Sunday, 20 March 2011

Stopovers, views and sleepers

Saturday 19th March 2011

MP3 track of the day: Paradise City - Guns and Roses

Weather: Da Lat = overcast but dry. Na Trang = warm and sunny with a strong, cool, breeze








GOOOD MORNING VIETNAM!

Once again I fund myself up early. Due to the previous evenings mix up with my coach ticket I was now leaving at 9:30am, however that didn't give the full story as to why I found myself, wide awake, at 7am. Both nights here I've had one - and as far as I can tell only one - mosquito within my room. I thought Da Lat would be too cold for mosquitoes but apparently not. This one, I shall name 'Alan', wasn't interested in my blood, he just wanted to annoy me. Every time I put my head on my pillow Alan would hover over my ear, which would amplify his 'buzzing' noise. I would then immediately wake up, waft my hand past my ear (hitting nothing) and fall back to sleep for the process to happen again five minutes later. I did try hiding under my covers but I got too hot.


Being ready by 8:00am did present me with an opportunity. Before checking-out I quickly went into town to purchase some snacks for 'the road'. It wasn't as cold as yesterday and it wasn't raining; some blue sky could be seen, trying to push the dark clouds away. I wondered if leaving today was the right thing to do. I got my snacks and returned to my guesthouse to await my pick-up.


At 9:30am a mini-van came. Once sat down I tried to get my legs into line with my body but it was impossible. An old Aussie couple sat next to me; they saw my problem and didn't complain that I was inside their 'leg space'. Fortunately this mini-van was only to shuttle us to the out of town bus station. There sat a twin to the coach I got yesterday. I boarded it, took out my ticket and hunted for my seat. I was to complete this journey sat on the back row consisting of five seats. My seat was the second from the left. A Vietnamese bloke was already sat in my seat. I inquired as to why he was there and, due to him being able to speak English rather well, it turned out that his girlfriend had the window seat, I was allocated the next seat, and then he was in the middle. Not wishing to break the happy couple up I exchanged seats and I sat in the middle. This had advantages of unlimited leg room however I had no control over any window. The coach was full, mostly of tourists, and so curtains remained open. To my left sat the Aussie couple I sat next to in the mini-van; we chatted throughout the journey. Sitting in a slightly elevated position gave me another benefit; when looking out of the windows I could see down a lot further than normal. This gave me a great view into the valleys below. Things weren't all 'rosy'; there was a Vietnamese guy, two rows infront of me, that was continually sniffing. It was driving me, and the Aussie's, crazy.


The terrain was as spectacular as two days ago with huge mountains, lush vegetation, blue skies and sheer drops. The decent was a lot quicker than I remembered my assent being and so, with the continual left and right turns, I was thrown this way and that. Still it didn't matter as the view into the valleys below, plus the misty mountains dominating the skyline, made it all worth it. Ironically it wasn't 'curtain pulling' that put an abrupt end to my sightseeing, it was descending through low cloud. This low cloud made viability almost non-existent; so much so that the driver almost slowed to a stand still. Once through the cloud the driver pulled in for a lunch stop. I wasn't hungry; instead I used the time to read about Na Trang. My coach was due to arrive at Na Trang at 2pm and I wasn't scheduled to leave until 7pm. As long as there was somewhere safe to leave my bag I would go for a wonder.


Back on board the coach we prepared ourselves for the final push. As the sun came out the curtains around me closed until only a few small pockets of window space were left. The curtains didn't open again until we reached the outskirts of Na Trang. The city seemed like any other; we stopped at the long-distance bus station (probably called that because it was a long distance from the city center) where an armada of mini-vans were awaiting to ferry us to our final destinations. These mini-vans were put on by the coach company and so this part of my travel was free. I told the mini-van driver the name of my coach company and he took me to their offices.


The guy on reception was a little perplexed as to why I had arrived for a 7pm departure at 2pm. I explained that I had just come from Da Lat and I had all my luggage with me. The office was just a desk within an open shed; to my left was a small area labeled 'luggage storage'. The guy indicated that I could leave my luggage there, in full sight of every passer-by. Not really having a choice I opted to leave my big bag (however not before 'pack-safeing' it up). My little bag, with all my valuables in, came with me.


I found a restaurant close by that did a 'chip butty'; I hadn't eaten a chip butty in ages. Just like every South East Asian retail outlet, as soon as you take the slightest interest workers are on you immediately. This restaurant was no different; within a minute a young Vietnamese girl, with a big smile and a pad of paper, was awaiting at the other side of my menu. I decided to make this a test of endurance; I turned each page of the menu, bibically slowly, trying to look as though I was reading every word … would she get bored first, or would I?



I would.



I decided not to eat there just yet as I hadn't seen any other restaurants; plus it was only 2pm and I wanted to eat later. I left and head in the direction of Na Trang's main tourist attraction. As I crossed the main road I could see why so many tourists loved this beach; white sands, blue waters and a pleasant temperature. The day would have been hotter if it wasn't for a fierce breeze reducing the effects of the sun. I walked up the beachfront taking a few photos. The front was lined with a huge pedestrian area full of trees and, for once, not a single piece of rubbish. I stopped at a lotus flowered building to take my bearings before continuing north. The hotels along the beachfront were all the usual hotel chains; the buildings were so big and posh that, at points, I forgot where I was. I turned off the breach and back into town. A few blocks from the beach and the old typical South East Asian buildings could be seen. I continued my walk to Na Trang's cathedral (which was shut) before heading back south towards my tourist office.


The day was so hot, and my little bag so heavy, that I really couldn't do any major sight sightseeing. I went past my tourist office (to check that my big bag was still there … it was) before heading back to the restaurant for my 'chip butty'. On the way I met the two Aussies from Ho Chi Minh City; we chatted for a short while (I also saw the 'Two ugly sisters from liverpool' but I didn't chat to them) and it appears that they too left Da Lat this morning ... by motorbike. The Aussies headed off to find a guesthouse whereas I went to seek out my 'chip butty'. Whilst eating 'lunchea' I debated whether it would have been nice to have stayed a night or two here in Na Trang. The answer was no; sure it was pretty however it had no character … I could have been anywhere within the world. I think my mind was eventually made up when the restaurant, I was situated in, started to play 'guns and roses' music … this was certainly a 'tourist town'. Not content with the quantity of 'lunea' I purchased a mars bar before returning to the tourist office. The time … 5pm. I pulled up a plastic chair, got out my book, and read until my coach came at 6:30pm. I'm reading a book about the Vietnam War (for the second time) and its certainly politically complex.


Once time was called I picked up my bags and walked the 500 yards to my pick-up point. There I met three British ladies from London. We chatted for a short while before our coach arrived. From looking through the window we could see that it wasn't your typical coach. Inside there were three lines of bunk beds. I was in bed number four, which was a bottom bed. I had a seat which was reclined at around 140 degrees. My feet slid under the bed in front of me and I had a small table. It all seemed rather cozy, if a little squashed, and I jumped in excited about the experience.


As it was only 7pm I wrote this blog entry before going to sleep. Today has certainly been a whirlwind of a day.


Toodle Pip!

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