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Nha Trang

Written on: Thursday December 6th, 2007

A journal entry from: Around The World Without A Plane

There's an Aussie guy named Peter Moore who wrote a book about his trip doing a similar excursion to Dave and I. He had a different song for each of his chapters. Using that influence my Nha Trang song is without a doubt Losing My Religion by REM.

It was our final night of four in Nha Trang, a relatively dull coastal town, with a vast amount of resident Westerners due to it's many dive centres in the place. It was for this reason that we stayed as long as we did, as the monsoon rains had followed us down from Hoi An and had it not been for me doing my Open Water Scuba Diver certification we would have quickly moved down the coast towards Saigon.

Choosing the most reputable and the most expensive I'll have you know, I began my DVD education at Rainbow Divers the afternoon we arrived, learning to my heart's content about buoyancy, breathing aids and the bends. It was weird being back in a classroom situation, but this time as a pupil. The following day myself and my two fellow Singaporean trainees, Wendy and Zhan Yi spent an exhausting day in the local swimming pool with our Dutch instructor Jos going through all the exercises we would need to master before being let loose in the big pond itself. Having dived a few times before the exercises weren't the problem, it was the swimming test that preceeded it that caused me my worst respiratory pain I can remember. For any of you that have seen me swim you'll know that the only thing I share in common with a coot is the fact we're both balding. I've never been able to swim well, despite going to Hanworth Leisure Centre every Saturday morning to obtain and proudly display my badges on my swim shorts, I'm just not particularly buoyant. In fact I tend to sink rather quickly, but when told to get in the Olympic sized swimming pool, without any warm-up whatsoever at 7:30 in the morning and swim four 50 metre lengths of it I confidently, but hesitatingly obliged. Imbicille.

By the end of the first length of uncoordinated breast-stroke I was gasping for breath, so decided that to speed this torture up I'd go the next three lengths in front crawl. Once more, an imbicille! I had to stop after two lengths, pretending to the instructor that I thought that was all I had to do. Laughing nervously I doggedly began the long swim back to the other end of the pool, very conscious that this was the 5 metre down deep end. Telling myself I only had one length left I set off for the final 50 metres resembling an epileptic, dying, four tenticled octopus, my limbs shooting out in whatever direction they could to keep me afloat and propel me in some sort of forward motion.

Relieved I made it to the end, aware I was being worryingly watched by Jos I somehow or other was able to pull myself up the steps and out of the pool, but no rest for the wicked. Jos went straight in to the explanation of all the dive equipment and how to fix it all up. I was a mess. More so than I can ever remember from any other occurance of exercise. My eyes couldn't focus, my legs wanted to give way, I felt sick and I couldn't even distinguish between the tank and the regulator, let alone put them together.

In the end I had to ask if we could pause briefly as I needed some water. Returning thankfully with my vision relatively back to normal and my heart not pounding like a Phil Collins drumbeat I was smashed in the stomach violently by the words that we were now returning to the pool to do the 10 minute float test. I lasted 5, maybe 6 minutes, then without Jos noticing clung to the underwater ledge kicking out my legs as gracefully and as relaxed as I could to make it appear that this was a breeze. Getting those two exercises over with we could then actually get on with the diving. What the point of those two exercises is I still have no idea. The reason I like diving is I don't have to stay on the surface, and it's not really swimming it's just moving around in the water. Surely Jos should have checked whether we could sink first, and in that department I'm first class.

The exercises went fine, but time was getting the better of us, and as the sun came down we hadn't finished everything we needed to complete the course in the short time of only three days, meaning we would have to return to the pool the following day. Upon leaving, cold, tired and so, so hungry as we'd stayed in the pool the whole day with no break for lunch, I actually comtemplated not returning the next day, but by 6am the next morning I'd firmly made up my mind to get through it, especially as the first part of the morning we would spend in the sea itself doing two of our four open water dives. Because of the monsoon rains and the winds the sea was really choppy and they weren't easy dives, with visability of no more than a couple of metres, but both Zhan Yi and myself got through it, while Wendy had a few problems with the rough conditions and called it a day to sunbathe up on the boat instead.

After completing our final exercises that afternoon and our two last dives the next day, we took our exam where I scored a very respectable 96% and began to celebrate. Dave, who hadn't been feeling too well the last few days joined our troupe for dinner, and then he and I went off to a couple of bars and then the party place in town, The Sailing Club. Full of drunken maniacs and dodgy hookers surrounding the dancefloor eyeing up and smiling through crooked teeth at wealthly old Westerners, we decided we hung at the bar surveying this nonsence and so ordered a jar of some cocktail which seemed to be the drinking delicacy here. After two of those we had no need for alcohol for many weeks, as they were potent. Dave returned to the hotel room to sleep them off while I was persuaded to go on to the next place by a group of people I had met diving. In the Why Not Bar for some reason I apparently purchased a bottle of Vodka, so I was told the following day and continued to party the night away. Now throughout the whole of our stay in Nha Trang we had been constantly warned about the tuc-tuc drivers and the ladies of the night that lurk around the area between the Sailing Club and the Why Not Bar. Many people had been mugged and robbed of their wallets, cameras and whatever other gems these pilfering gits could lay their hands on. Taking this in to consideration Dave and I wisely left our wallets in the guest house and took out only what we thought we might need that night. Leaving the club and sitting with a couple of friends at a corner food store I was approached by a grinning, attractive Vietnamese girl. Immediately my friends began to warn me to watch out for this one. I knew as well as they though what she was after and now a fully qualified Open Water Diver I could take on anybody and win. I knew exactly where my valubles were and was immortal. She leaned up against me, and began to try and nuzzle herself on to my knee, while I apparently ignored her, happy for her to try and get whatever it was she thought she could get. Little did she know of my immortality.

I have absolutley no idea how she did it, but I was immediately aware. I turned around in the direction to where we was sitting only to see her Chesire cat smile extinguish in the dark night.  She had managed to unclasp my 18 carot gold crucifix necklace in the deftest and most professional of manners. I was furious, livid. I lept at the nearest moto driver and shouted that I would pay him 2 million dong (a fortune in Vietnam) if he could find the heartless harpy. After two circles of the block though, it was no use, and I wandered back to my hotel thoroughly pissed off.

The next day I awoke shouting at the top of my voice, and continued to do so for the remainder of the day. Once more I was an imbiccile. Optimistically at least it was only my iconic religion that had been stolen and not my spiritual one. Roll on Saigon.


From Kara on Mar 23rd, 2008

Great blog Si! Very funny...except for the losing your necklace part.