I arrived in Nha trang after spending 4hrs on a bus from Mui Ne. The bus trip was uneventful and I should point out here that in Vietnam when you travel with these bus companies when you arrive at said destination they will take you to the hotels where they get a kickback first. This standard practice & often they are not bad & reasonably cheap, cheaper still when SARS was happening. So, if you have a hotel in mind be prepared to wait & endure the other places 1st.
After settling into the room I went to the rooftop garden which had splendid views of the city & was only a five minute walk to the beach.
Nha Trang is encircled by a range of high mountains often dusted with tropical clouds reaching high into the sky & this often makes the city HOT!. Thus it gives you a good reason to hit the beach. The crescent shaped beach is very good, just like home and the water has a pleasing blue appearance, funny that I hear you all say!.
The night life is very upbeat with the Nha Trang Sailing club still leading the pack with it's front beach position & professional service with food & music. Miss Kim's follows up & the Jungle bar seems all right at certain times.
For culture the Cham Towers on the outskirts of the town, no more than 10 minutes by cyclo from the beach are great insight to previous inhabitants.
But undoubtably Nha Trang is known for it's Mama Hahn party boat tours. There is another Mama running a similar trip, but hey she wasn't the original & she now lives in America,Hmmmm.
Old Mama Hahn had at the time just got out the clink when I was there because as the alleged story goes she didn't condone smoking pot on board & in fact usually indulged in a few tokes herself. This led to her downfall when another operator dobbed her in to the Police & she was caught.
So, after being tired of sitting on the beach I went forth on one her tours, only to enjoy my new found freedom on the sea thanks to Avomine tablets, no more sea- sickness, hence new lease of life. I was thrown into van & off we went, doing the usual weave thru the traffic, picking up other partygoers as we went.
We arrived at port & saw our boat & was advised that half of the passengers would be foreigners & half locals which would be great, because you don't see many swimming.
While waiting on board one of the female hawkers must of encroached on anothers turf & allot of shouting & pushing was going on. The police arrived forthwith & didn't waste time any time in arresting the hawker, perhaps she wasn't paying them, who knows. They were pretty harsh with her, physically grabbing her by the hair & pushing her along. She in turn was screaming like banshee.
the boat engine cranked into action & off we went, the surface was becalmed & the sun was picking up in heat, it was going to be a right scorcher thats for sure. Once out the harbour we went up to the top deck, an open platform with some shade where we camped. The locals were more satisfied remaining on the deck, remember it is not good for them to get a suntan.
Once up to English guys proceeded to light up a joint each & that is almost where they stayed for the rest of the trip. It was like an opium den with windows for them, get wasted & still manage to see something. They were really good blokes too, very relaxed you could say.
Guide #1 was a guy in his forties, very skinny & dark skinned with a little thin mo perched under his nose. Guide # 2 was a young bloke, about 20 yo & possessed a good sense of humour & grasp of the english language, although some of it was rather ribald when it was out of context. He would bound about like a monkey, (not derogatory) he was flexible & agile flitting up ladders & over the boat, popping up anywhere.
The latter flipped up on deck, established where everyone came from & told us how things worked, ie how to purchase beer. Basically it was honesty thing, each time you took a beer you would let him know, but to be honest I didn't plan on walking to much. The little blighter had me drinking a beer before I knew where I was & so was the rest of the group.
The day really began to warm up and thats when we had our 1st swim, near a small island. So off the top level I jumped, literally. Not quite a bomby, not quite a pin drop. It was not pretty but hey I made it & the water was fan - bloody - tastic, warm & clear. At this point the Vietnamese people on the boat began to watch & then a couple of males swanned in & one young lady, jeans & T shirt, thats right jeans! I cannot begin to fathom why they didn't bring bathers, maybe they really thought we were going to be looking at islands. The rest stayed on the 1st deck, not even venturing into the sun.
After 15 minutes it was time to pull up anchor & sail to the next island, for the 2 English guys, more toking.
