Nha Trang– After sand sledding in Mui Ne and a quick visit to Da Lat, we moved on to Nha Trang, another seaside resort hotspot along the SouthEast Asia Backpacker Trail. While Mui Ne was quiet, laid-back, and gentle, Nha Trang was the opposite and flaunted a flamboyant, party-girl persona. The town had somewhat of the Thailand “Kh Phan Ngan” effect in my opinion, but everyone we spoke with along the Trail said we had to stop and do the “Boat Trip.” So we did.
Liz and I found a spot in the area of Nha Trang town known as Biet Thu, a somewhat quiet area near the waterfront promenade. Our cursory inspection checked all of the usual backpacker necessity boxes. However, after one evening of no sleep and near suffocation due to a faulty overhead fan, we moved on down the street to a place with huge windows and a near 5-horsepower motor in the ceiling fan. Tip to self to always, always double-check the effectiveness of your room’s cooling mechanisms.
Then, the epic “Party” boat trip began.
Infamous Boat Trip of Nha Trang, Vietnam: Our experience on the Party Boat was…odd. The entire day trip costs a mere $5US. Considering that our trip included visits to three islands, a few snorkeling stops, lunch, and drinks, it seemed like a great backpacker deal. Beside, we had already paid for the trip through our “travel package” with Three Brothers, the travel company that was transporting us up the coast. So it was kind of a free trip, right? And I hadn’t done any research about it so I was not prepared for the absolute bizarre experience of what we encountered.
Why is the Nha Trang boat trip so popular among backpackers? I still haven’t figured it out. Maybe because the whole experience was extra cheap? It was a chance to bond with other backpackers? Perhaps the opportunity for free food and drinks?
When we arrived at the harbor with an agenda to find our boat, we saw dozens and dozens of other boats preparing to make the exact same trip that day. And the passengers weren’t just flip-flop wearing gringos either. I was surprised to see Vietnamese families, Chinese tourist groups, and tons of travelers and family dynamics from around the globe. I guess word of the epic party boat trip got around to the masses.
After meeting our other mates-for-a-day, our boat left on time with a strong breeze at on our stern. Our first couple of stops were not necessary at all. We disembarked at a few islands, saw a couple of unmemorable caves, and were left to wander on some dirty beaches. Actually, we didn’t see anything of interest except for the casual happenings of local life around us. Like this cute little boy.
Then we snorkeled for a bit in a place that had absolutely no ocean life and an oddly gargantuan amount of seaweed and other slimy things. We returned to the boat a bit moody and muddy, but the beautiful lunch that was waiting for us made up for the awful snorkeling experience: lots of fruit, coconut, bananas, salads, fish, dumplings, and spicy noodle dishes.
Following lunch, we were introduced to the “floating Vietnamese bar.” The bartender/waiter/tour guide threw his floating bar (inner tube) into the water, followed by himself, and a bottle of pre-mixed liquor, and encouraged us to jump in and “have a party!” Though uncomfortably full from lunch, there was nothing much else to do, so we all grabbed life preservers and were soon floating around the bay with little glasses of wine while Celine Dion’s ballads poured through the boat’s speakers.
This is where things started to get a bit messy. Lets just say it involved a lot of whiskey shots and some bad karaoke.
When we were all exhausted (or too inebriated to hold on to our flotation devices) we were pulled back to the boat for a…wait for it….a dance party. On the boat. With these fellas and their tin drums as our band. Yup. There may have ten been some line dancing to a version of Garth Brooks in there somewhere.
The boat’s final stop for the day was another mediocre beach that charged a small entrance fee. Rather than paying to lie on the sand, Liz and I took a snooze on the top deck and tried to re-hydrate with a few bottles of water. We were dropped off back at Nha Trang’s docks before sunset, a little sunburned, a bit weary, and absolutely intrigued by the day’s events. We had been taken to an ugly beach, had a terrible snorkeling experience, and had spent three hours floating around the dirty/freezing-cold harbor drinking sugary alcohol. That makes for an odd combination for a day of absolute fun!
Have you gone on the Nha Trang boat trip? What did you think?