The last few days have on the whole been relatively uneventful. I have been completing a scuba diving course which has been alot of fun - successfully gained my open water scuba divers license today. Love it!! Been some big days to fit it all in, all these videos I had to watch and a day session in the navy pool practicing plus the 4 open water dives which I finished this afternoon.
Anyway, yesterday afternoon I had a very eventful afternoon/evening which was definitely an experience and a half! About 5km out of town there is a natural hot springs/ and mineral mud place called Thap Ba which I was keen on visiting. I met a girl called Jessica during the dives yesterday and as she had the afternoon free we decided to go together.
After some discussion on the matter of transportation, we decided that we would hire a scooter ("motorcycle") for a couple of hours to get ourselves out there. This in itself wasn't a particular drama, they were happy to view my drivers license and rang up thehotel to confirm they had jessica's passport and here-you-go there's a scooter for you to ride for 40,000vnd (approximatley 2.50 which we split between us).
Dilemna number 1. Manual scooter, no clutch! I have a motorbike at home so figured yeah no problem it'll be easy to ride a scooter. Hmm, think again. Everything was different!! Everything! Firstly, the lack of clutch was a bit baffling, secondly the gears are entirely different to a motorbike. For example, a real motorbike you would tap down for first gear, and then lift up for 2nd thru to 5th gear and then tap down to go down through the gears using the 1 pedal for all.
These scooters, they had 2 pedals (thankfully on the same side). You tapped down on the front pedal for gears 1-4, then tap down on the back pedal (meaning you have to move your foot) to go down the gears. but you could also tap down on the back pedal to end up in 4th gear. How that works exactly I have noooooooo idea!!
Third difference - driving on the 'wrong' side of the road. I actually didn't find this really difficult, its more a matter of trying to remember which way to look when crossing the roads! Fourth - I'd never ridden with a pillion passenger before so that made things a bit different.
Finally and probably the most significant of all is the traffic and the rules (or seemingly lack of) when driving/riding through Vietnam!! The section of town we are currently located in is basically a tourist domain and is very very quiet in comparision to the other end of the town!! There are cars everywhere, bikes everywhere crossing pretty much everywhere and anywhere!
So there we were, 2 white girls in singlets, thongs, and relatively mid-thigh skirts/shorts (very normal attire for the other end of town...). The road to the centre was off to the side and ende up in the country by the river so we began to feel a bit underdressed as the only foreigners around. We must have made an interesting sight trying to navigate our way around the main roads to our chosen destination. We went a bit too far along the main road due after we misunderstood the sign, so it probably took us about 30 minutes to get there (including about 5 minutes time teaching myself how to use the scooter) while about 15 on the way back with a more direct route with fewer traffic lights and roundabouts!
But we made it! And boy, if you are ever in nha Trang you MUST go to the mud baths they are awesome!! for 100,000 dong (about AU$7-8) you have the basic treatment. Firstly, you have a shower in hot mineral water followed by a 15 minute soak in a tub full of mud, which smells amazing with a slight hint of ginger and cinnamin!! It is not really thick, a bit runny. we had a communal tub (there are probably about 30 tubs in the complex for mud) and we were joined by a Swedish couple who we also saw today on a boat trip on the harbour! After you have soaked (I think they forgot us so we soaked about 30 min), you go and sit in the sun and bake for 10 minutes.
Once your mud pie is nice and dry you wash it all off under the mineral showers again. Next stop the hydrotherapy jets. I must say, these were definitely designed with the Vietnamese people in mind as the top of the jets tended to finish around the waist of us westerners!! Next, you jump into a spa tub freshly filled with hot mineral water and you soak there for 30-40 minutes. amazing!! After that, you are free to spend as much time (unlimited) in the multiple pools and waterfalls in the rest of the complex. It is really really well set up!! there were a few hot pools -imagine a full resort size swimming pool at 38 degrees... mmmmmmm :) as well as cooler mineral pools. It was awesome for sure. We left feeling very clean refreshed with silky smooth skin! Definitely get your money's worth at this place for sure. all up we were there for about 2 hours, could have stayed longer but wanted to be back before dark.
Anyway, i should go in search of some food before catching the bus - off to hoi an tonight, arrive about 5am tomorrow I think... It's a sleeper bus and i believe some sleeping tablets will be an extremely wise investment here! :) Tomorrow night is new years eve for TET so we'll see how I go. I haven't booked any where to stay as of yet, and it is likely that many shops will be shut. I like living on the wild side, the worst that can happen is I have no food for a day.... :)