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Sarah and Emily’s Travel Diary

Wednesday, 08 Nov 2006

Location: Nha Trang and Dalat, Vietnam

MapAlone and wide awake we jumped on the bus for 12 hours to a beach. We needed a beach to chill out, it’s hard work doing nothing, so we climbed aboard and steadied ourselves for the packed coach. Not all tourists as expected and we talked to a couple who had been on an overnight bus where people were sleeping in aisles so we were very glad to have only baggage in our escape route and not livestock or sleeping Vietnamese.

The lights went out straight away and we had no chance of reading so we did as everyone else and put on our MP3 players. We were nodding off in the upright position quite easily, only the bus kept stopping every half hour. If someone wasn’t vomiting they were hungry or in need of the toilet, so our slumber was disturbed (others had taken valium, not recommended but we were very jealous). On arriving we were hassled and cajoled into looking at various rooms and we were determined to go and find our own, with another couple in tow (Emily and Ringo - the valium kings) we managed to stay in a hotel – yes with free toothbrush at a reasonable rate. This was 6 in the morning and while others went to sleep after so much deprivation we wanted to work through it. The best way to defeat tiredness was a mud bath, so bikinis on after a stroll on the beach watching 2000 people doing tai chi we caught a bus and were the only ones at the spa….

It’s quite daunting being the only people in an area where you have to get almost naked and walk around caked in mud, but we loved it, we were confused as to what we did first but a lot of sign language later we realised that we had to sit in a mud bath and then dry out in the sun (not much to dry out with a 8.30 am). Next came the aqua massage which entailed walking on pebbles while jets of water are pummeled into your body. The pebbles hurt the most – what a tough life! More people were arriving and we started talking to a 66 year old American called Charlie (not the best name to have over here granted). He was with his Vietnamese wife and her family, so our initial theories were wrong. He said that all flights to Nha Trang were cancelled due to the typhoon (which never came) and usually the spa would have 200-300 people on a Saturday. Yes we have landed on our feet again! After the pummeling from the waterfall we headed to the 38oC pool where we nearly fainted in the water and decided what we really needed to relax (as if we weren’t already) was a massage.

Ah the massage. If you’re not used to a woman covering you in baby oil and standing on your back, it’s apparently standard around here. No need to mention that Sarah nearly jumped a mile when the woman mounted her and put her knee in every vertebrate but it was surprisingly relaxing and after wrestling with a knotty bobble, Emily’s head massage was divine. The awkward part is always when you’re naked and a foreign person asked you for a tip. Now really, where is my money…!? A meal and a shower later (for we now had the skin of ducks as oil just rolled off us) it was time to leave Charlie. He was so pleased that we were traveling and couldn’t tell us enough how we should write everything down, and never forget what we have done. An affirmation that this website is fabulous, and Charlie says that we will appreciate so much more of life when we get back home. We already do Charlie, we already do.

Back in town we sat on the beach and watched the waves dangerously crash on the shore and went in search of Crazy Kim. Her café bar taught street kids English at 10 am everyday, so we went to sign up. Unfortunately Sunday was a rest day and we were leaving on Monday. Good deed almost done, we booked a boat trip for the following day and promised ourselves we would do some good another time… Met up with Ringo and Emily after dinner and had a few too many free shots. The boat had better not be rocky…!

The boat was full of Vietnamese, so it took a while for us to understand really what was going on and where we were going. To be honest we don’t really know now where we ended up so bear with us. We headed straight to a national heritage bit of water for scuba diving. Having not done this in a while we quickly remembered that it is difficult to speak while breathing and that you can’t put your feet down in the sea. Quick note – you can tell an Australian as they call it the Ocean, a Brit will always say the sea! So back on the boat and to an island off Nha Trang where we stopped for our lunch on the boat. This was followed by the most interesting cabaret act going. The crew all joined in singing and playing instruments in Vietnamese, until they bragged that they could sing a song in any languages. “Where you from, where you from?” they bellowed at two German girls and promptly sang in Vietnamese/German. We too had the same question and when we answered the man pointed at us and the two girls and shouted “why you now fighting they are german?!hahahaha” oh yes, that was the best introduction we’ve ever had to other travelers… So thankfully they sang ‘Yellow Submarine’ by the Beatles and tried in vain to make us dance to ‘Twist and Shout’ but really we were just avoiding eye contact at all costs with the butch Germans across the way.

