The Day That Made the Drive Worth It

This is what we woke up to at the hotel in Nha Trang

I could get used to waking up to a view like this.

So let’s try this again, shall we? I left off at arriving in Nha Trang. The next day was spent at a resort on a nearby island called VinPearl. We reached the island by gondola, allowing for some absolutely stunning views. The first place we went to was the beach. The water was cool and clear, the sand was white and clean. You could swim out to the buoy that separated the beach from the rest of the ocean, and still see your feet! Of course, maybe it was easier for me because I’m kinda short. But even the 6 foot tall white guy (Evan) could see his feet, though maybe with less definition than I could. Regardless, the beach was super nice. We went to a few of the waterpark area rides, but found only a few worth riding. For lunch, we ate at a fast-food kind of place that mainly had American-type food. I got a hot dog, and some of the other menu items included a burger, fish sticks, chicken strips, and fried chicken. The fish sticks and chicken strips looked pretty similar to me. In any case, the food was less than satisfactory, a poor imitation of the fatty, savory versions that we get in the US. After we finished lunch, we went to the small aquarium at the VinPearl resort. It was pretty neat (yeah, I just said “neat”) because a majority of the place was a huge tank with underwater tunnels. Another thing that was really nice was the conveyor belt that went through the tunnel, so all you had to do was stand there and take it in. After the aquarium, we split up. Theresa and Evan went back to the beach, while Quan and I decided to explore the carnival/amusement park side of the resort. Standing in line was pretty frustrating, mainly because people don’t have the same view of lines as we do in the US. A line means nothing, and a majority of Vietnamese will just shove their way in front of you without any hesitation. It’s a common occurrence, so it’s pretty pointless to get upset, and the only thing you can really do is cut back in front of them. Another interesting thing is how flustered people get from the rides they have here. Anyone who’s been to a Six Flags will probably think the rides are pretty lame, suited more towards children than adults, but all the Vietnamese people hang on to the rides for dear life, and since many do not ride in cars often, it’s not uncommon for people to get motion sickness. We went on one of those rocking ship rides (a glorified see-saw), and each row had a stash of vomit bags. People also don’t stick their hands in the air, though Quan and I tried to get others to. We left the resort around 16:30 (4:30 PM) in order to attend mass. We got there kinda late and had to sit outside on little plastic stools. There was a huge stack of them, so I’m assuming that there’s never enough room inside the church. This probably turned out for the best, as the church/cathedral didn’t have any A/C (just fans) and was probably pretty stuffy inside. In Vietnam, the mass is still a little old fashioned, in the way where women sit on one side and men sit on the other. In the US, after saying the Our Father in preparation to receive the Eucharist, everyone shakes hands with each other and says, “Peace be with you.” In Vietnam, no one shakes hands with each other. The way that Theresa’s mom put it, it has something to do with them viewing bodily contact as inviting sin or something, which is also the reason for the segregated seating. In any case, it was kinda awkward when we were the only ones shaking hands with each other, on top of the fact that we had a white guy with us. The dinner we had that night involved lots of fresh seafood. We were able to pick out what seafood we wanted (freshly caught), and then they cooked the seafood and served it to us at our table. I can’t remember all of what we got, but I know we had grilled squid, which was absolutely delicious. I’m sure my cousin, Theresa, has lots of pictures and more descriptions as to what we had that night. The next morning, we drove to Hoi Anh, which is apparently the first city that Westerners came to do business at. The drive took the whole day — we left around 7:30 and didn’t arrive until 8 PM. After having been stuck in the van for 10 hours about two days prior, we were understandably cranky and tired by the time we finally arrived in Hoi Anh. The next day was spent walking around an older part of the city, looking at all the shops that line the streets. Theresa and I found a clothing store early on in the morning that could make custom clothes for us, but we walked around more before circling around and spending 3 or so hours picking out styles and fabrics and then getting measured for our clothes. Theresa chose to get 4 dresses made, while I went with variety, choosing a blouse, dress, dress pants, and romper to be made for me (all of which only cost me $70). Once we were finished getting measured, we were told to return around 7 PM to try on our clothes, which would allow them time to make final adjustments for us. In the meantime, we decided to grab some lunch. The place we had lunch at is apparently pretty famous. The sign for it said that it was mentioned in Lonely Planet, and when we arrived, we saw a table full of foreigners. The restaurant had a set menu, which involved fresh greens and grilled meat being rolled up in rice paper and  then dipped into some mysterious but delicious sauce. Later on in the meal, we added banh xeo to the mix. All in all, it was a satisfying and enjoyable meal, especially since the owner of the place took a liking to my uncle and stood by the table practically the entire meal, rolling the food for us so that all we had to do was eat. In addition to that, she heard from my aunt and uncle that Theresa and I planned on visiting a spa sometime in the afternoon. Luckily, her sister (or maybe it was sister-in-law?) happened to own a spa, and she took it upon herself to get a reservation for us around 4 in the afternoon. On top of that, she walked us to another clothing store so that Evan, Quan, and my uncle could get clothes made for them.
Imagine how many cocoons it takes to make a piece of clothing!

Silk worm cocoons, after the worms have already transformed and vacated.

Once we chose the fabrics and got the boys measured for their clothes, my aunt and uncle took us to the silk district where silk is made. The place even had a poster of the cycle of silk worms. Luckily, no worms are harmed in the process of harvesting the silk, as the silk is harvested from the outside of the cocoons. What I found to be the most interesting was watching one of the workers unravel silk fibers from a handful of cocoons in order to make a single strand of silk.

