Kefalonia In a Day – Beaches, Caves, and Cocktails

It stormed in the middle of the night, cleansing the air so that today feels fresh as opposed to the usual 32 degree, muggy heat. It’s actually breathable.

We dive right in to our day of tourist activities by driving to the Drogarati cave.
Continue reading “Kefalonia In a Day – Beaches, Caves, and Cocktails”

Turtles and Caves

Committing to an 8:30am tour feels like the biggest mistake I’ve ever made. I didn’t go out last night, I had a very chill day, but I haven’t had to get up early in weeks. My body clock is rejecting this. But hey! I’m goin’ to see a cool beach (famous Shipwreck) and some caves so I do eventually drag myself out of bed.  Continue reading “Turtles and Caves”

White Party

Yo. While I think this island is crazy and might as well belong to the UK, I’m here. So I might as well immerse myself and get into the nightlife, right?! DJ MK is playing tonight at some “white only” party (attire, not people) and Abi got us tickets. Continue reading “White Party”

Zakynthos Knife Fight

In a fun turn of events, Expedia has actually written me back to let me know they’ve refunded the 60€ to my account! Bless their little souls. Lesson learned kids, always complain until you get what you want. Continue reading “Zakynthos Knife Fight”

New Hood

The lawd has blessed me with another job interview this morning. My life is about to become hella hectic though, because I have to move out of the hostel, into my apartment, and be at this interview… all before 10am. I groggily pack my bag, take the fastest, weakest shower of my life, and beg the front desk to let me leave my bag with them for an hour. I don’t want to pay the 5€ fee that they charge for a full day. Hell nah. They say if I’m back before noon I don’t have to pay. Sick homie, I can do that.  
I hop on the metro and essentially RUN to my interview. It’s 10:05 when I arrive and I apologize for being late but my interviewer laughs and says he felt unprepared because expected I’d show up closer to 10:30 anyway. I check, and the e-mail definitely says 10:00. Spain is too chill. I can’t imagine what would happen if you showed up 30 minutes late to an interview in Canada. They’d probably laugh too…and then slam the door in your face. 

It becomes clear about 2 minutes into this interview that they’ve already decided to hire me. Classes start Monday, so I think they’ve been like “awhhhh shit we don’t have enough teachers”, picked up my resume, and said to themselves, “sweet let’s do it”. It’s less of an interview and more of an explanation for how it’s going to work. That’s all good with me because I’m hireddddd!  17€/hour is very acceptable. It’s only 2 hours a week though, so I’m still poor. 

It’s a fun little project though, that teaches young kids after school, and is built around the idea of “traveling around the world”. So day 1, we’ll be making fake passports with the kids. Day 2, filling up a fake suitcase, and teaching colours and other vocabulary as we go. I think it sounds really fun, and it’s nice that I’ll be apart of their first time trying it. 

I go back to my stinky old hostel for the last time, so I can pick up my bag and get the hell out. Byeeeee! See ya never! 

I take the metro 5 stops to my new hood, get in the teeny tiny elevator that takes me to the roof, and I am home. It feels wonderful to take my things out of my backpack and hang them up, or fold them and place them on a self. The majority, however, go in a giant pile destined for the laundry machine. Another perk to this apartment. In suite laundry! It’s Europe, so there’s no dryer, just hanging racks, but I am not complaining at all. I don’t know how they go without dryers in Ireland or England, but in sunny Barcelona it works just fine. 

Feeling stoked on life after I’ve unpacked and settled in, I message my French boys to come hang out at the beach with me. Lindzee is in Paris all weekend so my friend group is even smaller than usual. Only Mazen gets back to me, so he comes to my metro stop, and we walk 30 minutes to the beach. Yes, that’s right, my house is 30 minutes from the beach. And the good beaches, at that. Not the super touristy ones in Barceloneta. I’m living the dream. 

I get a great photo of Mazen, who doesn’t have Facebook for it to be his new profile picture (tragic), so I will share it here. My photo skills must be improving! 


Later, we get a text from Francisco who’s doing a DJ set tonight, so we go downtown to meet up with him at his bar. He invites me to come learn how to DJ, steps away to take a picture of me doing it, but instructs me not to actually touch anything…


I’m now a pro. You can find me in Ibiza next summer. 

Visiting Francisco of course leads us to another bar, and another, but I dip out on our way to the next. I’m sleepy, and it’s such a boys night anyway, I need Lindzee to return to me so I can have some estrogen back in my life. It occurs to me that she’s literally the only other woman I know here. Even though these guys are lovely, I need to make some female friends. 

