Monkies, motos and mountains
09.05.2008 - 10.05.2008 9 °C
The sleeper bus arrived from HCMC at 6 am, and, after an unfortunate episode involving me forgetting a bag on the bus, and having to pay nearly half of its worth to get it back (don't worry, it wasn't worth that much), we had a hotel, all our belongings, and a map of a new city to explore.
Our splurge of the trip, a 2 star hotel.
We set out on foot, exploring the beach, finding food and overall having an enjoyable time in Nha Trang. The weather was beautiful, and the smaller city was a welcome relief from the craze that was HCMC. Nha Trang, apparently a big area for Vietnamese holidays, was very tourist friendly, with lots of little shops and food choices. Dinner found us at an awesome Indian restaurant where we gorged ourselves on tasty Nan, curry and rice. Needless to say, I practically had to be rolled back to our hotel I was so stuffed.
Beach down the street from our hotel
Since we were only spending one night in Nha Trang, we wanted to get an early start on our next day and started out the next morning at 7 am. We rented our first motorbike, from a man on the side of the street named Mr. Lam. It never ceases to amaze me how trusting these people are with tourists. We showed up, wrote down our names, told him our hotel name, paid him 6 USD and were given a shiny black bike with 2 helmets. We didn't show any ID, give him our passports or anything. For all he knows we could drive the bike to Hanoi and never return... lucky for him we are honest...
It was funny though, when we got our bike, both Brooke and I looked at it, a bit apprehensive, Mr. Lam asked, "You drive before?" Brooke confidently said yes (she had driven one twice, more than my once), and after he showed us how to start and brake we were off to a fabulous, albeit wobbly, start.
Our days itinerary consisted of Monkey Island (which, after searching the Internet in vain for directions, I eventually got the hotel to write down what it was called in Vietnamese) followed by waterfalls. Mind you, we had not researched the waterfalls, but Mr. Lam, when we rented the bike said, after "Monkey Island you see waterfalls, just go 3 km more." With those stellar directions we headed out. To be fair, we had a map with an arrow in the direction/road to initially drive and the receptionist, though surprised we were going to go on our own, did say you stay on HWY 1 the whole time. Once we did stop to ask directions... well ask may be a stretch, as we stopped at a fork in the road where at a small shack, turned make shift convenience store I was able to beckon to a woman, who though she spoke no English, when I showed her the Vietnamese words and looked confused (something I have perfected) she pointed to go right... Eventually we made it to the boat dock (18 km outside of town, 17 km off the map... go us huh?). Since we can't have all the luck, we had just missed the boat, and 15 minutes later, after staying off the package deal offers and eating a distasteful pistachio popsicle (green, I thought lime, not so much... I don't recommend it), we took the short boat ride that brought us to Monkey Island.
At the pier, waiting for the boat to take us out to the island
Monkey Island is a small island that is less a Monkey sanctuary as it is a commercialized establishment, home to tons of monkeys that, due to all the tourists constantly feeding them, are mostly tame. The island boasts showing monkeys in their 'natural habitat', which is a stretch for sure, but was pretty cool. The monkeys are really smart though, and right after they sold the 'monkey food' the monkeys jumped up on the tourists, scaring them and causing them to drop their bags of food, resulting in the monkeys getting all the food. I, stupidly, was eating an orange, and had a hungry entourage of monkeys, begging and jumping up on me trying to get my fruit. Selfishly, I slurped up the entire orange, faster than I would have liked, to avoid getting attacked by all of the crazy monkeys.
Completing the commercial extortion of the monkeys was a 'Dog and Monkey Show'. Dogs walking on 2 legs, monkeys riding the backs of dogs and racing, goats walking on balance beams and monkeys doing all sorts of tricks (my fav was the bicycle riding, complete with a Tuk Tuk driver and passenger). In the end though, the whole thing was pretty inhumane. All of the monkeys were wearing collars with leashes and when they came out they would hold the leash so their handlers wouldn't pull so hard and hurt their necks. I can't imagine the trainers are that kind to them, 2 animals tried to escape, and the man did not yell happy sounding words at them... oh gosh; my PETA is showing, sorry...
Leashes aside, this was my fav: Tuk Tuk driver with passenger, notice how the monkey is crossing 'her' legs??
Having had enough of animal cruelty we caught the boat back to the dock and set off in hopes of finding waterfalls. Much to my shock, we did eventually find the falls, whether they were the ones Mr. Lam had spoke of is debatable, but it was an enjoyable adventure finding it anyway so all was well. (To actually find the turn off we had to ask 3 different people, and got our point across by drawing a picture of a waterfall... I am quite a gifted artist... pointing to our water bottle and making ridiculous hand motions... regardless we got there in the end).
Ba Ho, the waterfall area, was a forest area with 3 different waterfalls you can visit by trekking up to them. After paying the entrance fee we set off on the trail. Apparently we looked like we may drown, as a young Vietnamese forest ranger followed us and helped us find our way their and back from the waterfalls (which turned out to be nice, as we may not have found the falls on our own.)
Though not overly spectacular, the falls were pretty, and the best part was being able to swim below the falls in the natural pools. After the falls, we returned to Nha Trang, almost crashed into a parked bike (don't worry, all was well in the end), and prepared for yet another 12 hour bus ride to Hoi An...