February 17th, 2010

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Wednesday Feb 17 Nha Trang

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010
So far, So good. I was holding my breath, worried that the memories of Nha Trang from my 2006 visit on “Fleetwood” might turn out into a disappointment. That the town would have been turned into another Vang Vien or Disney Land. There are definitely more tourists,hotels and traffic but the beaches and blue ocean andthe fishing fleet have not changed. The sleeper bus arrived in the early morning. The first couple of hotels I tried wanted anywhere from $30 to $50 a night. They were still taking advantage of the holiday rush. I found a $15 room. No fridge, no a.c. The usual coffee at most cheap Vietnamese breakfasts is a nasty mixture of instant coffee and unspecified chemical fortifiers. So, I stopped afterwards at “Le PetitBistro” for real coffee. There I made the acquaintance with Brent a Tex-Frisco semi permanent self imposed U.S. exilee, married to a lovely Chinese, younger than his son by a previous marriage.  This might shock a few people in my home town but this is a “au jour” among the semi permanent mixed couple circuit in Saigon. I met one American whose  new Vietnamese mother in law is younger than his daughter from his first marriage.
He gave me the name of an Edmontonian, Owen, married to a Vietnamese Canadian. who owns a hotel on the beach on the northern edge of Nha Trang.
I bought a mountain bike from the hotel where I am staying. She wanted 1,7 million dong. Or about $95 we settled on 1,3 million and then I had to replace the brake and derailleur handles and buy a cable lock and still ended up in the $90 range. But renting a bike for nearly 30 days would have cost me $ 60 and I should be able to get at least $50 on resale. I bought a brand new (Vietnamese not as good as this bike)bike from the same shop that fixed my brakes/gears in 2006. That bike crossed from Vietnam to Malaysian Borneo and was stolen in Kudat in May 2006. My next bike was bought in Bali andstolenin Durban. Then Bob Ellsworth gave me folding bike in July 2007 and it was stolen on my birthday Feb 28 2009 in Puerto Rico. Next, Greg and Marlys Clark gave me another folding bike in Fort Lauderdale on April 2nd 2009 anditis locked with a chain half the weight of the bike in Amsterdam.
After the two young men had replaced the brake handles and gear shifts there was a good reason for a : “Mot, Hai, Ba (1-2-3) “Yohhhh!” party. See the below picture. Everyone is still in the New Years celebration mode. And little serious work is accomplished. The main businesses and government offices do not reopen till this Monday. The family obligations and prayers and offerings in the temples have been done andnow it is more going around andvisiting old friends in the neighborhood you grew up with.
I rode the bike to the “Tides Hotel” north of town on the beach front boulevard to meet Owen. I’ll be paying $ 10 a day for a room with a/c , fridge, wi-fi, etc. without an ocean view. Brant has an ocean view and balcony for a double room for all of $ 12… The beach here is cleaner than in the central part of Nha Trang.  The only disadvantage is the long ride into town but I do need the exercise and there will be many days when I have no need to go to town. I plan to do some serious writing of a couple of stories and go for an occasional dip in the ocean to break the fixation. I had lunch on the Cai River, near the hotel. A get together was going on with a number of high school friends all 30 years old. Two of them had worked as French speaking tourist guides and most of them spoke some English. They asked me to join their table. See below picture. I might join them later at Karaoke. I’ll pinch and ask myself the same question again: “Am I having fun yet?” “You bet your sweet buns, I am!”
Yesterday, saying good bye to my Vietnamese-American friend Mike, I learnt once again how small the world is. Our, the Tacoma van Ommens, favorite restaurant is Vien Dong (translate: Far East) restaurant on 38th and Tacoma Ave. in Tacoma, Wa. It has, to my taste, the very best Cha Gio ( spring rolls) in the U.S.A., as a matter of fact, since I left Saigon in 1963 I have not even tasted any better here in Vietnam. On June 1st 1994 daughter # 2, Rose Marie, broke her water of her first child while having lunch with me and my visiting twin brother Jan and his wife Catharina at “VienDong”.  Now it turns out that my new friend Mike started the restaurant and sold it to the current owners in 1991…… Mike is coming to the N.W. in April when I will be there and we will, for sure, all go and all have Cha Gio at “Vien Dong”.
After lunch I went to visit the Po Nagar Cham Towers. This site was used as early as 200 A.D. and the current temple dates from between 700 and 1200 B.C. The Chams were Hindus and many of the ethnic Chams in Vietnam andCambodia now practice the Islam religion. (See my blog around Jan 18 when crossing into Cambodia).
The weather here is cooler than Saigon and there is a very pleasant breeze coming form the ocean. I know I will like my stay here.

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