Koh Rong

I wake up to the sun shining through our hostel window. Wait, why is no alarm ringing?! What time is it?! No!!!! My phone is dead. It is most definitely later than 8:30am, when we were due to catch the ferry over to Koh Rong. Sigrid was going to meet us at the pier and everything, oh my god, I am a terrible friend.
In my defence, the entire hostel room is without a single wall plug. In the hostel’s defence… It’s $1 to sleep there. Rats.
I wake Tamara, tell her we’ve missed the boat, and we scramble to get our stuff together before heading downstairs where there are a plethora of plugs to be used. I see that it’s 9:30am according to the clock above the bar. I order some breakfast while I wait for my phone to charge, feeling so guilty all the while. I’m used to being a bit late, but it’s rare that I miss something entirely.
The first thing I do when it finally turns back on, is message Sigrid. She’s surprisingly chill about us missing the boat, and says she’ll come back to the pier for the next boat at noon. I hope it isn’t too far from where she’s staying. She’s found a room at a guest house for all three of us to share when we do finally arrive. I’ve heard accommodation can get pretty expensive on Koh Rong, but apparently this place is only going to cost $4 each a night. Sweet!

We get our stuff together for 11am and make it down to the pier…on time. We pile onto a relatively large boat with a bunch of other backpackers, and take the smooth ride across to Koh Rong. When we arrive, we are directed to CoCo’s bar where we have to listen to a small lecture they call a “safety meeting”. It mostly consists of important information like; don’t try to ride the wild water buffalo, be aware that the power goes out every night between 3 and 9am, don’t go hiking alone in the dark, watch out for snakes, expect to get infected bug bites, and watch out for theft. Apparently, because Koh Rong is still so newly available to tourists and mostly consists of simple wooden guesthouses, they’re easily broken into and many things mysteriously go missing. When our lecturer starts advising us on which restaurants to eat at, we silently slip out and go to meet Sigrid. Ain’t nobody got time for that when there’s a beautiful island to be explored!
Luckily, the pier is about 10 feet away from our guesthouse, so even though us being so late wasn’t cool, Sisi didn’t have to walk too far or waste money on a tuk tuk or anything to come meet us. Koh Rong is even smaller than I imagined. There isn’t a road in sight; just a beach lined with modest guesthouses and bars. Nothing fancy, just bare minimum, bamboo, closest we’ve come to untouched, tropical beauty. Crystal clear tael water lies just steps from the doors of each building, making any lodging along the beach an ideal beach front property. You can’t lose. Sisi shows us to our $12 guesthouse. It’s just one queen and one single bed with a small table and two bug nets protected by four flimsy wooden walls. That’s all we need anyway. It’s perfect. We drop our stuff, leaving everything behind except for our towels, and head down to the beach. We walk 10 minutes down the shore just so we’re not so close to the “central” area, next to Coco’s bar and the pier.
We lay in the sun and take in our surroundings. It truly is a paradise; the most beautiful island I’ve ever been to. A few long tail boats are anchored just off the beach, and a couple even smaller islands are visible on the horizon.

A few hours later, Devin arrives. He’s earlier than the last boat is due to arrive from Sihanoukville, but definitely too late to have come in on the morning boat. He tells us he tried to save a few bucks by opting for the $9 slow boat, instead of paying $15 for the regular ferry which took us an hour. He was told the slow boat would take 2 hours. 6 hours later, after picking up and dropping off fruit at other neighbouring islands on a boat filled to the brim with people, he arrived in Koh Rong. He says it wasn’t worth saving $6.

We have a lazy day, playing frisbee in the crystal clear ocean water and laying in the sand. The sand flies are pretty relentless, but a few bites on my legs here and there is a minor sacrifice to make for this island paradise.

When dusk rolls around we head down to the other end of the beach past our guesthouse. Before we even arrived in Koh Rong people were raving about Sigi’s; a food stall owned by a Thai chef who once lived in Manhattan, but left that busy world behind to live a humble life on Koh Rong, selling delicious Thai dishes for $2 to hungry visitors. I order something called “drunken noodles” which I’d never seen before while visiting Thailand. It’s mildly spicy and entirely scrumptious. Definitely worth $2. We get there early enough that we can sit down and chat with Sigi a bit while he cooks. He’s only about 50, but exudes wisdom and inner peace. He lives in a simple tent on the beach just behind his food stand, and I’ve never met someone so happy. I foresee more meals here in my future.

We all sit outside Coco’s bar with some new found friends from all over. Chile, Denmark, Germany, the USA, and some fellow Canadians. We order round after round of the ever-cheap 2000 riel (50 cent) Klang beer and sit chatting in papasan chairs along the beach. I’m not sure exactly how this comes about, but Devin and the other Canadian guy, who’s name happens to be Kevin, manage to convince the German guy, Levin (I’m not making this up) that they are brothers. Devin’s from Calgary and Kevin is from Halifax, literally opposite ends of the country, but Levin doesn’t need to know that. At some point the joke escalates and they manage to slip in that their “fathers” name is Evan. It takes everything I’ve got to keep myself from bursting into a fit of laughter, but I don’t want to ruin the joke.

