Monday, 19 October 2009

[Postcards to Ethel] Nha Trang, Vietnam

Dear Ethel, Family and friends,

It’s been a while since I wrote a blog and a number of things have changes since then. The main one being that we are no longer teaching at Sea English Academy. In short the school didn’t have the correct licenses to carry on and couldn’t afford to keep us both. We are still disappointed with the way things transpired but have moved on now, literally and metaphorically.

We left the school at the beginning of the month and waited around in Saigon for a week or so collecting our thoughts. During this time we attended a number of social functions with the students who gave us a lot of mutual support, we have all become good friends as a result. We attended a food and hospitality trade show which was great for the students as most of them are Bakers or Chefs. It was great to see their reaction to things they had never seen before and eat things like olives, capers, cheese cake and many other things on display. Also it gave them a good chance to talk to the exhibitors in English. We were also invited to one student’s houses, Mr Ha. The other students attended as well and we feasted over spring rolls and seafood hotpot. Following this was a trip to a Garden district area, Binh Quoi, popular for weddings and wedding photography. It is a very picturesque area with photo opportunity spots every few feet. The students then treated us to an 84 course buffet. Talk about food overload. Between 8 of us we only managed about 22 courses. Louise and I were stumped after about 8 of them but I have never seen anyone eat as much as skinny 4 foot tall Vietnamese girls!

We had another Australian visitor as well, Dianna form Noosa and an ex-postie as well. It is always good to catch up with friends but also good to get another prospective on things. At nearly 70, Dianna is a particularly brave and gutsy woman doing a month long trip to Vietnam Cambodia and Laos by herself. I gave her a lift on the back of the motorbike; I think she was thankful for my Australia Post experience. Following our meeting with Dianna, we decided to do a trip down to the Mekong Delta. It was a 3 day organised trip on the busses. In hindsight it would have been better to do the 2 day trip as the 3 day version was an excuse to take half the group to the boarder of Cambodia. Also the Delta Floating Hotel is possibly the worst hotel in Vietnam, but definitely the worst hotel we have stayed in. Day 1 and day 2 of the sightseeing was fine, visiting the Mekong River on a variety of different river craft and seeing Floating markets, Floating villages, Coconut Candy Factory, Rice paper factory, Rice Husking Mill, Pagodas and temples. The Hotel on the first night was good enough for a one star but getting there proved an adventure. Getting in and out of Vinh Long can only be achieved by river at this stage until the new bridge is completed in 6 months time. Until then however, ferries service the river continuously 24 hours a day. Despite this there is always a 2 hour or more delay to cross the river unless its dusk when its 4 hours and coincidently when the tour organises to cross every day. The guide helpfully pointed out that if we all chipped in, we could afford to rent a boat for the 20 of us. We all agreed as it was only 10,000 each (80c) but involved a 1 mile hike to the river and a river crossing in the dark. Still it was a fun adventure although badly organised on the part of the tour operators. Of course we had the 2 hour wait the following day. Day 3 included a very brief local minority village visit and the fish farm stop then an 8 hour trip back to Saigon, plus a compulsory 3 hour stop in My Tho to gather the remaining one and two day trippers. All in all, we saw a lot of the Mekong which is what it’s all about. However we won’t be doing any more organised trips here based on our experience.

We booked train tickets from Saigon to Nha Trang. The train was a great way to travel. It was an 8pm train and arrived in Nha Trang in at 5.30am the following day. The train itself was clean and comfortable, one of the best train journeys we have done. We took the soft sleeper which sleeps 4 on double bunks and cost about $25AUD each. We were in Nha Trang very early but as we walked the short distances 1 Km or so to the tourist district, we were approached by the hotel touts. We were lucky enough with the one we followed, or did he follow us? Anyway the hotel is $10US a night with a view of the beach, 4th floor and Wi-Fi included. Great value 1 star! We haven’t done much since arriving, Louise caught a cold and has been house bound for 3 of the last 4 days, but it looks like a great spot, I’ve done a bit of investigating on a bicycle and we hired a motorbike today. There is food from everywhere in the world here so we will eat our way around the world one night at a time. Our friend Dianna is due here in about 4 days time, so look forward to catching up again.

As for the future, well that’s out of our hands as usual, we have a few interviews when we get back to Saigon. We still have return airfares to Australia that we booked 2 months ago, so the plan is, if we can secure some proper work before we leave here, we will return on about 16th of November if not, we will leave Vietnam on the 5th of November and look elsewhere.
Sorry this has gone on so long, but it took a while to get back into the mood for writing, but I think that’s cured and I hope the next post is a bit more entertaining.
All the best until next time.

Ric & Louise