As is the custom in Viet Nam for us tourist we purchased ourselves an open bus ticket up the snakey length of the country from Saigon to Hanoi. Choosing to stop off at Hoi An and skip the tourist beach towns of the south. We were, however, required to make a stop over for the day in Nha Trang. The biggest touristic beach town of them all.
As we clambered on the bus we were to spend the next 10 hours on we were pleasantly surprised that “sleeper bus” actually meant that the seats were beds. A welcome change from the sleeper buses we experienced in Ecuador.
The next morning we arrived in Nha Trang, not quite as rested as was first expected with roads so bumpy you were almost thrown from your seat. Already hot and sweaty we contemplated what to do with our day before the next 10 hour bus to Hoi An. But one never has to wonder very long in Viet Nam because no matter where you go someone will want to recommend a hotel, a restaurant, something to hire, a tour etc… So we took up the offer of a day tour to the local islands.
2 hours after the beginning of the tour with much figging around on buses and crowds we were finally crammed into a boat filled with Vietnamese tourist and began the trip to the first island. Because we had lost a lot of time we were told a half hour of snorkelling before we leave. Snorkelling was the drawing card to this tour, so we set off with snorkels in hand and plunged into the midst of all the hundreds of other people on day tours. Beautiful fish were spotted through the grimy water but we gained a new appreciation for our Sinai snorkelling experience.
When we arrived on the boat for the next island a beautiful spread of sea food was laid out for lunch. The next island was actually a small moored barge with all the day tour boats tired around against each other. It was announced by our tour guide Bao that this part of the tour was music and Karaoke and that we Australians could get up and sing Waltzing Matilda. Followed by “Happy Time” which we found hard to understand with his accent. Tahn went white with fear at the thought of singing and the two of us clambered across the noses of the boats to find out what was going on. A band was playing with the singer in a scary wig and half-naked sparkles. It seemed that flamboyant karaoke was very popular in Vietnam, with a lot of people singing along and being generally excitable. Although there were a few that found the experience tiring and decided to get in a nap. Including the father of a very polite Japanese our boat who looked even more terrified than Dotahn. Luckily the karaoke was taking place a couple of boats away and so we escaped unscathed. After the strange and discomforting performance a floating bar was thrown into the ocean between a ring of boats and we were encouraged to jump in to join the barmen for free wine. Thus commenced “Happy time!” Dotahn was soon in the water enjoying cups of wine with pineapple and a little sea water thrown in for good measure. Swimming around to the sparkle pop tunes this was definitely the best part of the tour, as our guide Bao screamed “Don’t be lazy, be crazy!”
The revelry was followed by ‘free time’ at tourist island which was a rubbish filled atrocity of an island packed with tourists, mainly Vietnamese. We decided against getting in the water again and instead sat for a drink and a read. Then on to an aquarium, although sparsely populated with barren tanks of sad fish, the building itself was incredible. Built to look like a giant ship carved from weathered stone, it was a giant concrart wonder. Soon we were back on dry land and glad to escape what was generally a frightening tour.