When the power goes out, and there’s nothing to light the sky but the bright white face of the moon, we go on an adventure. Phosphorous plankton surround the island, and someone has heard that they are best seen on Four Kilometre Beach; a 15 minute walk through the forest from where we sit now. I swam with phosphorous plankton in Thailand for the first time, and still value that night as one of my fondest travel memories. Regular swimming has never been the same since. I can’t wait to go and have my body movements lit up by the tiny little glowing blue plankton.

I grab my phone as a light for pathway to the beach before we leave. We can’t exactly be walking through the forest in the pitch black, with the natural moonlight blocked by the tree canopy, or we’ll never find the place. There’s a faint pathway to follow that has no doubt been created by the footsteps of other plankton chasers of the past.

At the end of the trail, we arrive at a short rocky beach. This isn’t what I had in mind, but it must be the place. We strip down and wade into the calm, dark night’s water. I can’t understand the hype about this beach; it’s million little rocks digging into the soles of my feet as I try to walk deep enough to swim. The tiny blue plankton glow beneath the surface, illuminating nothing but my legs as I struggle to find a way to swim. That’s when I hear Tamara, who has made it slightly further than I, shout back to me that her foot is burning. She quickly makes it back to shore, and I pull out my phone to inspect her foot with some light. She has at least three or four black sea urchin needles lodged in the bottom of her foot like splinters. We panic a little bit. Aren’t these things poisonous? We’re at least 15 minutes from the main beach, and I’m sure that the one single doctor on the island is asleep.
Shortly after we start looking at the splinters under the light of my iPhone, Tamara’s burning sensation goes down. Devin comes back to the beach with similar needles on his knees, but doesn’t seem too concerned, so we just carry on. No one seems like they’re dying.

We head back to the main beach anyway, in search of a more comfortable and less rocky swimming area where no one has to worry about being poisoned with sharp black urchin needles.
I put my phone in Devin’s bag and dive off the dock into the sparkly plankton-full water. Doing my best to soak up my incredible surroundings to be sure this moment never leaves my memory. Cambodia, and Koh Rong in particular, is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. I love it here. Going home in three weeks is going to feel painful.

When the beer haze and our infatuation with the plankton start to fade, we call it a night and climb back up to the dock. Devin reaches his bag first, and blankly states that it’s been ransacked. I laugh, assuming he’s making some weird joke, but then I see some of his things scattered around the ground.

Oh. No.
My phone was in there. Please dear god tell me it wasn’t taken!! I NEED that! I look around, panicked, and looking for any possible culprit, but there’s nothing but an empty beach and darkness around me. Devin loses an iPod full of music and a camera with 11 months of travel photos, I lose my precious iPhone, and our two Chilean friends both have their wallets stolen. I feel like an idiot for even bringing the phone out with me tonight, but we needed a flashlight! There’s no electricity at this hour, so I can’t even use someone else’s wifi to track it down. It’s gone.

I go back to the guesthouse and fall asleep feeling foolish, angry, and grieving the loss of my phone. It will surely be an adjustment… I don’t even have an alarm clock to wake myself up tomorrow.

Motorbiking Around Phu Quoc

Today is the day. After a motorbike accident in Thailand almost two years ago, I haven’t really tried to drive one again. There was a brief ride around Sapa before I got scared and returned it. Today shall be different. Phu Quoc is the perfect place to get comfortable on a bike again. There are minimal hills, the traffic is mild, and there are very few buses/trucks/large things that could kill me. Motorbiking is the only real way to get around anyway. Our hostel is at least an hours walk outside the town, and even further from the cooler, more untouched areas of the island. I see hills covered in jungle and I wanna go!
No tour companies have established any trails in the jungle yet, so we would get the chance to explore it completely on our own. Provided that I make it there alive on my bike.

We rent bikes for $6 each. My stomach is turning, but I hate feeling afraid of anything and know I’ll have to face this at some point. We aren’t asked for passports, a license, or any form of ID. Just 120,000 dong up front. I get on my bike, and awkwardly have to ask how to turn it on while simultaneously pretending I’ve done this before. The shop keeper asks me if it’s my first time driving a bike, and I say no. Which is true. I choose not to point to the big purple scar on my ankle to prove it.

I get off to a really unbalanced and slow start, but luckily there’s no one else on the road. It takes me some time to get used to the speed control at my right hand, but after some practice my driving becomes much less jolty. Corners are where I screwed up in Thailand, so every curve in the road fills me with doubt, but I make it through a series of curves unscathed and am instantly more confident. This isn’t so bad! I still drive at a snails pace…but I do what I want.

