Today the family chartered a van to drive us from Saigon to Nha Trang, a 10-hour trip. It was grueling, as the vans here are not designed for long trips and with tall people. Over here, I am considered tall. My legs and back were aching the entire time. Much, much worse, however are the pitstops. These places are so horrendously dirty and awful that people have been known to turn to religion after visiting one. The image of this one squatter will be seared into my mind and haunt me for the rest of my life.
The 11 of us got here late. The skies had darkened, and we could not see how beautiful the ocean is. We love Nha Trang, with its gentle people and clean streets and abundance of delicious vegan food. It is an ocean city, where the people wake early and walk barefoot to the ocean to swim, and always the aroma of dried roasted squid permeates the air.
I am here with my older sister and her family, my younger brother and his girlfriend, and a couple of cousins, one that I just met for the first time. We are waiting for more family to arrive, the first time the entire family is in Vietnam. The kids have been annoying me with their culinary choices. They just came back from a Mexican restaurant. Mexican! Jameelah and I were the oldest at this particular meal, so it was our duties to pay. They had nachos, buffalo wings, and a hamburger! Outside, on the beach, the scent of grilled shrimp and blood clams wafts in, making me wish, just for a little bit, that I wasn’t vegan.
It is a peaceful city, and a big waning moon creates a shimmering golden path on the water, bordered by the silhouettes of swaying coconut trees. Women selling green mangoes and roasted corn sit in the sand, fanning their coal ovens. Jameelah and I were strolling along the beach back to our hotel when we encountered a cute little crab in the sand. “Here, little crab,” I said, beckoning to the critter. “Oh, wait, that’s a cockroach, run!!” Within minutes we encountered 2 rats and dozens of bats and more roaches.
Oh well, this is still one of my favorite cities in the world. Tomorrow, we’ll start exploring it some more. There are dozens of islands and lots of things to do and observe. I’ll wake up early tomorrow. Mainly to see Nha Trang’s famous sunrise, when the skies are painted beautiful hues of blue, orange, and pink. But also because I’m still kind of jetlagged.