We had another swim, same beautiful water & soooo crystal clear. Then it was time for lunch, we had ours on the top deck, prawns, salads & raw sea urchin minus the spikes. The texture of the meat felt slimy but when eaten had a sandpaper feel. The colour of the meat was light brown. I only had a small portion, not my cup of tea u see.
After lunch we set off again for the 3rd island in the four island tour. At this stage the crew decided to put out the floating bar, this meant a foam esky, rope & plastic cups. The drink of choice happened to be the local red wine/ fire water & it was the only choice. So off we dived & headed for the bar. Guide #1 was running the bar & some tubes were thrown over so people could sit in them, this even encouraged some of the locals to jump in & the relvery commenced with guide #1 rallying the troops.
Naturally he picked me 1st to skull as much as I could of the delicious delicate wine that I could while trying to stay above the waterline. I think I was chosen mainly because I was an Australian, who for some reason have acquired a beer swilling reputation, not because of my own performance on board at drinking. So to a rapturous chorus of Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oy, Oy,Oy I began gulping the brew. I was not dissapointed when I managed to drink a reasonable amount, the aftertaste of vinegar beginning to make itself evident in my mouth. At this point even salt water seemed a more enjoyable taste option. Never fear though, beer was rushed overboard to save my rapidly growing thirst.
A procession of others went thru the same ritual, the rest of us chanting the popular chant for that nationality. This really put everyone in a warm & fuzzy feeling, but I'm sure the 2 English guys had surpassed this & were on at least two levels higher of utopia. The younger & thinner one now had road maps in his eyes, translation being; the capillaries in his eyes were now very red, criss crossing his eyeballs. At this stage it was some laugh.
After trying to save a couple of beers from a salty end it was time to reboard the boat & set off for the last island.On the way we discovered that guide #2 could not swim, he definetly had an aversion to water, he nearly had a fit when we grabbed him & were going to toss him over the side. His eyes were popping, his hands frenetically trying to gain purchase on anything attached to the boat & pleading very convincingly that he couldn't swim. So we all took mercy & let him be, for which he was extremely grateful. hat was my good deed for the day. I asked myself what person works on a boat, but cannot swim!. He has worked for Mama Hahn for 7 years.
At this location we came to a fishing village, a floating wooden jetty surrounding large nets containing lobster floated just offshore where we pulled up. I think it was set up so that you could purchase lobster to take home. Again here we went for swim, I had by now progressed to diving of the top deck, only occasionally coming a painful cropper. This I put down to poor technical style rather than intoxication.
The little skinny english guy now decided it was time to play pirates & borrowed one of the locals boats that was tied up at the floating jetty. The little boats over here are round & made of cane weaving so by all appearances it would be rather tricky to steer one. Undaunted he untied the boat & jumped in & before the owners were aware had set sail in fine fashion, his little oar arcing over & over until there was a swarm of foam on the seas surface. I, sitting back in my lifesaver tube thought his efforts were quite dazzling, but only briefly as he was going around in circles, much to the merriment of us tourists. Not so the locals, who where now screaming from the jetty for him to come back. There was a lot of pointy hat waving, gesturing of arms & some diplomacy by our guides before they settled down. The English guy had now tired from his jaunt, or he wanted another joint could be closer to the truth, headed back in. The owners giving him some wrathful looks.
This was our cue to leave & we set out for port, picture this, I standing on the top deck, body tilting into the wafting salty breeze, nostrils flaring, my hair dancing to the tune of the wind & my eyes fixated on the horizon.I felt Sir Francis Drake setting off to plunder the Spanish fleet. The now prominent clouds snaking there way over the mountains, their edges glistening bright silver was a sight I will not forget easily.
The 2 english guys savioured their day & we all were grateful for the Mama Hahn trip. Once back in harbour we arranged to meet that night, some of us made it, some didn't, after all it had been a big day.
The trip was not so much about getting drunk, it was about meeting people & the soaking up the scenery of the country. The swims were sensational, places were you could not hope to touch the bottom without air tanks, out in the open & just us.
Overall, Nha Trang is a place to party & sunbathe & I found it safe & Mama Hahn, keep on sailing.