted by a local trying to sell us a tour. Terrible timing, bucko! No one in the history of travelling has stepped off a long bus ride and thought: “Gee, I think I’d like to organise an excursion right now on the side of this very busy street with all of my luggage in tow.” NO! Never! Not once!
After we politely told the man we could find our hotel without his assistance, we started strolling down the street to our hotel which was in very close proximity to the drop-off point.
We put our bags down and decided to try out a cute little French restaurant for lunch that we’d passed on our way to the hotel. We all then went our separate ways to start exploring. I was just so happy to be near the ocean again that all I wanted to do was stroll along the surf.
It was about that point that I reach during every trip where I involuntarily start reflecting. I started thinking about what a huge journey it’s been since arriving here nearly 8 months ago. It’s not been easy but no one comes to Vietnam to learn the easy lessons. I came here with the understanding that choosing a place like Vietnam to do some growing meant rapid changes and not always gentle lesson-learning.
I’m learning how to be selfish and say No when I really mean No. I understand better where my responsibilities to others end and where my responsibility to myself, my happiness, my Truth begins. I’m learning that a laidback lifestyle doesn’t mean that I’m lazy. My understanding of how privileged I really am is deepened on a daily, if not hourly, basis as I look around at my neighbours and drive through various districts and wards of the city each day. I’m so grateful for the job that I have that I, for the most part, really love. And I often can’t believe they pay me to do this.
Back to Nha Trang…
We spent our first full day lounging on the beach and playing in the ocean. And we did the same the second day. We got up when we wanted to, ate when we wanted to and lazed around the beach, getting up to saunter down the beach or swim when we wanted to.
That night we all had drinks together and played with Judes’ iPhone game “Heads Up.”
Essentially it’s the game “Head Bands” as seen on Ellen DeGeneres’ show except instead of Velcro, we held the iPhone up to our foreheads as our team gave us hints that allowed us to guess the animal, person, famous song or movie that was “written” on our forehead. It was a blast and attracted a great deal of attention from not only other bar-goers but also the staff at the bar. They were pretty much joining right in.
The next day Bagheera and I went for couples breakfast at the Nha Trang Sailing Club before setting up camp on the beach yet again. That afternoon we’d planned a trip to the famous Tháp Bà hot springs whose pamphlet became our motto for the trip: Not yet go, not yet know. Translated directly from Vietnamese, we figure they probably meant Until you go you won’t know. But how much funnier is it as a direct translation?
It was about a fifteen-minute cab ride to the outskirts of town. The five of us piled out of the car and surveyed the landscape. The “baths” were arranged in a stair pattern up the face of the mountain. Since our group was so big, we got to go to the very top level to begin our afternoon of spa-ing.
First, we were instructed to shower as the attendant was “filling” our bath. When I heard “mud bath” I expected ooey-gooey, highly viscous mud that you kind of sink into. But I quickly realised that this was truly going to be a bath. The mud that was gushing into the tub was thick, muddy water.
We all immersed ourselves into the tub and realised quickly how buoyant it made us. It was hard to stay seated. And so began our uncontrollable laughter.
The mud was silky and made our skin (and hair) incredibly soft. I was the first one to discover how silky it made my hair.
We discovered very early on in our treatment that they gave us a convenient ladle. I was the first victim of Judes. She scooped up the mud and swiftly deposited her ladleful on my head.
The worst part wasn’t that it was in my hair or running down my face. The worst part was the grit between my teeth. I couldn’t wash it out of my mouth because every ounce of my body was covered in mud and there was no fresh water in sight.
We then showered off, and moved onto the warm mineral baths. We were gawked at at every turn. It only made us giggle more. We finished off the day with a swim in their expansive pools and a stand under the pounding waterfall.
That night, as we were planning what we would do for dinner, the rainy season hit us with full force. This phenomenon had fantastic timing, in fact.
Bagheera really wanted to go to the hot spot next door aptly called Booze Cruise but hadn’t managed to successfully convince the whole group to get on board. When we got downstairs in our hotel and looked at the torrential downpour that had begun, we realised that sushi dinner was not an option and really the ONLY option short of a lifeboat was the swanky joint next door.
We waded through the two feet of water that had accumulated in less than fifteen minutes next door to Booze Cruise for one of the most delicious pub meals any of us had had in a while. Fish and chips are definitely my recommendation!
Needless to say, we called it an early night that night and went back to our hotel for fear of what lurked beneath the river that was now the main streets of Nha Trang.
The next day, we all hit the beach again! It was our final day in Nha Trang before Bagheera, Adrienne and I all had to part ways with Judes and her sister. We set up camp and enjoyed each other’s company for the remainder of our vacation. There was lots of sunbathing, reading, swimming and chatting involved. The Judes girls even did a little tandem parasailing in the gorgeous mid-afternoon sun.
We all chatted about our next steps, fears of our unknown next steps and how much we were going to miss one another. It was such a fast friendship and we all agreed the only thing keeping that final day from being one of tears and sadness was knowing that we were all going to meet up at an international destination again very soon. We’d made a pact. Right now we’re leaning towards meeting in Italy. We’ll let you know how that goes in a year’s time.
That night, we ended up at a Canadian-owned restaurant and had some delicious grilled food. Burgers, skewers, cheese sticks and even some vegetarian lasagne. Oh and the music was oldies hip hop – something you never hear in this part of the world. Ever.
We brought another game with us that night, a card game called Boggle Slam. For those of you who have played Boggle, this is a slightly more portable version where you start with a four-letter word (usually “GAME”), deal out the remaining cards and race to make as many words on top of that initial word as possible by changing only one letter at a time. The first person out of cards wins.
The rest of the girls turned in early but Bagheera and I wanted to have a drink before we headed back to the hotel so we headed back to old faithful, the first bar whose doors we’d darkened with our Heads Up game the second night.
While we were sitting, slurping our massive coconut beverages, one of the waiters sidled up next to us and pointed to a young man with a computer contraption rigged so that he could draw with an electronic pen. The waiter told us the young man was drawing us. He looked sheepish at first but we smiled kindly and stayed put knowing that if we moved locations his picture would be ruined.
Eventually, the artist beckoned to us to come over and take a look at the finished product.
He thanked us for not getting scared off. We struck up a conversation with him and before long we’d moved to his table as we discovered he was a Montrealer and native French-speaker. I felt so at home in that moment. We immediately switched into French and were pleasantly surprised to find that we hadn’t lost a whole lot of our proficiency.
He grilled us with questions about life as an expat in Vietnam and we grilled him about his nearly two-months spent here drawing, exploring and relaxing.
Christophe’s questions served as a reminder of how far I’d come since beginning this journey and how adventurous each and every day has been since arriving on Vietnamese soil. Sometimes I take my bravery for granted but on that night I was so proud of my accomplishments and myself in general.
Let the gratitude continue! And may the lessons be gentle.