Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Vietnam Holiday Eight

Up early and off to Long Son temple after breakfast. The temple features a larger temple at the foot of the hill, a larger reclining Buddha halfway up the hill, a very large seated Buddha on top of the hill and an appropriate number of touts, beggars and general pests selling junk you don't want and not taking no for an answer. There are nowhere near the number of beggars in Vietnam you see in other poorer countries in south east Asia so it's rather startling to see any at all. It steadily rained as we climbed the hill, then we climbed back down again. I remained quiet and respectful in what I thought was a site dedicated to serenity and spirituality but the locals constantly waving postcards in face and blowing whistles made me wonder why I bothered. We then bravely crossed the road and flagged down a taxi who nearly ran a scooter rider off the road in his haste to pick us up. Using hand signals we directed the driver to the catholic cathedral in Nha Trang. I sat down inside to try and soak up five minutes of calm peace. I'm not sure what broke the spell for me, the gawking Russian tourists off the cruise boat using flash cameras and talking loudly or the ear blasting air horn of the 11 o'clock express to Ho Chi Minh City (the cathedral is located right beside the railway tracks).
We walked back to the hotel through a local market filled with strange fruits and vegetables, as well as various organ meats of unidentified creatures. A person of a more delicate disposition might find the sight of a butcher hacking a torso to pieces on the foot path disconcerting, and might make one less eager to try the local beef soup and stick to steamed rice and bottled water. Myself, I would describe it as enlightening.
Same same but different is a common saying in Vietnam and also the name of the restaurant we visited for lunch. When we arrived in Nha Trang the taxi driver pointed to the large sign above Vinpearl island spelling 'VINPEARL' and said "look, same same Hollywood!". In much the same same way as was the lunch venue same same to the finest restaurants in Australia. The both sell food. Actually the food there was very good and very very cheap. The only problem was the touts who constantly stream in and out selling cigarettes, pictures, postcards and
bootleg books. I bought two books.
Back to the gym to work out again and shoo away two American girls using the bench press as a lounge chair. Out to dinner at La Taverna, run by an Italian guy. Overall the food was great. The only thing I found unpalatable was the mixed deep fried seafood, which included a trio of whole fish, head, eyes, tail and all, battered and deep fried and staring accusingly at me with sightless eyes. Again there are certain lines I do not cross, even in the pursuit of a good meal.
We had been accosted upon entering by the spruikers of three competing bars, each side by side. The Vietnamese definition of competition being to put up an identical business next door and fight for the same customers. Enticed by the offer of two for one cocktails we went inside the blue lit pub while customers streamed in and out not long after. We had our two cocktails, asked for the bill and was unsurprised to find we had been charged for two cocktails anyway. Hampered by the language barrier and too tired to argue we paid our $6 and left.


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