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We head North on the island and through town, to find a road that will take us up to the jungle. There are maybe 5 roads total on the map of Phu Quoc. While it’s a soon-to-be vacation hot spot, it’s still in the process of being built up (which is a huge shame by the way), so for the moment it’s pretty hard to get lost. We head straight North for half an hour before hitting a dead end. A small, gravel side road jets off to our left, and after consulting the map we figure it could potentially lead us to a trekking trail. We decide to follow it.
Feeling extra dodgey and unexperienced on the gravel road, I take it really slow and follow behind Tamara. The road just gets worse and worse. We hit sand, mud, more gravel, large rocks, and some steep slopes. I still don’t know how, but I survive. There are some close calls when driving through the sand, though.

The only things back here are farms and houses. After driving for half an hour and finding nothing, we stop at a fork in the road and discuss turning around. Just at this moment, a group of locals drive by and tell us it’s “same same!” “It’s okay!” and encourage us to keep going. We do. Another half hour of near death experiences passes when we find ourselves at another dead end. This time for real. Luckily for us, the dead end is a small farm and the family is sitting outside. I know that no one will speak English, but I hope that by showing them the map they can point us in the right direction.
I point up to the area that we’re in; the north west side of the map. One of the farmers inspects the map with me, and points to a mid-south eastern point on the map. We are in a totally different place than we thought we were. How have we ended up south east when we thought we were going north west?! I almost don’t believe him. The area he’s pointing to has a picture of a big waterfall next to it. I try to ask him where it is, and he points to a downward sloping tree-root covered trail just next to his home. He points at the motorbikes and I know I will definitely die if I am to drive down such a steep incline in a jungle. We motion to ask if we can walk instead, and somehow figure out that it’s what he meant for us to do in the first place. He was pointing at the bikes for us to leave them. Aha! Good thing we didn’t try to rip down that path on a motorbike when they were telling us to leave them behind. That might have gone over poorly.

We leave our stuff and set out on foot to the jungle trail. It feels so wonderful to walk. We meander, alone, along a sandy pathway and across a stream.

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The stream is good news, the waterfall must be close! We skip across dry rocks scattered over the water, until we come across a Vietnamese couple having a picnic lunch under a tree. We say “Xin Chao!” and keep walking, but they stop us, shaking their hands about and saying “no”. They speak no English so I can’t figure out why we’re being told we can’t continue but it annoys me. But I want to keep walking up the stream. It doesn’t look dangerous and I’m almost certain this is the way to the waterfall. I also doubt that they’re any kind of park official. Just to be sure. We reluctantly turn around anyway. They seem pretty adamant that we can’t continue. Rude.
We haven’t eaten yet today so we walk back towards the trail and stop to cut up a mango before going back to our bikes.

After driving along the same questionable, sandy trail all the way back to the main road, we are starving. We stop for lunch at a cheap Vietnamese restaurant in town. I try to order chicken Pho, because it’s cheapest, but am told there’s no chicken so ill have to have shrimp. No problem! It’s only 5,000 dong more and I am on an island after all. Tamara tries to order shrimp fried rice and is told she can’t. She has to order stuffed squid. What? Again, she just agrees but how is it possible that there are no shrimp for her but enough shrimp for me? Nothing makes sense. Sometimes I wonder if it’s a nation-wide joke just to screw with the tourists.
When our food comes it’s delicious though! Pho is even better with seafood, and Tamara’s stuffed squid is unreal.

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All for the affordable price of 40,000 dong/person.

From here we head South to find a beach. We’ve heard from friends at the hostel that the beaches in the South are even nicer than the one nearest us. We drive for another half hour or so before getting sort of lost again. We know we’re on the right road, but can’t find the side road to the beach. We come across a small turn off with a sign that says “do not enter” in big block letters, but we see a bunch of Vietnamese people pulling in on their scooters, so we follow too. Do not enter doesn’t really mean do not enter in Vietnam.

Just kidding, it does. We make it 20 meters before Tamara is stopped by a man with a huge gun. Like maybe an AK47. I don’t know, that’s the only gun type I know. He’s holding it, ready to go, it’s not just tucked away behind his back. He comes over to us shaking his head and we do our best to stay calm and act stupid. We didn’t see the sign. Isn’t this to way to the beach?? So sorry. Our mistake. Please don’t shoot us. Okay bye. How can I turn this bike around as quickly as possible?

We escape unscathed but WHAT road were we just going down? Hey Zeus.

We find another street jetting off from the main one. Just as we’re trying to figure out if it’s safe to venture down, the two German guys from our hostel pull out on their motorbikes and tell us that the beach is incredible. We’re almost there! Sweet! We have to drive down another sandy road but I feel quite confident on my bike now so I handle it with ease. The sand is white and so soft between my toes. The water is calm and although it’s busier than the beach we were on yesterday, there are still minimal tourists.

We float out in the salty water for a long time before returning back to the beach. I’ve discovered the most horrendous tan on my legs. Motorbiking has worked against me yet again.

