‘…just for one day’?

In an emerging pattern of back-peddling, I’ve returned to Moonstone Apartments, Van Kiep St after 3 months in North Nha Trang.

This after the traffic noise and inescapable heat at Vinh Quang Aaprtments, in the North, were starting to jangle my nerves. To the extent that I’m finding myself tailing and cussing at random motorbike riders who’d had the gall to honk at me.

But it may be just for one day after I wrangled a trial run from the Moonstone owner after he offered me a ridiculous cut rate ( demand is down ) to come back.

Van Kiep St map

So I’ve basically reversed this route showing the original move late in December.

It’s spring-time here in Nha Trang, and about to get way warmer. So, so far, the cavernous character of Van Kiep is just what I need.

But, I won’t know until after I’ve been here overnight how much it will cost in power to keep cool, and how bad the dog noise is.

So far, the traffic noise is almost non-existent, what with everyone and his dog staying home, and the living here two solid doors away from the street.

Right now, I’m pretty sure I’ll be moving on April 3, the last date rent is paid for Vinh Quang. But, as always, watch this space.

Business as usual

At the risk of sounding complacent, it is pretty much business as usual here in Nha Trang.

Most mornings, I go to the seaside for a morning walk, along with an estimated 500 – 1000 like-minded people. All at once, at any one time between around 5.30 and 7.00 a.m.

The northern Nha Trang seaside is a stretch of about 5km of beachfront, with a 3 or 4 -metre wide paved walking path alongside. And, ideal swimming along most of its length.

So it’s not just me running amok amid chaos, it’s a good slice of Nha Trang. So, about that, and as of the time of writing;

  • Khanh Hoa’s one and only case of the virus recovered, and the province was declared virus-free on February 26.
  • Total number of cases per million population throughout Vietnam – 2.
  • Total cases / million of population in New Zealand – 107.

Vietnam’s testing and isolation seems to have started much earlier, which might account for some of the difference. Either way, it is one of the safer places in the world to be right now.

In other news, and answering a family member’s questions;

  • Getting warmer?

    Yes, it’s … toasty. Usually above 25 deg C for morning walks. Toughest is early afternoons, before the wind gets up, a time many Vietnamese will take refuge in a nap

  • Online students

    Yes, still teaching Japanese adults mainly, although the number of bookings has slowed. I’m not sure whether that’s down to their purse-strings tightening, or my popularity fading a little after an initial honeymoon period.

  • Supermarkets

    .. are open as usual. The larger ones will do customers the service of pointing a device at their foreheads on entering. Taking temperature as a shortcut to virus status.

  • Plane ticket refunds

    I have a one-year credit for the Air New Zealand ticket from Sydney to Auckland. The ticket from Da Nang to Sydney I made the mistake of booking via an agency rather than directly with the airline. That’s proving difficult to recoup. I can re-book for a later date, but that’s not ideal because I don’t yet know when the ( current non-existent ) school term will end.

  • Apartments

    I’m considering a ‘kind’ ( their visitor numbers have obviously plummeted ) offer to return to Moonstone apartments for a rate reduced to just below what I’m now paying at Vinh Quang in the North. Vinh Quang is ideally placed for closeness to the beach, but the dog- and traffic ( horns ) noise is really starting to bug me. I almost started to lose my rag yesterday at a local who was spectacularly … unhelpful. So, maybe time to deal with the stress before it gets too much worse. Moonstone has a better kitchen, it has a couch, and it has less noise from bike horns. It also has a worse dog problem, and is 15 minutes or so further from the beach. Still, it’s something I’m thinking on, I’d love to be free of the bike-horn noise which is like water torture – it’s constant – drip, drip, drip….

Low finance

Here in Vietnam – as elsewhere – the US dollar is a kind of universal currency, and many foreigners travel with them as a kind of insurance.

Preparing to come here, more than one trusted source told me to cash all funds into USD, and carry and / or stash that.

So I ( mostly ) took their advice, leaving some money in Thai bank accounts I could access via debit cards.

I was relieved to find the cards worked, but also discovered a thriving black market is ready and willing to convert currency. They’re called ‘Gold Shops’, and you pick ’em by the rows of glittering jewellery, the queues of foreigners with outstretched dollar bills, and the hooked noses and keen eyes of the operators.

All of which is to explain that when my last US$100 bill lost its only friend the other week, it was cause for caution. Then, when I ripped that last $US100 a couple of days ago, it was cause for catastrophising.

These things are worth 2.3 million plus VND, more than half a monthly rental payment. I’d be a very sorry lad indeed if it was worthless ripped.

And, I didn’t want to risk waiting til I was in transit – and thus ( more ) helpless and desperate – to find out whether it was worthless.

But it only took me a couple of days’ plotting, and 10 minutes’ riding, to hatch a dastardly plan. No, not to foist it (-now cleverly sellotaped – onto the unsuspecting hotel receptionist, changing it for VND, and then later back to ( intact ) USD.

The Foist

That would be low and unconscionable. I would instead foist it instead on the bank.

