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Nha Trang

I arrive in Nha Trang at 8:30am, and book into a popular backpackers hostel before going for a run alongside the beach. It's been quite some time since I have been for a run, so 20 minutes is certainly enough.

Adamant on doing as much exercise as possible I take a long walk along the length of the beach to the Oceanographic Museum. It the grounds of a research centre, the museum contains many varieties of tropical fish.

Only a short walk from my accommodation (and an even shorter bike ride) I find a dirt cheap Veggie cafe that does tasty food of the 'I can't believe it's not meat' variety.

Tuesday morning started with a wander around the touristy part of the town with two Aussie guys I had met in Hanoi. Wondering what we should eat for breakfast, we fell upon a tasty looking baguette stand. Peering through the glass cabinet to take a look at the filling options, I stand back and notice clear red letters taped to the glass saying 'Vegetarian'. Perfect. I don't say anything to the boys knowing it might put them off. The baguette lady carefully fills our bread with tasty salad, well disguised tofu and glass noodles, and then squirts a healthy topping of chilli sauce inside. She pulls out mini plastic stools for us, and the lady next door prepares coffee for the boys and an ice tea for me. For only 10 Dong, it is the cheapest and tastiest baguette I have had so far. The boys happily wolf down their baguettes, and seem satisfied by the taste. I then point out the fact that they have just eaten vegetarian food. Surprised, they do agree that it was a great baguette...but are keen to make up for the lack of meat at lunch time! I quickly decide I shall be visiting the baguette lady everyday.

The boys go to Vinpearl, a water/theme park on an island off of the mainland. Keen to explore the town I decide to hire a bicycle. I quickly get used to the traffic, realising one simple rule...

1. Never stop!

Just keep moving. Stopping confuses the other road users. Even when approaching roundabouts! Don't hesitate. Aside from going circling roundabouts several times before daring to turn off, I manage to master the Vietnamese method of cruising.

My first stop is the Long Son Pagoda. And my first mistake is trusting a kind Vietnamese lady who greets me at the gate. She is keen to show me around, as she knows the temple very well. She claims to be an orpan, who was housed an an orphange affiliated with this particular temple when she was young. She instructs me on how to respect Buddha in the temple, and grabs my camera to take pictures of me.

She offers to pray to Buddha to bring me a good man. She rushes me around the temple, and up to the sleeping Buddha statue.

At this point I realise there is a catch. She wants me to buy postcards to supposedly support the orphange she came from. She wants 400,000 Dong for the postacards (about 12 pounds)! I try to reason with her, and offer to make a donation. She insists that you can not make donations to the Orphange... "Only buy postcards". I make an offer to buy one for less money, but this not the answer she is looking for. Her sweet smile turns into an dissapproving frown. She tries to intimidate me by raising her voice, "Oh my god! I help you, you don't help me!" I apologise again, but tell her I can not afford to pay that amount for postacrds, but am always willing to make donations to good causes. She yells louder. I try to shake her off, as people around are begining to stare. I walk up towards the next part of the pagoda, as she calls from below "Oh my god! I do not help you no longer." I turn around to see a security guard standing just behind her. The last thing I need is to be accused of upsetting an orphaned woman, and thrown out of the temple!! Luckily he ignores the commotion. I carry on quickly up the steps, until she is out of my sight. I feel embarrased and slightly intimidated. I hurry around the rest of the sight. On my way out I see her walking towards the gate. In a mission impossible fashion I duck behind statues, and weave through the trees, hoping she doesn't spot me. I struggle to unlick my bike, and a guy delays me by remiding me I have to pay for parking my bike. I peer over my shoulder as I wait for my change, but she still hasn't seen me. Leaping on to the bike, I check the 3 arch ways of the gate to see which one she is standing in. I spot her absurdly large hat in the centre archway. If I dart towards the left archway I can sail out without risking eyecontact with her. I dart towards the archway, and sink into the centre of the traffic. I've escaped. Once I am far enough away to feel at ease again, I wonder how many people she has harrassed into giving her money. How many people give in to save embarrassment?? As I try to shake her from my mind I notice a bakery on the corner. A slice of cake will help me forget.

Biking towards the beach it begins to rain. I hover under the shelter of a tree to eat my my slice of reward. When the rain subsides, I bike around trying to find a museum I had read about. I can't find it, and it begins to rain again. Defeated I head back to the main road which runs alongside the beach, and start to head back to the hostel.

