OR SNORKELLING AND OLD FRIENDS REVISITED.
I arrived at Nha Trang Airport happy and sweating, still with my Russian coat over my arm like a crazy woman. The flight had been perfect and the cab ride was beautiful and finally a cab driver knew where he was going and I was in a trance from leaving Hanoi in that cold, cold damp weather and arriving to this blistering heat.
Arriving at my super cheap hotel I was doubly happy to find it had a little fridge for groceries, a dinky terrace for smoking and super cold air con. It was near the corner of the coastal road and amazingly the fabulous Yacht Club was opposite. Full couple of miles of a white sand beach. This would be my home for the next few days. I unpacked and changed into my swimming costume. Game on.
Around this rich area that the Russians have heavily invested in, are super hotels, and when I say super I mean in size. Luckily I was in a more authentic part of town and so when I went out, it was straight to that empty beach for a well deserved swim and ice cold beer. It was so hot that many dips still didn’t cool me so I had a quick walk up the seafront where there was a load of sculpture and then returned for more drinks and a siesta in my gorgeous chilly room.
The few days I was there it was fabulous weather and I was in the perfect spot, the Yacht Club was my second home and I finally had my second manicure after China. I was aware that I would have to change my routine a bit with Clare coming but what’s not to like when you’re in paradise? Also it was a place where I could plan my next move now I had cut short China. I needed inspiration for my next leg. The way I saw it was that I would fly to Kuala Lumpur and travel from there to lovely Kota Kinabalu. I had already started with my research in this ideal venue for a place I had already been to before and loved! Yes Malaysia here I come baby.
Alert and Top Tip: I have thought long and hard about writing re-meeting old friends while travelling, and I really felt it pertinent to my experiences of things that can go wrong while solo travelling. You might think it’s a nice idea if you’re going on your first solo trip and want to meet up with someone you haven’t seen for ages as you’re worried about feeling lonely but think again. It’s a folly especially if you’ve got in your stride and are feeling very independent as this will bring a whole new set of problems. Be happy with chewing the fat with people you meet on the way and just do it alone and deal with that sort of situation at home. It’s awkward if you commit to a few days and then find you’re looking for a different experience. Be warned, it don’t work.
My old mate Deidre had be contacting me about where we should meet in Vietnam. She was coming with her husband and it would be a shame not to catch up. I was short on visa time and had already spent over a week in Hanoi and the the trip to Halong Bay. I just thought it looked ok and plumped for Nha Trang which is about half way between Saigon and Hanoi, it looked a little touristy, the now infamous Russians flock there, but it had snorkelling and heat.
Now here’s the thing. As I travel alone I am kinda strict about travel etiquette so if you are going to meet someone they cannot dither or get on your tits, and Clare, who had been very poorly in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City), had been getting to be a bit of a drama queen which is my job thank you very much. As she was coming with her husband I thought it would be simple but there seemed to be a lot of fidgeting and rearranging being done which made me somewhat dread it all, it didn’t bode well.
I had remet with her around ten years previously in Carnaby Street when she had come down to London for a couple of days and it went fine.
It’s strange when you meet up with a friend from your childhood. Their face will have changed to a certain degree usually drastically, so much so in fact you would never recognise them if they walked past you in the street. It throws you, you have to prevent your gob from hanging slackly and your face to take on an incredulous aspect. This surely is a joke, not at all the person you knew so well. Then the mannerisms kick in, a hair flick and a squint while thinking and you are back again to the Halcion days of scrumping apples in the farmers orchard and army crawling under the fence to the pastures at the back of the horse riding stables at the top of the lane. You’re back to luring unwilling horses with the stolen apples to ride them bare back. You’re back to the terribly dangerous antics that you went through. You’re back to the mad drawings you did of an insane shoe collection and all the other imaginations of fresh uncluttered minds, and you relax and gel a little.
Well that happened in Carnaby Street but not so much in Nha Trang. When they finally arrived they were late meeting me. The whole idea of them staying in the same hotel was for this not to happen. Although I seem shambolic I am very punctilious and don’t take kindly to tardy friends. Anyhoo, she had grown paper thin (and I was a fatty) she had a raspy voice (and I a boomy one) she wore big floppy hats and floaty dresses (and I had my practical shorts, T shirts and Vietnam cap) She was a romantic (and I a very practical disillusioned old bag) we were chalk and cheese. She was very changed as was I and although we went out on a boat for snorkelling we were in such different lives that it was almost impossible to relate.They were anxious with their full bubble mask apparatus that they had bought with them (I could have told them that they are horrible to breathe in”) and so I just shot off on my own. This didn’t help as I already established I was antisocial if people didn’t keep up. Our politics were very different and frankly I got on better with her husband who looked uncannily like my old hairdresser. I was a third wheel and saw from early on it wasn’t really working. It’s very sad and nobodies fault but the years had come between us. She would keep repeating about my travels and adventures, “I couldn’t do that you’re very brave!” and I felt very sad for the brave girl she had left behind in her childhood. We kept in contact a while longer but it died out naturally then I had a couple of snarky comments on FB from her and her husband about my views and so I pulled the plug. Sad but true and I would presume she felt much the same about me as she never begged me to visit them again, and I never asked.