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Nha Trang Travel Blog

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Island Cruise


The Lonely Planet describes two available Island hopping boat trips departing from Nha Trang. Firstly Mama Linh’s experience, which is portrayed as the closest thing in Vietnam to club 18-30, alternatively there’s the Con-se-tre tour, geared towards the more sedate traveller.


Even way back in the dim & distant past when I was actually 18 years old, the idea of club 18-30 horrified me. This has not changed any, so I headed out to find the Con-Se-Tre office to make a booking on the granny tour. A short walk down the lovely looking beach (which on this day was unfortunately shaded in grey mist), I found what I was looking for & made a reservation for the bargain price of about 5 dollars.


The first inkling I got that something was amiss came soon after settling onto a wooden seat of the boat. (Sitting on the side, not the middle, in case I should get sea-sick)


The remaining seats soon filled up with suspiciously young, energetic looking people… I’m feeling a rising sense of panic; where’s the white-haired couples?..... The ever so slightly pompous expats? …These people all look far too fun for my liking. Then the sound system kicks in & The Pussy Cat Dolls confirm my worst suspicion: I’m on the club 18-30 trip!! ARRGGHHH.


I check my ticket ��" yup I’m definitely on the boat I’m meant to be on, so what’s happening here? I look to the captain for a possible explanation, but he’s busy tapping a microphone and cracking open a can of Tiger Beer.

It’s 8.30 in the morning for God’s sake!! The engine rumbles to life as the captain begins his tuneful rendition of ‘Don’t ya wish your girlfriend was hot like me’


It dawns on me what’s going on. My Lonely Planet is about 2 years out of date. I bet that little old Con ��"se ��"tre has merged with the monstrous ‘ho that is Mama Linh.


So here I am heading out for a days worth of frivolry. I seriously consider jumping over the side and swimming for the shore; it’s still within plausible reach. Only the thought of my precious camera stops me from nose-diving into the oil-drenched waters.


I’m starting to hyperventilate… what if we have to do lewd things with bananas & cream? Stimulate blowjobs with bottles of beer?….

Or worse still, perform karaoke??


As soon as was possible I managed to find a solitary spot on the roof of the boat. For the most part I was left alone here ��" nose buried deeply in a trash thriller novel. I think we may have stopped at an island or two, but only to look ��" escape remained out of reach.


The days’ highlight came at about 3 pm when the captain announced ‘Floating Bar!’ Bear in mind this chap had been sucking on beer since early in the morning ��" It was a miracle that he was able to announce anything at all. He promptly flung himself and a rubber ring into the sea, laid a wooden board atop the ring, lined up 30 or so plastic cups and whipped out a bottle of sweet Dalat wine.


Free Wine, Free Wine!


People all began jumping onto the water.

Having cooked myself to about 200 degrees by sitting on he roof all day, I jumped in too.


The captain passed around the little cups of wine and happily chugged from the bottle.


Errr-yuk! He bellowed, Fuckin’ mingin! No wonder it’s free.


Everyone laughed and so, encouraged, he bellowed again


Fuckin’ Mingin’ !!


More laughter, louder now, and so for the next 30 minutes the captain slugged and bellowed, slugged and bellowed:




I’ve got to admit it was pretty hysterical, and I had to thaw my snooty boots and laugh along too.


All in all a pretty crap island tour, I don’t remember anything about the islands, but it was at least highly memorable.



Train from Nha Trang To Hanoi


The sleeper carriage was small and clean. The walls & bunks a utilitarian grey-blue, with thick bright blue curtains corceteenered aside the very scratched window. On the 2 bunks opposite me were a young couple and their daughter.

They knew not a word of English and I could only manage a feeble ‘Xin Chao!’ in Vietnamese, but for the duration of the journey we exchanged nods and smiles.


One time when the daughter was feeling particularly bouncy she boing-ed all over me & my bunk, gently pulling my hair, clasping my I-pod and laughing sweetly as she stared at my strange blue eyes. With the exception of her mottled brown teeth (which I hoped were only milk teeth, and her mum would discover the benefits of fluoride soon) she was truly angelic looking; thick dark hair tangled from her acrobatics, creamy skin, slanted eyes shining nutella brown and pouted pink mouth which would frequently burst into happy smiles, each time delighting her proud parents, who would beam back.


The mother was perilously thin, even by Vietnamese standards, and after our lunch of steaming hot rice, vegetables & meat (all provided by the train company) I found her being delicately sick in the toilet cubicle making small agonised mews like a tortured kitten. I rubbed her back softly but didn’t fuss as I felt this would have embarrassed her.

She spent the remainder of our trip lying down holding her minuscule waist looking paler than pale.


Her husband’s outward concern was sparse but sincere. I saw him once stroke her face and for the rest of the time he busied himself playing with his daughter or, whilst she was sleeping, he’d stand smoking and staring out of the window. 


The passing views in central Vietnam were of a flat landscape punctuated by towering monolith rocks crouching among the paddy fields like ominous figures on a giant chess board, poised to slide into a new space when no-one was looking….At times the scenery would chance & we’d roll past the shoulders of a village with its chickens, bicycles, crouching mothers & waving children. Other times we’d pass through a small pastel painted station, empty but for a rigid guard dressed in olive uniform holding up a flag to acknowledge our passage.


It was hard not to gaze at the husband as he himself gazed through the window.

He was impossibly good looking, like Johnny Depp but even more delicate if you can imagine such a thing.


I didn’t know it at the time but this was the first of many occasions when the sheer perfection of an Asian face would move me like some sublime experience. As long as I can remember I’ve been fascinated by faces. My school, and later my college, then University, text books are quite obsessively covered with sketches of faces; male female, young, old, happy, sad… searching for what I don’t know. The mother of my first boyfriend once glimpsed a page of eye -doodles and hurried to tell me that the eye was the sign of Satan and I was evidently deeply disturbed. I countered that in many cultures the eye was symbolic of intelligence, but she just huffed loudly, suggesting it was much more likely that I was possessed by the devil.


Anyway, the real beauty of this man and his family was more than skin deep, it was in their manners, grace and tenderness. Neither man or woman raised their voices above a whisper and whilst the girl would shout and scream (as all healthy children should) her few protests were quiet and fleeting despite being cooped up in this small dreary space for almost 20 hours.


The family busied themselves to depart the train just short of Hanoi. Mother standing weakly holding her daughter’s hand; Father having magically changed into a crisp white shirt. We smiled goodbye and they were gone, leaving the carriage full of empty space and mechanical train sounds.

kikomanzoni says:
haha! nice blog! me and my waterproof camera will be in nha trang on sunday! let' s see how lucky i will be:)
Posted on: Nov 25, 2011
jayharrys says:
Really beautiful words, thankyou and wow. I land at 1900 the club, then up and off to Hoi an. Would have enjoyed meeting you. Hey ho
Posted on: Jan 23, 2008
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floating bar..
floating bar..
Nha Trang
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