This morning was the last episode of a ritual which has been an anchor for me here in Nha Trang.
That’s “Henry” ( Hung Nguyen to his mother ) above left, and a foreign interloper above right.
In between the usual Chewing of Fat, Henry ,as always, demonstrated typical Vietnamese generosity and grace. I left loaded with ( coffee-related ) gifts, and he left with some books I gave him.
Henry’s been a major support in surviving here in Nha Trang. He’s educated me in Vietnamese ways, fuelled me with excellent coffee, offered a wise sounding board, and got me through the trauma of the bike accident.
That last involved at least two days of his time, among everything else he does, for example, tending to his family ( married with two young sons ), and managing several businesses.
In return, I’ve taught him some English – he can now easily chat over many subjects – and, I hope, been a friend. I’m very well aware that I owe him far more than he owes me.
Here’s to you, Henry, a gentleman and a scholar, and someone I’m proud to call a friend.
DaLat is in Vietnam, but in some ways, it’s another country.
Most obviously,the climate is in total contrast with the other parts I’ve visited. A morning walk requires a layer,and two for good measure, against the chill. In Nha Trạng, the popular Old Man uniform – a plain flimsy white singlet – is more than enough.
Descent toward the light
DaLat is at altitude, 1500m above sea level, a fact which was obvious on today’s descent to Nha Trang.
Within an hour, we’ve gone from the chill plateau of Dalat to the intense heat of Nha Trang. In that, sitting outside under shade for the 15-minute rest break is murderous. The difference is a major.
A lot of the ‘fresh’ produce on shevles – maybe not roadside stalls – throughout central Vietnam comes from DaLat. Coming into the city from the East ( seaward, from Nha Trang ) there are hectares upon hectares of strawberries, for example.
The city, as far as my once-over-lightly research goes, was built by French colonists, as an escape hutch from the heat of the rest of Vietnam.
The only obvious signs of this are at least one petit Eiffel Tower.
I hoped to find a wider variety of cheeses on offer, but I spent most of my time there motorcycling aimlessly around the city, instead of shopping.
From my very brief experience, not so bad as Nha Trang, or Da Nang, and made more bearable because there’s no accompanying intense heat.
The city has not one set of traffic lights, instead it’s roundabouts everywhere. So, very easy to navigate from one to another, weaving a thread between each cotton reel roundabout.
In an enforced experiment, I ate out twice a day, for lunch and dinner. It’s very easy to buy a solid meal for VND 30.000 ( NZD 2 ). That’s a decent serving of meat, a fresh salad ( mostly cabbage ), and a small pho ( soup ).
Of course, over three days I was very limited in what I was able to sample. But of two small sit-down restaurants ( 5 – 10 tables ) I visited, one cooked its meat to perfection, while the other served dry, overcooked fare ( but good salad ).
Videos ( 6)
These should play in sequence, press play once.
This is a city I could live in, ideally during the hottest part of the year. I’d happily forego being ocean-side in favour of comfort heat-wise.
I made my way to Dalat, with its fine crisp mountain air, and then things went all Fawlty Towers on me. Again.
The taxi driver couldn’t find the hotel. Neither could I, after my phone, which I’d wisely topped up, packed a sad.
After we found the hotel, it was a little more than cupboard. Only two or three power points, all in the most awkward places possible. No lift. No fridge. No TV. No balcony.
I discovered I’d left the laptop charger in Na Trang. The rental bike had about 2km worth of gas innit. I was hungry enough to kill a careless seagull. And I didn’t want to spend the night in the cubby-hole I’d booked.
It was a conundrum.
While I was riding around trying to avoid getting lost, there was a strange sensation. In my thin white collared shirt, I was … cold! For the first time in South-East Asia. Aaaah.
But you’ll sleep soundly, I’m sure, when you hear that I managed to sort all of those issues. And I’m now about to collapse in the Nang Chieu Hotel – about 200m from the original hotel – which is the red marker above.
If I were C Montgomery Burns the hounds would be satisfied and licking their chops about now.
For a new trend is lowering the neighborhood tone, you know.
The local bratpack have started swarming in the street at 7pm and thereabouts.
I don’t really mind, though. It’s short-lived , and is the healthy sound of souls enjoying company. So unlike the dogs, the noise doesn’t jangle the nerves.
And barring disaster I’ll be back in peaceful ( dull? ) NZ in less than a fortnight.
And something tells me I’ll miss the chaos.