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As we’re relaxing in the sand I hear a “Hello! You! You! You!” and turn to see a Vietnamese man approaching me. What did I do?!
He asks me to go over and sit with his friend for a picture. Best believe I am not uber comfortable taking photos with strangers while I’m in a bikini. I look at Tamara, then back at the man, shrug my shoulders and say fine. I don’t want to be rude, and I don’t think it’s a creepy thing. It’s just a being-blonde-in-Asia thing.
Tamara is hilarious and gets a photo of them getting a photo of me.

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They ask me questions like why I’ve come to Vietnam, if I am married, have a boyfriend, if I liked Ho Chi Minh City, and my age. Some of their friends crowd around and ask questions in Vietnamese to be translated. They’re all visiting Phu Quoc for a weekend from Ho Chi Minh. If I wasn’t sitting in a bikini surrounded by people all fully clothed I would totally love this. They have the best intentions though and I roll with it. One of the girls my age in their group asks if we can take a selfie before they leave. Of course we can!

Shortly after the group of Vietnamese tourists leave, we do too. The sun will set soon and we’ve got an hours drive before we can make it back to the hostel. Tamara gets fancy and takes a selfie of us driving on the bikes during the sunset. It’s so beautiful to see the sky light up and set behind the trees, but I don’t dare try to photograph it.

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We return our bikes and get back to the hostel safe and sound. Hoorah I didn’t die!! It’s official!
We meet up with some people at the hostel and go for dinner. We’ve got an early morning start tomorrow to leave Vietnam and move on to Cambodia. I feel excited and sad at the same time. I’ve only got one month of traveling left before I have to go home, but I’m always up for a new place and a new adventure. Bitter sweet for sure.

Island Sunsets and Swiss Burgers

The first thing we do when we wake up is to find some food. We find a small restaurant down the street with decent prices, and each order a plate of “seafood noodles”. The plate comes full of vegetables, squid, and shrimp, which are cooked to perfection. It hits the spot.

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We spend the rest of the afternoon lazing around on the beach. We are the only people all afternoon, besides Claudio, the Italian pasta cook who made us dinner last night. He comes to join us mid-way through the day. We’re craving more fresh fruit but pretty far away from anywhere we can do some shopping, so Claudio offers to drive us down to the market on his motorbike. He was going to pick up some more fish anyway. Awesome!

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He can only fit two of us on the bike, so Tamara decides to stay back and trusts me to pick up a good selection of fruit and veg. We’ve got a pretty regular order now; mangoes, bananas, pineapple, carrots and cucumbers.

Getting on Claudio’s motorcycle feels less than stable. It’s old, and every bump in the road makes me wonder if a piece of the bike might just go flying off. We make it into town alive but I hang on for dear life. We buy a whole lot of different fruit, including some stuff I’ve never tried before, and Claudio picks out a big red fish. Neither of us know what kind it is, though. We stuff all the fruit in my backpack, including an entire watermelon, and tie the bagged fish to the back of the motorbike to drive home.

When I get back, Tamara and I enjoy a delicious mango and try the mystery fruit. It’s red and shaped a bit like a bell pepper, but much smaller. It tastes like an Asian pear and is quite refreshing. I still don’t know it’s official name.

For the sunset, we walk back down to the beach. I make sure to bring my camera this time. Devon, a fellow Canadian, joins us as we climb up the rocks for the fabulous sunset and we all chat away, exchanging travel stories. He’s been traveling for almost a year so far, and doesn’t plan to be back in Canada for at least another two. I always envy these people who just leave everything behind to go wherever and do whatever they want for such incredibly long amounts of time. It’s so cool, and I think a lot harder than it sounds. Living in hostels for three years wouldn’t be a walk in the park, but the things you would do and see in those three years would make it all worth it I’m sure.

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After the sunset we’re all hungry, so Devon drives us into town on his motorcycle, which is much sturdier than Claudio’s. All three of us squeeze on and drive ten minutes into the centre where we find a place called “SwissFoodViet” who’s sign boasts to have the “Best Burgers in Town!”.
I don’t know when burgers became a Swiss dish, but we all want to indulge in a big juicy burger anyway. It just happens sometimes. We all get a burger with Swiss cheese, which I guess kinda makes them a Swiss restaurant? They taste incredible. So far the food in Phu Quoc has been amazing, but I make note that I should be eating more seafood and less burgers because I’m only on this island for another couple days.

We stop for an ice cream on the way home, and have a relatively early night. Tomorrow, a group of people in the hostel are leaving, and Tam and I plan to do some trekking or motorbiking around to explore the island. There is a huge spider in our room and Tamara bravely murders it with a water bottle, which I highly appreciate.

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Okay, so that’s not the spider from our room…but it was in the bathroom which still counts. Our room spider was much smaller, but still creepy.

