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Merry Christmas

Written on: Thursday December 25th, 2008

We left Hoi An on an overnight bus headed to Nha Trang: finally, I would get back to the beach.  I was ready to stay in one place for a while, and this seemed like the best option in Vietnam.  Ksenia, Dennis and I chose a hotel and decided to meet up later in the day for dinner.  None of us slept well on the bus, and I needed a nap.  After a refreshing three hours slumber, I awoke to a brilliant afternoon...sunny, warm, and everything I was looking for.  I explored town a bit, checking out dive shops and restaurants before going for a run on the beach - now I truly started to enjoy Vietnam.  Eventually I met up with K and D for dinner and drinks, and we all seemed in better spirits, laughing and playing cards to the wee hours.

The next day was Christmas Eve!  We didn't plan anything overly exciting.  K and D rented a motorbike and cruised town a bit, while I caught up on electronic commitments.  After dinner we walked about the town, heading to the local areas.  It was here that we found a beautiful church surrounded by locals celebrating the holiday.  We strolled about and took in the hoilday cheer before working our way back to our hotel.  Unfortunately, it started pouring buckets, and the only place nearby to escape the downpour was a club, so we ducked in and ended up witnessing the local party scene.  It was actually quite enjoyable, so we had a drink, cheered when it turned midnight and officially welcomed Christmas.  After the rain ceased we made it back to the hotel and spent a couple more hours chatting and playing cards.  As I finally settled into bed and thought about the day, it felt a bit strange...back home I would have been desparately trying to wrap the last few gifts, exceedingly grateful for the moment mom would offer to help.  We would have gone to church, and returned home to laugh and chat while drinking wine and eating shrimp.  We would have stayed up way too late, allowing only a few hours sleep before the girls arrived with eager faces and tales of Santa's latest gifts.  Yes, I missed being home for Christmas.

Christmas morning in Nha Trang was overcast but pleasant.  After working out some travel issues and grabbing a bite, we decided to rent motorbikes and head to the country: apparently there was a very cool waterfall about 30km out of town.  So we cruised along the coast, passing one spectacular vista after another.  I had a perma-smile for about 15km, and couldn't help but singing 'Long Way 'Round' at the top of my lungs as we flew along the windy, mountainside road.  We went through tiny, poor fishing villages, where the kids ran out to see us, faces smiling with an innocence rarely seen here.  We passed local fruit stands, vowing to buy some goodies on our return.  And we finally got to the last village just before the waterfall.  It consisted of one road, with a few houses and markets dotted between the water-soaked rice fields.  Dogs, chickens, goats, ducks and buffalo all posed significantly more threats on the road than the pedestrians and other bikers.  But we avoided the potential hazzards only to come upon the next challenge: the road went from taramac to mud...not gravel or dirt, but puddled-filled, can't-tell-how-deep-the-potholes-are mud.  We spun our way through, knuckles white and adreneline pumping, until we finally arrived at the trailhead.  Whew...glad that's over.  A one kilometer hike followed our arrival.  We trekked through the jungle at the river's edge, with the sound of the first of three waterfalls steadily growing louder with each step.  Eventually we made it and soaked in the natural beauty of the river and granite boulders along its banks.  We slowly climbed over the rocks, working our way upstream and snapping photo after photo of this spectacular location.  We made it to the final waterfall just before the rain started.  Now came the challenging part...working our way back down, in the rain and with darkness quickly approaching; sadly, nobody had the foresight to bring a torch.  We succeeded without much of a problem, hopped back on the bikes and attacked the muddy track once again.  Somehow it seemed easier this time, and I actually looked forward to the more challenging segments of the road.  We stopped at the lil' village to buy some fruit before continuing on to town. 

With the added mobility of the motorbikes, we were able to check out some additional local pockets of town.  One of these had an array of streetside seafood vendors, where we all quickly agreed to enjoy Christmas dinner.  We absolutely gorged ourselves on fresh prawns, mussels, clams, snails, oysters and scallops, washing it all down with a tasty San Miguel.  With our bellies full and our bodies fatigued, we stopped at just one more joint for a nightcap before returning home.  I sat up on internet, waiting for midnight to call friends and family back home.  It sure felt good to hear everybody's voice and be a part of their Christmas morning, even if only in the most minor of ways.

The next day Dennis and I went diving, while Ksenia chilled on the boat.  I was told not to expect much of the diving here, so my expectations were low.  As it turned out, it wasn't bad...not great but certainly better than I expeted.  The corals were all hard corals, but were fairly intact.  The fish populations were small, but a few exotics were plentiful, including lionfish, scorpionfish and nudibranches.  After the dive, K, D and I enjoyed a farewell beer as they were headed down to Saigon and the Mekong Delta.  That didn't interest me much, so I chose to stay here another night to chill.  As it turned out, right as K/D left, I met up with David, my diving buddy from earlier in the day.  So we went off to sample some more seafood on the street and prepare for a night of general debauchery.  We succeeded in this endeavor and parted ways at 4:30am.

It was my intention to depart Nha Trang the next day; unfortunately, the busses to Saigon were full for two more nights.  So I stuck it out, sampling the many restaurants in the area, meeting new acquaintances and trying to stay dry.  It was raining here off and on all day, every day, with a most unexpected weather pattern settling over the region.  This kept me close to the hotel, allowing for a chance to relax and prepare for the next destination, where I hoped to meet up not only with Ksenia and Dennis, but with a little luck, a couple of the gents that I met months ago on Borneo.



From Steve and Nicole on Jan 2nd, 2009

Not sure if you read these comments (let us all know if you do in a post). Nicole and I enjoyed catching up on your blogs tonight after an extended new years trip to the UP for some snowboarding with the Miziorkos. We really enjoy your insights into the world; especially since we know we'll never get to most of these places. Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and stay safe!