Nha Trang: ‘4 of your finest 30 cent beers please’

So we arrived in Nha Trang at some ungodly hour like 6 or 7 am and went to check into our hotel. The night bus was worse than the train. At around 10 pm the people working on the bus told us all it was time for sleep. Fair enough, we hadn’t been told that in 15 years but we were pretty tired. So they turned off the lights.. But they turned up the music. Vietnamese music.

Over the past few weeks we have grown to love and appreciate the Vietnamese culture but the music is a different story. It is not really our cup of tea. So after a while a few people started complaining saying ‘can you please turn off the music so we can sleep?’ The Vietnamese bus people just started dancing and saying ‘oh but we love it!’. What was worse was that it was the same album on repeat for 14 hours. Hence, our first day in Nha Trang was spent sleeping to get over a night of no sleep and Vietnamese music.

The next day we began to get our bearings, it is not the most pretty place in the world but we were came primarily for the long, sandy beach which was really impressive. Unfortunately the weather was pretty grey, surely it would improve though. It didn’t. So it wasn’t like we were out lying on the beach every day, not really the same sunbathing under clouds. So we bought a Frisbee which distracted us for hours on end. The best part of Nha Trang was most definitely the night life.

There was a great strip leading up to the beach with plenty of restaurants and bars and at night time the town really came to life. One of the great things about being away is trying different restaurants and dishes and enjoying a variety of food and culture. We found a great restaurant on the 1st night and going against what I just said, we didn’t leave it all week. Now in our defence, the menu was so extensive that you could eat dinner there for 3 months straight and get a different dish every time. Also in our defence, beers were 30 cent each. By, Andy, Diarmo and I were sold based on that alone.

We got to know the staff so well and enjoyed the food so much that we figured why try anywhere else? And the breakfast was so good that we had that there too! One night the 4 of us got into a big argument there, not about anything serious, it was actually about the rules of a drinking game and at one point I said ‘ah lads we are in a restaurant, we should probably keep it down’ but to us it had become a second home, the staff didn’t even look in our direction disapprovingly, but then again we were their number one customers!

There was one waitress who would greet us each afternoon and evening with a huge smile, she was there for our every request. On a couple of occasions, she even had to restock the fridge with Saigon beers because we had polished it off. It became apparent that this girl worked here pretty much every day morning to night and not once did she seem fatigued or annoyed, this summed up the kind of people the Vietnamese are: incredibly hard-working, ever-friendly and brilliant hosts.

So after lovely dinners and beers we would venture onto our local – Oasis, which also offered cheap beers and excellent sheesha, a form of oriental smoking that tastes delicious. We also headed to a very nice place called the Sailing club, a really fancy looking place on the water’s edge. What connection the bar had to sailing I have no idea but they certainly made the theme sailing and although drinks were a tad more expensive here, it was a nice place to have a few beers or cocktails and a great place for the ladies.

So the craic reached serious levels on nights in Nha Trang, so much so our Australian friends started falling apart. On one famous night, Byron returned to the hotel and seeing nobody at reception, decided to do the job himself, throwing room keys everywhere looking for his own. The receptionist eventually awoke and was pretty frightened seeing what Byron was doing.

Now he may be as big as a bear but he’s such a harmless guy he explained the situation to her pretty well to put her at ease. Andy returned soon after and we found him face down in the hallway, he didn’t quite make it to the room. The good thing was we had the hotel to ourselves , it was literally empty and we are not sure why, €4 a night for a nice room was a fantastic deal. So falling asleep in the middle of the hallway was totally ok really, it was pretty much our floor!

Every guide book warned us to be careful in South-East Asia of thieves, but at this point we had not even sensed a hint of danger. But on one faithful night in Nha Trang, my iPod Touch was robbed in the most mysterious fashion. Somewhere between the Oasis bar and our hotel between the hours of 12 and 3, it was taken right from my pocket. It could have been a sneaky backpacker in the bar or it could have been one of the many prostitutes who were around in force groping us on the way home at night, offering a ‘good time’.

Nonetheless I returned the next day to talk to the manager of the  bar and he assured me he would check the video cameras from the previous night. We came back later on and he was a little busy trying to chat up a couple of swedish girls. One of whom made my jaw drop to the floor. The 4 of us got cigars and cocktails as I sat pretty speechless at the sight of this girl.

Anyway our Aussie friends left on the Thursday but it would not be our final meeting with them. On the night prior to their departure we sat discussing our plans for the next 2 months in South-East Asia. They were heading to Vang Vieng for New Years, the famous or perhaps infamous tubing venue in laos, which would no doubt be spectacular on New Years. Our plan was to go to Cambodia and visit Laos afterwards.

Diarmo had fallen asleep and Andy and By devised a plan to invert our Cambodia and Laos plans, meaning New Years would be spent with them in Vang Vieng. I doubted whether Diarmo would change his plans and booked flights for both of us to take us from Saigon to Vientiane on December 28th. There was nothing he could do now. When he awoke By asked him ‘Hey Diarmo who wants to go to Laos for New Years? Well you have no choice’. He was mad for a bout 5 minutes before deciding this was a fantastic call.

So we bid our farewells to the lads and that evening, we went for our customary pint in the Oasis club. And who was there only the Swedish girls. They were agin being chatted up by the manager and some of his Vietnamese friends. The one that made my draw drop came to me at the bar and said ‘can you get us away from those guys?’. I tried to hide my excitement as best I could.

So we took them to our table and the 4 of us taught each other Swedish and Irish, played some jenga, had a great chat and headed off to the Sailing Bar later on. Natalie was her name and Diarmo could see the admiration for her in my eyes. He played the role of the greatest wingman ever that night, as he took good care of her friend who wasn’t bad herself. It’s safe to say a great night was had by all!

I spent the day smiling ear to ear the next day, not even minding spending 300 on a brand new iPod. They are pretty much essential while traveling, for keeping in touch with home, listening to music on long journeys and blog writing of course. There was no Apple store for 600 kilometres so I bought one from an English guy who runs a shappy store in Nha trang. But this being Vietnam, i got 100 albums put onto it for an extra 20 euro, music which would become the soundtrack to our travels.

On our last day in Nha Trang we decided to head out to Vinpearl island. It was Vietnam’s answer to a kind of a theme park and they even thought they were the next best thing to Hollywood as the picture demonstrates. It wasn’t a good answer. There was a water park which was pretty cool. However, when we would reach the end of a slide there were always Vietnamese people standing and laughing. Not in a mean way, it was as if we entertained them!

Diarmuid achieved a great feat in actually hitting the wall at the end of the slide (the one you’re not meant to hit, you’re meant to stop aren’t you?), the Vietnamese cracked up. There was also an aquarium which brings out the child in Diarmuid, God he loves turtles.

So we had one last night out in Nha Trang and Diarmo using his impressive dance moves,  found a nice Australian girl. Meanwhile I couldn’t top the previous night so I didn’t even try, I instead took a ride on a taxi motorcycle around the town and had a massive argument with him over the price which Diarmo caught the end of, it was me saying ‘fine then, take your blood money!’.

Although Nha Trang wasn’t what we expected it to be which was lying on the beach getting a tan, it certainly didn’t let us down. We may have seen very little daylight here, but the fun we had during darkness really made up for it. It really isn’t the most pretty part of Vietnam but it is worth a stop for any backpacker, there are plenty of restaurants which we hear are very nice and the bars are some of the best we’ve seen on our travels.

So Christmas was upon us and the word from home was of freezing temperatures, snow covering the roads and of course Ireland being unable to handle this weather. We decided to spend our Christmas under palm trees on the beach in a little seaside town called Mui Ne.

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