Vinpearl Land

For our last full day in Nha Trang we’ve decided to splurge a bit and visit Vinpearl Land, a theme park on an island just across the water. Tickets are 550,000 dong ($25), which is over our budget, but we’ve had a relatively cheap last few days and we get to take a sweet cable car to the island.
We search for motorbike taxis but of course, as soon as we’re looking for something we can’t find it so we settle on a regular taxi instead. I was told a motorbike would cost 60,000 each to take us to the cable car, and this taxi driver only charges us 80,000 between the two of us. I try to bargain a bit anyway, but he just laughs, says it’s impossible, and turns on the meter. When we arrive at the cable car, it’s literally just hit 79,000. He knows what’s up.
The cable car is included in the price the ticket, and is a really cool way to start our day. There are no line ups at the entrance gate, which seems like a good sign that the place won’t be totally over run with tourists today! We even get a car all to ourselves because there are so few people. Bonus!
It’s a beautiful sunny day, and the cable car glides over the pristine turquoise water, giving us a really great view of both Vinpearl and Nha Trang.

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Once we’ve reached the other side, we enter a seemingly empty park. I’m pumped, because that means we won’t have to wait in any long lines for the rides! Or, as we quickly discover, it could mean all the rides are shut down for lack of demand. Oh how I wish someone would have mentioned that when we dropped $25 on tickets. That’s kind of a bummer, but the water park is still open!

We head down to the beach for the first couple hours, because some clouds look like they’re rolling in and the water is still calm for now. It’s an absolutely fantastic beach with white sand and beautiful blue water.

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We walk down the shore looking for a vacant beach chair but they’re hard to come by. Sure, we could lay our towels in the sand but I’m confident that we can find somewhere to sit if we keep walking. We do eventually find a spot, drop our things and head straight for the water. I’ve only been away for 5 minutes when I look back to the beach and see three middle aged people moving our stuff off the beach chairs and trying to claim them for themselves. Hella no! I walk back and point out the fact that we’re obviously sitting there, hence our items on the chairs, and they act confused before walking on to find someone else’s seats to poach.

Walking back to meet Tamara in the water, both of us burst out laughing at this ridiculous mother and daughter pair having a photo shoot. The mom is taking what must be hundreds of photos of her daughter, who’s wearing a thong bikini and making ridiculous, yet serious, sexy poses. I feel embarrassed for them. They spend forever doing it, and never actually go for a swim or lay on the beach. They’ve just come for pictures. They’re not the only ones though, we see dozens of people doing the exact same thing. One girl uses her boyfriend as a photographer while she rolls around in the sand, fixing her hair to make sure it’s just so, while still trying to look casual and candid. Watching people take photos will provide us with entertainment all day.

After some time on a beach, and even a little nap in the shade, we try to visit the water park. It’s a bit of a challenge with our day bag, which carries all of our necessary things like wallets, phones, cameras. You can’t bring that down a water slide with you. We leave it on a bench and ask a Vietnamese women with two children to watch it for us. She says no.
We leave it there anyway and pray it won’t get stolen. There is a locker, but it’s far away and 10,000 dong ($0.50) so clearly leaving our items out in the open is a better option. We run up the stairs of the water slide in order to be reunited with our things faster. We can still see the bag from the top, so that’s good news. We dive head first down a shockingly steep water slide. It’s supposed to be fun but it mostly just terrifies me. I’m going so fast that I’m worried I won’t stop before I reach the end. What if this slide is only designed for 100 pound Vietnamese children and not giant westerners? Will I die? I get so much water in my face that I have to close my eyes, which makes it even more terrifying because I can’t see where the slide ends anymore. I prepare for impact, but then miraculously come to a full stop without running into a wall. Phew.

We jump off the end of the slide and make it back to our bag, which still has all of our belongings. Hooray! It’s pretty unlikely that the clientele here, a bunch of rich Russian tourists, would steal our backpack, but you never know. We try two more rides, or “games” as they’re called in the park. It’s either a weird translation, or someone doesn’t know what a game is. The first is like a half pipe that you ride in a blow up tube. Again, insanely steep. This time I do run into a wall, but not at full speed. The second ride is an extremely tall enclosed tube slide that connects to a giant out door bowl with a hole in the centre where you fall out and essentially exit the ride. The tube is made of 4 foot long segments that are all attached together, but not flawlessly. I can feel each ridge on my back as I go down, faster and faster through this dark tube. When I get to the biggest drop, I am blinded by water and am only aware that I’m outside in the bowl because of the sun shining through my eyelids. I try to open my eyes but still, water pours in, forcing them closed again. I free fall down into a pool of uncomfortably warm water, and the ride is over. I don’t know if I love or hate that ride. A for adrenaline but C- for whoever built it and didn’t smooth out the inside. Geez.