Another stop at an island where we could sit and read and escape the crew and when we got back on the boat it was time for the floating bar. Thank you Lord, drink to help us get through this. What with the Vietnamese women taking photos of us (mainly our chests) on their camera phones and the German’s who clearly didn’t want to be our friends now; we needed a little help. Grabbing onto a ring we dashed to the man with the wine and let it flow. Most stayed on the boat – ah well more for us!

After deciding not visit the aquarium shaped like a pirate shop and reading our books, it was back to a fruit party on the boat. We recognized pineapple and watermelon, and gorged lazily as we went back to shore. The lady we met at the Spa at had told us how her boat had hit rocks and sunk the day before, but ours was slightly less eventful, but a lovely way to spend a day though! We headed for an Indian and had an early night, we were off to Dalat the next day, and another bus ride without sleep was not an option!

Our bus ride to Dalat was a good one, there was hardly anyone on the coach so we could spread out, watch the scenery, read books, sleep, relax...ah nice! The bumpy roads were a bit like riding a horse though you were launched right out of your seat and the mountain roads were littered with smashed windscreens and clothes - not exactly reassuring! But we arrived in Dalat safe and sound and were dumped outside a far too expensive hotel so we heaved our bags on and started the trawl round hotels for cheap rooms. After visiting about 10 not too great ones (but clearly empty as all the keys were hung up) we decided a drink was needed so after a sugar rush from Coke Sarah headed off to look while Emily stayed with the bags (don't worry we were both perfectly safe!). Sarah did a good job and found a nice hotel for $5 a night, much cleaner than the others we'd seen and with everything we required (fan, mosquito net, private bathroom, T.V). So then we went for a wander around the town - and we weren't very impressed! They call it 'little Paris' - in their dreams! The people were rude and hassling you, everything was dirty and smelt and it didn't have a nice atmosphere - not that we're quick to judge or anything but hey we just didn't like it. Even the arrival of Team Gold couldn't make us like the place, though we did have good food at 'V Cafe', Emily finally had the mashed potato she'd been craving and Sarah went for Mexican (you know how we like our local cuisine!).

The next day was our only full day in Dalat so this was the real test of the place. Dalat is famous for its waterfalls and lakes (and are compared to the Lake District - not that Emily's been there to compare the two) and the best way to see them is to hire 'Easy Riders', they are local motorcycle guides (on slightly more vintage motorcycles - which just means they are harder to swing your leg over!). We had a couple of really friendly guides who took us round for the afternoon. The first waterfall 'Dalatal Falls' (maybe?) we had to walk down to after the bikes had dropped us, and it was an extremely steep walk down (and you know when you walk down you have to come back up!), it was a magnificent waterfall and there were no other tourists there so we had a private viewing! We were dreading the walk back up but luckily they had an 'Alpine Sledge', which looked like it would be fun on the way down, gently meandering down but on the way up it just went vertically up (with no brakes or control) - ah just like Alton Towers but here there is no-one to hear you scream! We were soon back at the top and back on the bikes ready for 'Paradise Lake'. A very peaceful lake if you ignore the building work going on. We then had to climb a hill to a monastry (the Easy Riders were meeeting us up there we had no choice!) which also had building work going on - ah the downside of going places off-season. Then off on the bikes to Cam Ly Falls.

So the main reason we wanted to go to Cam Ly wasn't the waterfall (we knew that Dalatal would be better) it was knowing that there were loads of fake animals to have our photos with so we weren't put off when the woman at the ticket office advised us not to go in as the falls were 'smelly' (due to the rain the sewage had mixed with the fresh water - nice!) as this didn't effect the photos and also meant we could spend time looking in the water for anything amusing - so mature! After these falls it was back on the bikes back to the hotel and yes we had actually enjoyed this outing so maybe Dalat isn't all bad! We had our last meal together with Charlie as he was staying on after the 4 of us left and so after another meal at 'V Cafe' (Emily having Mexican this time!) Charlie took us on a long detour round to a bar (if he'd wanted an evening stroll after the meal he only had to say, rather than 'pretend' to be taking us to a bar!). We did eventually find the bar and so finished the evening off with our traditional games of pool (maybe one day we'll get better!). So long Charlie!