Nha Trang sights

Lazy Man’s Lingo

Good intentions don’t get you far, unless there are accompanying actions.

A case in point, for me, has been learning Vietnamese. The fact that its script uses the Roman alphabet – albeit with accent signs that would flummox a Viking – should make it easier to learn than, say, Thai. But it just hasn’t happened.

So I’ve learned to take some pretty severe shortcuts.


These include a wide range of gestures. For example, the first two fingers upside down for walking, a hand opening and closing for talking, a hand to the ear for listening. Flapping wings for chicken, horns from two index fingers on the head for beef. A lookout sign for ‘where’?

Then there’s sound, always good for a laugh at a market – snorting sounds for pig, quacking for ducks, etc. The seller will usually understand, and it’ll raise a grin.

Three phrases

Then there are three phrases which have got this Lazy Man a long way;

  • xin chào ( “sin chow” ) = hello.
  • gam on ( “garm oohn”) = thank you.
  • bao nhiêu ( “bow new”) = “how much?”.

When I get a little more serious, there are a ton of resources online for learning Vietnamese.

And then there’s always the lovely, and very patient, young woman at reception to practise on.

Today being Tết , or the Lunar New Year , I wonder if that would make a good ‘resolution’?

The Duration

It looks for now like I’m here for the Duration – til June at least.

The school I’m working at, in the West of Nha Trang ( see below, has extended my ‘part-time’ ( 15 hours teaching / week ) contract until then.

I’m happy about that – my schedule is 0830 to 1145 teaching, with a 15-minute break between 90-minute classes.

Which means I’m free of an afternoon to visit the beach up the road, or what have you.

The downside? – no financial support from the school for Visa / Work Permit / temporary residence card.

So that until I find a better solution I’m extending my Visa month-by-month.

On the upside, I got on a much firmer footing when the online teaching work I’ve been doing came home to roost. The $430 USD payout means that for now I’m not sailing so close to the wind.

I’m now grappling with currency conversion, and juggling cards ( from Thai bank accounts ), but I’m working through it.

So, so far so good. Barring scandals, I’ll be here in Nha Trang, VN, for the next 5 months.

The Roads: Anarchy in ‘Nam

The Vietnamese are horny bastards.

Sorry, nothing to do with sex, just that noise pollution is the first thing you’ll notice on the roads here.

Horns blare like Morse code. In New Zealand a horn blast often equals a middle finger. Here , it’s just a way of announcing your presence.

Until I realised this , I was as jumpy and aggro on the roads as a moose in the Roar.

Then, I stopped taking it personally.

Rather than slowing down and looking both ways, many Vietnamese motorists will just blast their horns at an intersection, most of which have no lights.

Ive listened to car drivers travel hundreds of metres down a straight thoroughfare, blasting their horns every 20 or so metres.

Car drivers are a privileged breed here – import tax is very steep – so they’re outnumbered by at least 10 to 1 by motorcycles.

Still, there’s an arrogance about them. I guess it’s built-in – there’s a certain nonchalance required to clog up the narrow road arteries with a sausage-like SUV.

Doing the Rounds

The many roundabouts are especially… exhilarating. Nevermind the fact that they must be negotiated anti-clockwise, as opposed to Home’s clockwise route.

On the big ones there can be, what, a hundred-plus bikes riding one at busy times.

The trick, I’ve discovered, is to choose a line, and stick to it. Hesitate, or do something unexpected, and you’re roadkill. Or , stranded in the firing line like a sitting duck.

All that said,the Vietnamese are mostly very skilled motorcyclists. They’re so blase about it, every third guy is smoking and riding, every second girl is checking her cellphone, every 5th bike is loaded with a cargo-full, and every 8th bike is loaded with three people or more.

On the other hand, unlike Thailand, you’ll rarely see helmet-less riders.

On the third hand, I’ve only ever seen cops directing traffic, as opposed to collecting taxes and Christmas fund donations.

The ride to work is 15-20 minutes, but I enjoy it. Nothing like a bracing ride in the warmth, followed by a stiff coffee with butter, to get the juices flowing of a morning.


I used to love dogs, really I did.

But I tell you, these Vietnamese mutts are a different breed. I don’t like ’em at all, and the feeling’s mutual.

Their alien radar seems to be on high alert, so every time I walk past one, it can’t resist a bit of a sniff and a worrying attraction to my heels.

With my ankle still only 95% healed from the bike accident in June, I can’t risk a nip from one of these wee devils.

Barking Mad

All that aside, the worst thing about them is their yapping. But these aren’t the throaty roars of a self-respecting English-speaking dog.

Oh no, they’re the high-pitched yelping of castrati, and they take it in turns to go off their heads at any provocation.

Off their heads being the operative phrase. They need professional help, most likely because many are kept inside and/or on a chain 24/7 . With the result that every few minutes one of them lets loose with volley of protest.

In comparison with the Thais, the Vietnamese are much more security-conscious. The apartment I just moved from had five locks on the inner door. I’m not kidding.

Which explains why they keep these pitiful excuses for dogs. They make a noise. Never mind that they’d be an easy snack for a corgi, or an appetiser for a heavyweight hamster.

All dogs think they’re Rottweilers, and these things are no exception.

So it is back to the North for me, and signed up for a month.

Pros: ( relative ) peace and quiet, 2 minutes drive to the beach, and cheap-ish at 4.5 million VND / month. Cons: 20 minutes drive to work, and not as well equipped as the last apartment.


Old home to new home