I hit my head on a pipe while climbing out of the pool, and moments later barely dodge a rogue mango that falls from a tree. I am not having a good day. At least our backpack still hasn’t been stolen. We head back to the beach where the sun is hidden by clouds, but the rain is still holding off. We go for another little swim. A huge man with a serious beer gut and sunburn screams, “You! Girl! Where you from?” and wades over to us. Oh no. Tamara responds that she’s from Switzerland, and before I have time to say I’m from Canada he’s elated and needs to show Tamara his Swiss watch. He then turns to me and starts saying something about chocolate and mountains. He thinks we’re both from Switzerland. I shall be Swiss today, why not? He’s flabbergasted by the fact that we’re backpacking around South East Asia and are only 22. I ask him where in Russia he’s from, guessing by his accent, and he says Siberia. He’s literally from Siberia. Not, “oh I live out in like Siberia, really far, you won’t have heard of it”. Real Siberia. That explains the sunburn. He says there’s always snow on the ground where he lives. When he asks us what hotel we’re staying at, I decide it’s a good time to give him a fake hotel name and get out of the water. He’s nice and I think just excited to practice his English, but nah.

We sit on our beach chairs and watch more people taking posey photos of themselves. I wish there were time stamps on my photos to prove how long they spent doing this. Everyone thinks they’re a god damn Victoria’s Secret model. Even one girl who has a horrible peeling sunburn on her back, with a new burn, I’m guessing from today, on the new skin underneath. Double sunburn. If I were her, I’d want no photographic evidence that it ever happened.

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We check out the aquarium before we leave, which is small but cool. I always love aquariums! This is one of the pros to coming on a day with very little tourism, we get to look at all the exhibits without being crowded (Toronto Aquarium anyone?). While in the tunnel I notice something strange. I’m not 100% sure, but it looks like all the stingrays have had their stingers cut off. I’m not a marine biologist so I’m not really sure how the end of their tails are supposed to look, but all of them have what seem like strangely short tails with blunt edges. I suppose I just don’t want to know.

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All the nemos and dorys!

When we leave the aquarium it’s 4:30 and there doesn’t seem like there’s much else happening at Vinpearl unless we want to go shopping, so we head back to the mainland via cable car. We share a car with an English couple, one of whom is terrified. He calls the cable car a death trap. I think it’s probably the safest mode of transportation I’ve taken in South East Asia thus far.

We go back to the hotel for the usual cold shower and clothing swap before going out for dinner. Things at Vinpearl were pretty expensive, so we skipped lunch. 55,000 dong ($2.50) for a fruit shake? I don’t think so. Now I’m hungry! We find a sweet restaurant a couple doors down from our hotel. We’re confused about how we’ve never checked the menu before, because we’ve walked past it every day. They have four menus. A seafood menu, salad menu, soup menu, and one for everything else. I am overwhelmed by choices! Everything is so cheap and looks so delicious. I order fresh spring rolls and a stir-fried squid and vegetable dish. Tamara gets a pumpkin soup and spring rolls too. The food comes quickly and is so delicious. We’re disappointed that we didn’t find this place sooner or we would have come for every meal!
Just before we ask for the bill, who walks in but overly-enthusiastic Siberia man. He yells “Switzerland!” and shows us his photos of himself at Vinpearl. Our waitress asks if we’d like to sit together and pulls a chair over for him. He leaves to wash his hands and we ask for the bill immediately. She apologizes for suggesting that we sit together and we explain that we don’t actually care but would have left soon anyway. We pay, wave goodbye to our rouge Russian pal and he says “aurevoir!”. We know we will not, in fact, see him again because we’re moving on to Dalat tomorrow, and I’m certain he won’t leave Nha Trang for his entire vacation.

We have an early bus to catch tomorrow, so we go back to our hotel for an early night’s sleep.

Nha Trang Booze Cruise

8:30am is when we are to be at the travel agency where we booked Nha Trang’s popular booze cruise. Some friends of mine whom I met traveling in Thailand last year suggested this to me, and for $10 all inclusive boat, most booze, snorkelling, and entertainment, I figure it sounds like a pretty good time!

We get picked up in a van that takes us to the harbour. I’m hoping we get a boat full of other young people, but it’s always a gamble with these things. Two middle aged Russian couples, and an array of not old but older people board our van with us. The day will still be great I’m sure, but I’m a little disappointed by the lack of youth up in here.
By 9am we’re on the boat and our host for the day has already cranked the 90s music. He’s singing and dancing along while we wait for another group to join us. The new van brings a younger crowd with about 6 people our age, so that’s positive.

We leave the dock and our host, an elderly Vietnamese man, introduces himself as “Morgan Like Morgan Freeman” (who he strangely resembles) but he says he is only Free for the ladies. I love him already. He gives us our itinerary for the day and encourages everyone to buy a beer before it’s even hit 9:30.

