Trip Start Apr 04, 2008
Trip End Mar 31, 2009

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Flag of Vietnam  ,
Friday, May 9, 2008

Snorkling in the clear water of Nha Trang bay and looking at coral and tropical fish is unlike anything you can experience watching television nature shows or looking at pictures in old National Geographics. What I saw was a spectacle glorious, profuse, and magical.  

Less magical was the tour office where we piled into a minivan--jammed and cramped into very close quarters, all "personal space" disappearing for the moment in a weird collective togetherness, "Would you please remove your elbow from my ear?"--and then whisked away to a nearby dock.

We boarded, not unlike dumb beasts, a large wooden, double-decker boat, urged on by tour guides speaking loudly (yelling) and orchestrating the herd into groups to follow whomever to where ever aboard the vessel.  

Once settled we grabbed seats and I gazed at the turquoise water as the boat took off in a spray and the tour guide, with microphone in hand, droned on about something important and interesting, I'm sure, but I really wouldn't know because the surrounding water glimmered in the sun like a cool, savory fire.

Interestingly enough, most of our group were like fish out of water unless they were consuming large amounts of alcohol and catching rays on the boat, which was fine with me because I just wanted to swim, and snorkling can be a silent, solitary time to commune with the small plastic tube that feeds you your air supply while you half-dream in fishy colors you've never seen before, but not altogether unlike the colors I'd seen in bathroom bowls following old bouts consuming terrible beer and cheap wine while baking in the sun.

Time spent sitting on the sidewalk and listening to conversation is one
of the best ways to enjoy the evening. Once the sun lowers and the
sidewalks are no longer rippling with heat, the chairs come out and the chatting

The sea is gold and blue at dusk
and the shore is filled with beachgoers' last crack at dipping before dark.
Hard-sand soccer matches, players in bare feet or with one kicking shoe,
spread across the length of the beach.
Simultaneous games play like opposite currents,
an old man holding his sandals slowly crosses
from one corner of the the pitch to the next
while the boys play around him.
A small old walrus going home
through a mass of half naked seals. 

Men in slacks lean and gather under awnings and eat and smoke and yell
and laugh.

The luxury of simpler lives only appears to be romantic until you see
the labor in the streets, watching the women bend, cook and work
pushing carts of food or riding bicycles with giant loads of fruit
while men dig, build and weld; to see things done by hand, like the sharpening
of tools, using chisels to break great walls of mortar, and tying bamboo
together for enormous scaffolding while in solitude perched against
skeletons of buildings growing taller bit by bit.
Once you see all that in the middle of the day, during the thickest of heat,
you realize that the afternoon naps beneath the trees
and the reclining, relaxing, chatting social circles
tie up the days of labor while also keeping the people together.
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