10 05 2010

Sorry for not posting in a while but as things always do when traveling, plans change. After leaving our gracious hosts at China beach we had originally planned on taking the train from the China Beach area directly to Saigon but then decided to break it up with a stop in the beach resort town of Nha Trang. We thought that we might spend a day or two there before heading up towards the mountains and finally on to Saigon. We took a train to Nha Trang which turned out to be a miserable sleepless night, we where only able to get a seat which did not recline.  The a/c in the car hardly worked and there was no air movement in the car with temps reaching 85-90 degrees. To top it off we where at the very end of the car near the toilet and the entrance door to the car would not stay latched so it banged away with every rock and bump the train made. Well, we finally made it to Nha Trang and found a hotel where we refreshed before taking a walk around town. One thing we noticed was that there where about a hundred dive shops in town. I thought this must mean something . After doing a little research I found out that Nha Trang had the best diving in Vietnam and was also one of the least expensive diving destinations in the world. We randomly walked into a little dive shop called Angel Dive. After discussing some of the finer points of the sport we signed up to go out and take a Try-Dive the next day. Early morning we met at the shop where we were introduced to our dive instructor, a very friendly expat Frenchman, Frederic. We headed out to the boat and once aboard made our way out to a marine park located about an hour from port. We got suited up and reviewed some techniques before entering the water. What can I say about actually diving, I am not sure as I have heard many people talking about how much they love it but it truly is something you have to experience to  understand. The best I can say, it is all a bit surreal.             I mean come on you are breathing under water, how un natural is that? Once you get over that little hurdle you start to take in your enviroment and the amazing undersea world. You spend a lot of the first couple of dives concentrating on flotation and buoyancy, as well as  trying to avoid running into the reef and sea life, but occasionally you get this under control and really get to enjoy the feeling of weightlessness and you fly over the seabed below. Well needless to say, having a slightly impulsive and addictive personality I signed both of us up to continue diving for the next couple of days and get our Open Water Diving License. This of course changed our little one day stop over into a four-day diversion and we had to shuffle some tickets we had bought  and rearrange our lodging. We spent the next two days out on the water diving, practicing skills and studying in preparation for the exam required to receive certification. The nice thing was that once we got our skills out-of-the-way we got to spend the rest of the time underwater exploring the reef which was absolutely spectacular. I had a fascination with marine life as a child and finally swimming among all of those beautiful fish and corals really rekindled that interest. We spent the rest of our time in Nha Trang by going to the beach everyday around sunset to cool off which was almost a requirement as the heat index was well above 100 degrees everyday and finally by taking our diving test. We had both accomplished our underwater skills and passed our test thereby qualifying us both as Licensed Open Water Divers. With so many spectacular places to dive around South East Asia we hope to take advantage of this once or twice before we head inland. One quick note if any one ever plans on diving in Vietnam please stop by and see Fred at Angel Dive, he is one of the best guides I have ever met and with more than 6000 dive under his belt he is a more than competent dive master , you will without a doubt have a great time with him and his crew. After our test we caught a train to Saigon thankfully in a sleeping car with a bunk. Unfortunately we where misinformed about the arrival time and where a bit shock when the train arrived at 4:00 AM. I really dislike arriving in a new strange city while it is dark let alone at 4 in the morning while I am tired and a bit off after getting  little sleep but there was not much I could do at that point so we just took a cab to the tourist hotel area. Upon arrival we discovered much to our chagrin that almost everything was closed including hotels except for a few bars that where still going at that hour. We walked around for a bit before finding a little place that was open 24 hours a day down a little alley and got our selves a room. We slept for a couple of hours before getting up and catching a tour to the Cu Chi Tunnels a site anyone familiar with the Vietnam War show recognize(or the American War if you are over here). Visiting the site was a bit sobering when you stand back and try to take in the amount of death and destruction that was rained down upon this area during the war but was tempered by the slight theme park like atmosphere presented by the guides and the foreign tourists as they climbed aboard decimated tanks and smiled and waved as they had there pictures taken. I am not sure but I believed soldiers died in these machines and it should really be treated more like a memorial than a prop, I mean after a fatal car accident would you get in a pose in the wrecked car smiling away. I guess time plays a big role in forgetting these things as well as not knowing the men who died but good or bad friend or foe all of these people should be remembered. We got to explore some of the tunnels and learned about the traps and ingenious devices the villagers from Cu Chi devised to fight the “devils” which makes it hard not to admire their spirit and creativity. But overall I left with a sinking feeling about neither the Vietnamese nor the American soldiers but just with humanity in general. Are we all that different, does it really have to go that far, should killing a fellow human really be OK no matter what his political or religious views are. Can we not spend the tremendous amount of energy, money and human lives doing something to benefit mankind as a whole rather than trying to divide and conquer? Well enough about that, we are only going to spend one more day in Saigon before we head out for a tour of the Mekong Delta for a couple of days and continue on to Phnom Pehn in Cambodia so I do not anticipate I will be able to write another post until then. I hope all is well with our loyal followers and we really appreciate all of the wonderful comments, keep them coming.  

P.S.  Justyna’s take on diving (written by Justyna):  

Day 1: I know nothing about it , but I am loving it, don’t ask why  

Day2: I know a little about it , and it makes me freak out and panic,” I can’t do it”!  

Day 3: “Can’t do it” upon waking up, “can’t do it” while taking the boat out to dive site, “can’t do it” upon jumping in the water. Oh shoot I can do it, I am doing it and it is awesome!  

Thanks to my tireless husband who never stopped believing in my abilities, and did not give into my negative mantra, and lack of self confidence. Also thanks to my diving instructor Frederic who admitted my problem was purely mental and could not do anything to help me, however, his patience and experience led me to trust him, and believe I had what it took  and made diving possible for me.  

Our Wonderful Hosts At Hoa's Place


An Emotional Goodbye Before Leaving For Nha Trang


After A Long Night On The Train


The Beach At Nha Trang


Nha Trang Beach At Sunrise


Justyna Getting Ready To Dive


Our Tireless Instructor Fredric After Teaching Justyna How To Dive


Diving In Nha Trang (pic. courtesey of Fred At Angel Dive Shop)


Diving In Nha Trang (pic. courtesey of Fred At Angel Dive Shop)


Diving In Nha Trang (pic. courtesey of Fred At Angel Dive Shop)


Diving In Nha Trang (pic. courtesey of Fred At Angel Dive Shop)


Diving In Nha Trang (pic. courtesey of Fred At Angel Dive Shop)


Destroyed Tank Remains


Justyna In One Of The Cu Chi Tunnels




3 responses

18 05 2010

Just amazing guys!!! AMAZING!

10 05 2010
mom, dad, maggie

Hi Andrew and Justyna, So happy to get some pictures again. Very beautiful and just as pretty as Hawaii but I’m sure in a different way.

10 05 2010
aunt Gail

Dear Andrew,
Your question on “war” has been asked since time began. Unfortunately, others in the world do not have the same beliefs or values that we have in our hearts. Sadly there is hatred in the world. Sadly, someone must try to right the wrongs of others, thus conflicts occur. We can only hope that in the end “good will conquer over evil.” Traveling through any part of the world we see the mistakes in retrospect of “civilizations” and we only pray we can become wiser by not repeating them.
You are learning lessons of life. If only there were no Hitler, Nero, Mussilini and others who were truly evil people out to gain control and power we could have a chance for peace.

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