Silk being unspun from silk worm cocoons.

After we took our self-guided tour of the small workshop, Theresa and I had ourselves dropped off at the spa. We also managed to talk Quan into joining us, as long as his masseuse was female. The place looked really nice and legit, having actual doors to the spa, in addition to a very clean and well decorated interior. We were promptly greeted and given an herbal foot soak as we waited to be taken back for our massages. Theresa choice a Swedish massage, Quan a back, shoulders, and head massage, and I opted for an Asian blend massage (which is probably the same as the Swedish massage, but with more pressure applied). Quan was taken back first, and then Theresa and I were led to a room to change into robes. It was a little awkward due to a lack of changing stalls, but Theresa and I managed to work out a solution that allowed for privacy. After we finished changing, we were led upstairs to a room with 3 beds, one of which was already occupied. Had we known that Quan, Theresa, and I would all end up in the same room, we would have requested private rooms at the beginning. Luckily, Quan’s massage was shorter, and having begun first, he was already halfway through his massage by the time Theresa and I got there. Initially, this situation was also awkward, but I soon forgot about the issue once my massage began. This being the first time I’ve ever gotten a professional massage, I was kinda nervous. Others have tried to give me massages before, but I’m so ticklish that it never lasts for very long. I didn’t want to burst out laughing in the middle of my massage, especially since my two cousins were in the same room, and sudden laughter would’ve ruined the relaxed mood. Luckily, I didn’t get tickled much at all, and the few times I did get tickled, I was able to meditate enough to where I kept myself from laughing out loud. My massage was super relaxing and very enjoyable, except for the part where I had a runny nose and had runny mucus or whatever dripping from my nose every now and again while I was face-down on the table. Theresa and I had been hoping to get a manicure/pedicure after our massage was finished, but our ride arrived all too soon, forcing us to leave just as we sat down in the mani/pedi chairs. We returned to the clothing store where Theresa and I had our clothes made. Luckily for me, everything fit perfectly, and the only adjustments I made were to the length of two of my garments. Theresa, on the other hand, had to get adjustments to all her clothing, and some didn’t turn out the way she had imagined. The owner of the shop took her to a seamstress in order to get more direction on how to fix one of her dresses (since they only knew how to do simple fixes, such as length, and their seamstress had gone home for the day), and while she was gone doing that, the rest of us (Evan, Quan, me, my aunt, and my uncle) went to the other store (Ha Ly) in order for the boys to try on their clothes.

Quan trying on his snazzy suit.

Sometimes, I think I probably should’ve been a boy. While watching Quan try on his suit, I was overcome with mix of emotions, one of which was jealousy. It seems so much easier for boys to get dressy clothes made for them! Slacks, a button-up, and a jacket, and they’re done, whereas girls have to worry about the figure of a dress, the type of fabric, fabric pattern, etc. I dunno, suits are just clean-cut and simple, and geebus, that charcoal cashmere Quan had his pants and jacket made out of is soooo nice. I’m pretty sure I picked that fabric out for his suit, in addition to the red for his button-up. Having been the one who picked out his fabrics, I also felt somewhat like a surrogate mother, or an artist watching a piece of art come together. At times, I felt I was more excited about his suit than he was. And a custom-made suit of cashmere and (most likely) silk for $275 ish? What a sweet deal! In any case, getting all these clothes for so cheap definitely made the drive worth it, in my opinion. Not to mention the amazing massage.

Some street vendors sold little paper boats that held a candle for people to lower into the river and wish upon.

After the boys finished trying on their respective clothing, we went back and picked Theresa up, along with our clothes (the suits were delivered to our hotel later that evening) and found a place to eat dinner. We found a nice place along the river, and after filling our bellies, we went back to the hotel to sleep. I opted to read on my Kindle before going to sleep, but then ended up reading all night and into the morning, and then crashing in the van on the way to the airport. At 9:30, we flew from Hoi Anh back to Saigon, where we had a day and a half off to recuperate from all the traveling. After landing back in Saigon, we ate lunch, and then everyone took a nap, including me. And then my nap ended up not being a nap, and I slept for almost 12 hours. I didn’t even wake up for dinner! I spent the day of rest reading. The entire day, pretty much, save for meals. The next morning, Quan, Evan, Theresa, and I went to eat brunch at this place run by someone foreigners refer to as “The Soup Lady”. She has a soup-of-the-day kind of operation going, and unfortunately, the day’s soup was not to my liking. Everyone else found it appetizing, though, and luckily for me, there were spring rolls served before  the soup, on which I was able to fill my stomach. The rest of the day was spent packing, until we left for our flight to Hanoi, which took off at 5:30. At the airport, we got the munchies, so once we got to the waiting area of our terminal, Quan, Theresa, Evan, and I went to get some ice cream. I had some kind of cinnamon ice cream (I think it was cinnamon? Holy crap, I can’t even remember) topped with strawberry syrup. I only know that Theresa got durian-flavored ice cream, which smells absolutely horrible to me. I had to keep my distance from her, otherwise the smell would invade my nostrils and taint the taste of my delicious ice cream. Quan also decided to split the cost of a can of Pringles (cost like $2, which is expensive, even by American standards). If we hadn’t restrained ourselves, I’m sure we would’ve devoured the whole can before we even boarded the plane. And then I spent the whole flight reading. And now it’s 2 AM here and I’m tired and kinda hungry and need to get up at like 7 tomorrow morning, so I will end this blog here and continue it again within the next few days.
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