Well after another long long bus ride, this one much newer and more comfortable than the last one, we arrive in Nha Trang about a half hour before sunrise. Our hotel was just across the main road from the beach and cost us a whopping $6 a night.
Nha Trang has a bad reputation as being a seedy, party-city since its heyday during the Vietnam War. Nha Trang was located a safe distance from the front lines but too far for America soldiers to travel to on their time off. Now a days it seems pretty tame. Mostly just a tourist destination with nice beaches. At this point we are still a bit ahead of the curve so the hordes of westerners have yet to descend on the beaches.
Besides spending several days simply sitting and reading on the beach, Nha Trang had several historical sights of interest. One of them was a famous Buddhist temple with very large reclining and seated Buddhas. Again, we were not allowed to take pictures inside the temples.
We met an enthusiastic young female “volunteer” at the temple but like so many of our encounters with the local Vietnamese, she was mostly just trying to get money out of us. She did take some time to show us around the temple and tell us a little bit about its history. She really liked my sunglasses, they were actually a pretty big hit all over SE Asia, was able to identify them as being Korea, and insisted that I take a picture of her wearing them. Shortly after that she tried to sell us a pack of post cards for 300,000 dong ($15). This same situation had been put on us several times already so we knew the drill. She said that the money was for a school that was on the temple grounds but several of our guide books explicitly warned us not to give money to these people as they are not always affiliated with anything. Maybe if she had started a little lower on the price I would not have been so insulted but as it was we simply walked away while she ran behind us for several hundred yards basically begging us for any amount of money. The gigantic seated Buddha at the top of the temple was well worth the hassle though. The picture do not do its massive size justice.
I am still not sure if this is a culture miscommunication or if its a personal thing that I feel so offended when someone blatantly tries to extract as much money out of me as possible on the basis of a hastily built friendship. Andrew seemed just as annoyed by it as me, tough, I seemed to take it more personally than him.
Andrew had been looking high and low for Jack Fruit. He had heard that it was abundant in Vietnam but we had not come across it yet until we found a local market that had some. He had been addicted to the stuff when he was backpacking through East Africa. I liked it though the texture was a bit more squishy that expected. Kind of like a banana, pineapple, peach mix.
On a different day we again rented bicycles and road out of town a ways to the Cham Towers that were built during the 7th century. Entrance fee was $0.50. Thats a lot of history for half a dollar I must say.
On yet a different day Andrew and I went scuba diving for both of our first times. Neither one of us had the proper certifications but apparently in Vietnam and Thailand you can take a “Paddy” course where the dive instructor stays really close to you the entire time incase there is a problem. It was $40 and was easily one of the most expensive things that I did in Vietnam which is not saying all that much. We didn’t get a chance to take any pictures of us in the diving gear because the tour company took them for us on their camera. Then at the end of the dive told us that copies would cost us another $10! Everyone is out to make a buck of stupid tourists like us in Vietnam and they will get you somehow. I decline on principle though some of the pictures they took of me swimming with the jelly fish and sea eels were pretty cool. Not that you could tell it was me under all that gear!
Almost forgot! The picture you see of me near the reclining Buddha with the little fearful looking Vietnamese girl in my arms might have you wondering how that came to be, right? Well this just seems to happen sometimes to westerners in Asia. I knows its happened several time to me in Korea at least. The parents saw a white face (with rugged good looks, perhaps?) and wanted a picture of their daughter with it. The little girl was unconvinced of the necessity of such a photo opportunity and took quite a bit of convincing from her large family. Still she does not look very happy to be in such close proximity to a sweaty foreigner, let alone being photographed in such a situation. Andrew managed to whip out his camera and snag an off angle shot during the process and that is how this came to be.