Armed with Google Translate, and one of my few Vietnamese phrases, I confirmed that they do indeed change dollars into dong.

After sitting down and confidently handing over the note, the teller handed it back to me – “no” – two seconds after holding it up to light.

Uh-oh. Gold shop it was. Old guy. Damn, probably as wily as a … roadrunner. Holds it up to the light. Nods. Pulls out his calculator.

Types in 2,370,000 ! Better than the market rate ! Score one for the black market, to go with the other one for corruption.

Some good news

With the decision to hunker down in Nha Trang, I had been kicking myself over the professional suicide note.

Which was sent to the school on booking my tickets back to NZ, and to the effect that I wouldn’t be in Vietnam when school returned. Hence ‘please accept my resignation blah blah’

Yesterday the English department Head asked for the return of the textbooks. I seized on the ( slim ? ) chance to connive my job back,  and was told I should email the All-Powerful ( i.e. HR ).

Which I did, wearing a tie ( kidding ), and putting my best tactful foot forward.

To which the All-Powerful replied this morning, that yes, my position was still open for me, and I’d be told when students were returning to school! Bejabbers.

It seems that the backing of said Head Teacher, and the school principal, helped. Although I’m unsure what I did to deserve that, beyond an observation class which I’d assumed had been a flat-out flop.

So we’re back to the waiting game.

In other news, I’ve so far managed to put into credit, useable until March 2021, the Air New Zealand flight from Sydney to Whangarei. I’m still trying to finagle refunds / credits for the other two flights, CXR -> DAD, and DAD -> SYD.


I’m doing an about-turn again – I’m staying put.

The risk of being stranded at a transit airport ( e.g. KUL, Malaysia ) isn’t one I want to take.

Also, if I had returned to NZ, I would have arrived after lockdown, and thus been forced to do 14 days self-isolation at the airport of arrival – Auckland.

This may come as a surprise, but Vietnam is safer than NZ when it comes to catching the lurgi – https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/.

New Zealand : total cases – 205. Total cases per million of population – 43
Vietnam : total cases – 134. Total cases per million of population : ONE

I’m now busy scrambling about doing what I can to secure airline credits and refunds for the booked flights.

If then but not however

Travelling through the current state of disaster on April 5 may just be too risky.

That’s the main message I can gather from an advisor at the NZ High Commission in Malaysia, no less. His continued rapid email responses have been invaluable to me over the last few days. My frustration leaking through this post’s title is in now way a criticism of the advisor.

His emailed responses to my bolded questions are below.

Hi Duncan,
Thank you for your email.
My reply to your questions as below.
1) what is the worst that can happen in Malaysia? If that happens, what if any support is available?

As previously advised, the current “Movement Control Order” implemented by the Malaysian Government, which is effective from 18 March to 31 March, would not allow foreigners to enter Malaysia.
While you are allowed to transit, you can only do so if you arrive at and departing from the same airport and terminal. At this stage, we are not sure what will happen after 31 March but there are some indication that the Malaysian government might extend the “Movement Control Order” for another week or two, depending on the situation. If one of your flights (Kuala Lumpur to Sydney OR Sydney to NZ) has been cancelled and the Malaysian government extends the Movement Control Order beyond 31 March, our advise is for you not to travel to Malaysia as you will not be allowed entry and you might be stuck at the airport with very limited facilities. The consular assistance that can be provided by us at the New Zealand High Commission Kuala Lumpur can be very limited given the restrictions.

2) what is your advice regarding the issue above with transit in Australia? Should I be applying NOW for a transit Visa? ( I have tried contacting airlines, but their advised response times is more than 2 weeks )

We are not able to advise on matters for the Australian authorities. We would advise you to continue to check with the airline. You might also want to try to contact the Australian Embassy in Viet Nam to see if you are able to obtain any information.

3) Do you have any general advice? ( e.g. ‘do NOT board the plane to Malaysia ‘ )? I have taken the advice re registering with safe travel. I am monitoring the airlines sites for travel cancellations.

​As advised above, if any of your flights is cancelled and if Malaysia is extending the “Movement Control Order” then my advice is for you not to travel to Malaysia as you will be stuck at the airport with limited facilities. You may want to stay where you are and follow the advice in my previous email.

Alternatively, you might want to look at available flight options now and travel as soon as possible. It might be easier to work through a (licensed) travel agent as they will be able to advise you on the available flights and the restrictions of those countries that you have to transit through.

Whatever your decision or plan is, make sure that you prepare for the worst case scenario as the situation is too fluid at the moment and things can change very quickly. Please keep your family and friends informed regarding the plans that you have. Update your details on SafeTravel especially when you have travelled from one place to another so that we are able to contact you in the event of an emergency.

You can visit https://covid19.govt.nz/​ for official information and advice from NZ Government regarding COVID-19.

Let me know if you have any further questions.

Best regards,

Zhong Yan Tan
Consular Adviser

Six of the best – and worst

Having pulled the plug, I’m champing at the bit to be back in NZ, and only hope I haven’t left it too late.

