If you’re lucky enough to be at the beach, you’re lucky enough. This morning we see our hotel in daylight for the first time. The property is exquisite and the views along the Nha Trang beach, with thatched umbrellas and mountains on the distant shores, are spectacular. We have breakfast on the porch; among our selections are 20+ types of tropical fruits. This is paradise.
“It’s the little things we do together”. It seems like an appropriate theme for our day with Vietnam Tour Pedia. No big famous monuments … just little slices of Vietnamese life.
We pass orchards and palm trees as we wander through rural landscapes. Our first stop is Khai Sang School, a kindergarden full of precious 4 and 5-year-olds. They sing and dance for us and are then released to play with us. Two main activities: looking at photos we have taken of them on our digital cameras and being lifted in the air by their fellow, yet visitors. For them, i could be a personal amusement park. They are lifted higher than they have ever been and each of the 30 children stands in line for their thrill ride. He’s a very popular guy who gets a lot of aerobic exercise. Soon he recognizes that the kids have come back for seconds and thirds. They are beautiful and their laughter contagious.
Next we visit a local open-air market, the hub of village life, where we buy fresh fruit, sample fried sweet potatoes and bargain for wares. There are live fish on platters squirming around and fresh frogs who might be leaping if they weren’t tied to one another. All the fish and meat is fresh and un-iced, ready for the day’s consumption. A friend of mine mentions that you know it’s fresh because nothing smells. But it’s so very unusual for as us to see how things are sold. In addition to fresh meats and produce, there are things like shoes, incense and bras, of all things, being sold in stalls next to fish heads. It’s very much a cash economy; we are told it’s hard for economists to determine GNP.
We then spend time with local weavers who sell mats for a living. They show us how it’s done, our local tour guide from Nha Trang explain how they are used (those who work in the rice fields sleep on very flat mats to compensate for the fact that they are bent over all day). Some of the guys on our group try their turn at weaving. Some among the group, buy place-mats. Now we visit a 200-year-old home and are served tea and some fresh fruit as we sit in beautiful burl wood chairs. We sample Mangosteen and dragon fruit, some of the more exotic varieties of Vietnamese fruits that you can also find then in the region.
We board two motorboats for a ride down the Cai River, passing wooden bridges built just for bicycles and scooters and taking in small fishing villages that are made up of tin shanties on stilts hanging over the water. We lunch at Champa Restaurant where there is a curious Vietnamese decoration all around. The entire thing is supported by four bronze Buddhas. Lunch is a little extreme for some and my coffee is a new experiment for the Vietnamese. It is coffee grown in the region, and served in a Vietnamese version of a French press. It is stronger than anything I have ever tasted … more like a concentrated extract. I am served one ounce; I eventually add 6 ounces of hot water and it becomes palatable. They need to work on this.
Back at Evason Ana Mandara resort, I see some of the ladies on our group, including my girlfriend rush to get a manicure appointments at the very Vietnamese spa. The manicure, which costs less than $50 and is scheduled to last 50 minutes, is delivered lying down! The technicians, of course, are not lying down; but we recline on massage tables as they do our nails in very dim light with soothing music being played. So very odd. A half-hour into the thing, lying flat on my back really gets to me; it becomes painful. I lift my knees and try other remedies but I finally insist on sitting up. She gives me a back rub to try and correct the pain and she moves on. The entire event lasts 80 minutes and we don’t have time for a top coat nor to sit and have ginger tea which they insist upon.
We are now set for a one-hour city tour by cyclo, a three-wheel cycle rickshaw which is a human-powered tricycle designed to carry one passenger in addition to the driver. We tour Nha Trang and have many exciting encounters with cars, buses, pedestrians and especially scooters. Our guide’s experience is breath-taking. But it’s quite an adventure and we are glad to have experienced it. Dinner is the fresh market buffet of the hotel Lots of food stations with lots of food. After dinner, there is a demonstration of traditional dance.