Well, it’s good to back in the land of the fully awake… I’ve spent the last few days partying hard in Nha Trang, in the company of many many very fun individuals, including one fabulous storyteller known in some circles, apparently, as Pisshead Si – I’d say we all agree that it’s an appropriate moniker. Along with Paul, Liam, Sam and several others whose names I either can’t remember or never knew, it’s a recipe for a serious bender.
The party began two days ago when I went on Mama Hanh’s four-island boat trip. Once we were all on the boat, around 9 a.m., our guide (whose name was Vietnamese for Strong Man) said a few words by way of introduction and welcome, followed by the reading of the rules:
– If you don’t have fun, you don’t go back.
– If you’re not drunk, you don’t go back.
– If you’re not full (of food, and too much of it), you don’t go back.
In any of these cases, we were told, we would be left with a life preserver out in the South China Sea and picked up by him the following day. This concluded the reading of the rules.
I wish I could remember the names of the islands we visited and do it in the proper order, but I don’t. I do, however, remember what happened, which is more important. First stop was snorkeling among some really beautiful and colorful coral and sponge formations. Some of my fellow boaters got sick of wrestling with their masks (which were crappy) and instead floated in life preservers, drinking BGI beer out of cans. Thus, it was about 10 a.m. when the drinking officially began.
Second stop, lunch. We all gorged ourselves while Strong Man reminded us that if we didn’t eat enough we would be left out to sea. After lunch, singing. Strong Man showed off his linguistic prowess (he can apparently sing in 26 languages) by doing a number for every nationality/language on the boat, which made about 10. Then, to make us feel better about our apparent ignorance, he taught us to sing Clementine in Vietnamese. Yes, Clementine. No, I don’t know why.
After singing, more drinking: it was time for the Floating Wine Bar. Strong Man sat in the middle of a strange, UFO looking contraption with a case of mulberry wine, and we all floated around him in life preservers until there was none left.
Two stops, more swimming, drinking and hilarity later, we returned to port around 4 in the afternoon and agreed to meet up at the Sailing Club for Happy Hour. What made us think this would be a good idea is beyond me. Happy hour runs from 6:30 to 10:30 every evening, and means 2-for-1 beers and free shots of vodka/pineapple/orange. Combine that with free pool all night and a gorgeous beachfront location – perfect for watching the moonrise – and you’ve got serious trouble. The plan, of course, is to get you to stay past happy hour. It works. We were there, I think, until about 3 in the morning.
So yesterday was a wash, lounging around on the beach and playing pool and staring blankly at inanimate objects was about all we could bring ourselves to do. That, and listening to Simon’s excellent tales.
And now, 12 hours of sleep later, I’m feeling pretty good. Off to Hoi An tonight, to (according to popular opinion) fend off millions of touts and perhaps have some clothing made, even though I keep telling myself I’m not going to.
I’ve still got stuff to post about the Delta and other things before I arrived bere, but that will have to wait. There’s just one other thing I want to put out there today:
It’s hard for me to find ways to remember and record the sheer volume of beauty I see in this country. The other day on the bus from Muine, I was watching rocky hills rise from the water’s edge, then fall away to enormous vibrant green rice paddies. The sea was a blue jewel off to the east, and ahead of us the rolling green foothills of the central highlands beckoned. Nha Trang lies just at the foot of these hills, and I’ll be passing through them tonight. It was a difficult choice to take a night bus, since I’ll be missing a lot of the scenery, but my hope is that I’ll be able to get enough sleep to make tomorrow a productive day anyway. If not, I’ll take it as a lesson learned and travel by day (or by train, which is comfortable but much more expensive) from now on. It occurs to me that much of this trip will lie dormant in my memory, waiting for moments to surface. It’s hard to accept that there’s no real way to set this down concretely – the beauty, the dozens of little excellent moments every day – but accept it I must.
And now, I’m shutting up. And all of you who read this and never write, I urge you to drop me a line sometime.