Meantime, I’m already totting up what I’m going to miss, and not, about Vietnam. Below are

Six of the best

  1. The Food

    Ridiculously cheap veges, delicious duck eggs, steamed kumara, and the endless fruit. And that’s just barely scratching the surface.

  2. The Coffee

    Potent, bracing, guaranteed to get even the most lethargic white person bristling for the day ahead.

  3. The People

    Almost all of the people I’ve run into have been helpful, charming, tolerant, and ready with a smile.

  4. The Weather

    It’s hot, OK. But it’s not humid, save for early afternoon, which even early in spring is becoming hard to handle.

  5. The Beach

    As good as New Zealand beaches, right on the doorstep. Warm water, as much sun as you can cope with.

  6. Bike Riding

    No need for a licence. Just don’t run into anybody, and everything will be dandy. There’s nothing like cruising about on a fine sunny day on your own cheap transport.

  7. Six of the worst

    Yes, there are things about Vietnam, Nha Trang at least, which give me the sh*ts. They are these;

    1. The Dogs

      Like listening for a mosquito, prick your ears at any time of day, and ( almost ) any time of night, and you’ll hear a nearby, or distant, dog going off its head. These things are hideous little creatures cooped up inside, in many cases, with aught to do except yap their twisted heads off.I wish.

    2. The Horns

      I live on a main road nearby an army base. Literally every five minutes a bike-rider, or car driver, will feel the need to blast their horns. Three times while I wrote that sentence. It’s like they never thought of looking in the rear view mirror. Or both ways. Or anywhere. It’s unbelievable.

    3. The Food Wrapping

      Food bought at the store will come wrapped in so much plastic that you’ll need a Swiss Army knife, a microscope, and surgical equipment to get to it. I can only guess this is producers’ over-the-top way of convincing us that yes, it is indeed new. As opposed to used.

    4. Security paranoia

      This is typical of the older generation. Examples – 1) an apartment owner knocking on my door for 10 minutes while I tried to conduct an online class. The problem? My bike was outside the apartment, and so not secured by multiple locks and keys. She apparently wanted to tell me. 2) the same apartment owner insisting on locking an outside door only accessible via a 4th-floor rooftop. After all, someone might hire a helicopter to break in. 3) Another apartment owner securing outside doors with five locks. No kidding.

    5. The Water

      There’s no such thing as safe tap water. It has to be bought, in yet more plastic.

    6. The Banks

      Not as bad as Thailand, but everything has to be signed in triplicate. On the same damned page! Three times. Plus full name, please.

Headed Home

After at least two weeks of silence, and dithering, and daily, if not hourly, flip-flops, I’ve pulled the trigger.

I’m coming home.

I’ve been chewing off the ear of several good friends of late ( you know who you are ), and had lots of good advice. The most telling piece of which was ‘follow your heart’.

Hence the clip below from the late, great, widely-despised * stars of the early 80s. Directed at three young women in particular.

I’m due to get on a plane in Da Nang, Vietnam, on Saturday April 4, arriving in Sydney Sunday April 5.

Now to book the other three or so plane tickets.


I’ve put some thought into why this might be. One of the reasons is principal Mark Knopfler’s “I’m a rock-star” shtick. You can hear it raise its head in the above clip with his between-verse asides of ‘alright’…

… and so it goes on

With news coming in just now [ rough translation ] that schools in my Khanh Hoa province will be closed until further notice, that sinking feeling is probably my job going under.

On March 12, Mr. Nguyen Tan Tuan, Chairman of Khanh Hoa Provincial People’s Committee, agreed to allow students at all levels in Khanh Hoa province to leave school from March 13 until a new notice is given. Previously, high school students in the province were sent back to school on March 2. Meanwhile, students from preschool to junior high school are suspended from school until the end of March 15.

The school return date was originally Feb 2. Then Feb 16. Then March 3 … and so it goes on. Having gambled money on a Visa ( and lost ), I’ll be doing some hard thinking in the coming day or so on the ‘sunk cost fallacy’. AKA ‘pouring good money after bad’.

I’m missing NZ, and would love to be back for a while before winter really bites, and I’m ready for a new adventure.

IF I can get the timing right , the school here in Nha Trang may offer me a new contract, but that seems unlikely.

Also, the longer I stay here without a solid income stream ( online teaching aside ) , the greater risk that I get stranded either because of finances or ( more likely ) travel bans for passengers from, say, Vietnam!

No promises, mind, but watch this space.

Day Tripper

Sitting on one’s chuff is sometimes necessary, but never desirable for long stretches, for fear of growing carbuncles on the underside.

With that in mind, after a morning’s slog over a hot microphone, I took myself off for a jaunt to the south, following the beach along the coastline. Below is roughly the route.

And even further below is what I found. As you see, Nha Trang is achingly beautiful. The beaches are clean, the air is fresh, and even the over-zealous and under-worked security guards didn’t upset my buoyant mood.