Our first stop is at an island where we have the option to pay 500,000 dong ($25) to scuba dive for an hour, or to go snorkelling for free. We choose the free option. The snorkelling isn’t world class or anything, but we see some cool fish and take some photos with my underwater camera. There are tiny, clear jelly fish floating about in the water, who sting us all multiple times. It’s not a sharp searing venomous pain, it’s more like a little pinch, but it’s still rude of them.

After an hour we drive out to another island and anchor the boat just off shore. The seats in the middle of the boat fold down into tables, and a scrumptious looking meal is placed in front of us buffet style. One girl my age decides not to eat anything which I think is crazy because there’s so much to choose from! She doesn’t even have a banana. I would never pay for food and then just not eat it. Rookie backpacking mistake.

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I think it’s hilarious, and also slightly tragic, that we paid $85 dollars to go to Ha Long Bay where we got small portions of terrible on-board food, and today we’ve only spent $10, and the food is delicious and plentiful. Less is more.

After the rest of us have all downed copious amounts of seafood and rice, the floating bar opens for business. This is the “booze” part of the booze cruise. Beers cost 20,000 dong, but this random cocktail mixture of something orange flavoured is totally free! We climb up to the roof of the boat and jump into the ocean, swimming out to meet the bar tender on his tiny floating bar. It’s pretty blissful, floating around in the salt water with a drink in hand, soaking up the sunshine and taking in the view. Nha Trang’s skyline can be seen faintly off in the distance across the clear turquoise water. If only it weren’t for the jelly fish. Those buzz-killing little shits.

impressive.

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I go for a second jump off the boat, this time with a camera in hand. I ask one of the other young people on the boat if he can try to get a photo of me mid-air. I quickly show him how to use the camera, I count down from 3 and I make my leap. When I surface, he tosses me the camera and I continue paddling about taking more pictures. It isn’t until later when I’m looking through the days photos, that I find out he never got a picture of me at all. Not even a shot taken too late when I’m already submerged, not one of me standing on the edge of the roof, just nothing. No photo for you. Oh well.
I just assumed when giving someone younger than me a camera, they’d know how to use it.

A few plastic cups of orange mixture later, the bar has run dry and we swim back to the boat. I find three floating cups in the water that our boat group have tossed over board or left behind. I still don’t know where these people think their trash will go. I pick up the cups and bring them back to the boat with me and toss them in the garbage. Not that hard. Nha Trang is much cleaner than Ha Long Bay, and has a pretty significant amount of signs in multiple languages promoting a clean beach. I can’t understand why people don’t listen.

Next up on our tour is some entertainment. Our lunch table has become a stage, and a drum kit and two guitar players have set up to perform some music. Our host, Morgan Freelady, sings a a Vietnamese song, and introduces someone named “LadyBoy” who is just the boat driver in a wig. He sings too, and then calls on people at random to sing a song from their country. A woman from England is forced to sing along to an awful off-tune version of Wonderwall. It’s entertaining and painful all at once. I’m thankful that he never calls on Canada, because I’m sure I’d have a Justin Beiber hit waiting for me, but even more thankful that he calls on Switzerland. Now I have these hilarious photos of Tamara singing on a boat next to a man in a coconut bra and a skirt.

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He makes her sing a time about a mountain that is unfamiliar to me. She says she barely knows it either, but he only knows one line that he repeats over and over again anyway, so it makes it easy.

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I thought this guy playing the guitar with a cigarette in mouth was impressive.

The entertainment comes to an end, we visit one more beach, and then it’s time for the boat to drive us back to the harbour, resuming the loud 90s music. We say goodbye to our boat companions and our hilarious hosts, Morgan Freelady and LadyBoy.
Definitely worth the $10 it cost me for the whole morning and afternoon!

We go back to our hotel to change, and shortly after we head out to find dinner. We walk in the direction of the bar/restaurant concentrated area of Nha Trang and find a restaurant with a relatively cheap curry dish. Food in Nha Trang is simply more expensive than in most of the places we’ve visited so far, and I attribute it to the high volume of vacation tourists.
After last nights disappointing curry, I don’t know what makes us try again but we do. This time I have no regrets, because it’s really great! Flavourful and served with rice, no skinny naan bread. We run into the girl from Slovakia, who’s name I don’t think I’ve ever learned, for the 4th or 5th time on our trip. We see her everywhere! She joins us midway through our meal and comes out for drinks with us afterwards.
For some reason, Sunday night seems to have a more lively bar scene than Saturday. We visit the same places but everything is busier. We meet a few British people who live in Nha Trang, some for a few months some for a year. They get free food, accommodation and drinks for handing out flyers to tourists. I don’t think I could live in Nha Trang for a year, but a month maybe. What a cool and relaxed way to live by a beautiful beach!