Up until this moment I had been riding with my rucksack secured in the front basket with the bike chain. As I headed back to the hostel, which was only a short distnace away, I do not lock the bag to the bike. As I sailed along admiring the view, I felt a moped pull up on the left side of me and slow down. I turned to look to see two men on the moped. As soon as l looked, the man on the back reached out to snatch my bag, getting hold of the side. Reacting quickly I grabbed hold of the top loop. The men tested my grasp by pulling away on the moped, attempting to pull the bag from my hands, and pulling me forward off of the seat. Luckily I had a firm grasp and would not let the bag go. Realising they were defeated they let go of the bag, and sped off. As they let go, I tried to maintain control of ther bike, but it was too difficult. I tipped over to the right and fell on to the side of the road. My knee hit the curb, then the bike fell on to my knee. A Vietnamese man on another moped stopped to help me up, and attached my bag to the front of the bike for me. I clambered on to the bike, and started to head back to the hostel. Stopping briefly for a minute I had a 30 second weep, before a sudden rush of triumphant feeling hit me.

5 minutes into the bike ride, the adrenline fades, and my knee begins to ache. At the hostel restaurant I put ice on it, and order my second reward of the day...a big glass of wine.

Later on that evening I quickly consume several cocktails, but the pain in my knee is getting worse. An Irish girl in my room, who conveniently is a nurse, accompanies me to the pharmacy to get some painkilling gel. At the next bar I feel it getting worse, and have difficulty trying to bend it as it's so inflammed. Two of the Irish nurses insist on dragging me to the hospital to get it checked out. At the hospital the nurse wants to inject more painkillers and send me on my way, but we convince them to give me an x-ray. A wheel chair pulls up beside me and I am wheeled through corridors, into an outdoor courtyard, and through into another part of the hospital. The x-ray room contains the most basic equipment. As I wait for my x-ray I am put on to a bed next to an elderly lady. She has a drip linked to her arm. A relative lays next to her, giving her a firm hug as she sleeps. There are afew stains on the floor, and the bed isn't very clean. I hope my knee isn't broken so I can leave quickly. I wait for ages opposite a room where they are examining my x-ray. The girls are great and keep me smiling. They are also intrigued to see how the hospital runs, comparing it with the methods and procedures back in Ireland. Eventually my x-ray is shown to me. There are no obvious signs of a break. The doctor advises me to get another x-ray the next day. I see this as a way to get more moeny out of me. They also charge me for a ridiculous bright blue knee support, which covers my entire leg from ankle almost to hip! The stupid thing makes it harder to walk, and I take it off as soon as I get back to the hostel.

Wednesday morning I was supposed to be on an early bus to Da Lat. But I decided to rest my knee and slept in. Later on in the morning I head to the beach with the Irish girls. The weather isn't right for tanning, and I get restless. As soon as lunchtime arrives I hobble over to the baguette stall. The lovely lady puts out a plastic stool for me, but stops when she sees me struggling to get down low enough to sit on it. Another smiley lady speaks very good english, and asks me what happened. She then translates to the baguette lady, and they have a debate about in Vietnamese. They make sure I am comfortable, when the inquisitive drinks lady comes over and gets the low-down. As I eat my sandwich, the baguette lady makes a salt solution and massages my knee. The smiley lady explains how guilty they all feel. I tell her that it has not impinged my view of Vietnam or the people. They tell me to come back tomorrow as they want to see if my knee has improved.

Thursday: Stuck in Nha Trang for another day, I do very little besides take a trip to get a baguette. My knee is improving, but I get fussed over again. More locals having coffee are informed about the story of my knee by the drinks lady. She rises from her stool to tell the story in Vietnamese, using dramatic hand gestures and facial expressions to convey the swelling of my knee; the moment of the near bag snatching, and the shock I felt during the moment (these were all her interpretations of the story, not mine).

Feeling like I am wasting time, I book a bus to Da Lat for the next day.

Friday: My bus leaves for Da Lat at 8am. Just after 7am I visit the baguette lady for the last time. Perched on the miniture stool, watching the locals carry on around me as normal, I feel at ease. I don't understand a word the they are saying, but it is so interesting to watch them interact. I could easily sit here for hours. I say goodbye to the baguette lady, and she softly grips my hand with a smile that says 'take care'. The drinks lady comes over to see me off to, points to be improved knee and smiles. I hope they can see how grateful I am for their hospitality, and for letting me sit and watch them as they go about their lives.

Posted by Melanie Kidd 03:10 Archived in Vietnam

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