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Funky monkey and the floating bar: Nha Trang

VIETNAM | Thursday, 28 May 2009 | Views [32673]

We had decided to do an island tour from Nha Trang - the punters on the boat were an eclectic mix of English gap year types, Filipino engineers working on the soon to open Nha Trang Marriot and a few locals enjoying the weekend, plus us. 5 minutes after leaving, the first stop was a small island with an aquarium which we decided against entering on the grounds that the tanks we could see were woefully small for large marine animals like sharks, preferring to stay on the boat for the alloted 20 minutes. The people who did pay in confirmed our suspicions when they got back.

As we left the aquarium the host/guide introduced himself as Funky Monkey. He was hilarious – a real charachter. He explained the agenda for the day and then handed out beers. We considered whether or not to get back on the horse so early for a few seconds before the expression on Funky's face said it all. Drink or be thrown overboard. Psst... and the Tiger beer flowed. We reached another island a while later and were given snorkels and masks. As the gap yearers (led by Funky of course) somersaulted overboard I wondered whether it was wise to get my ears wet. They felt fine, and I could hear as well as I ever could ... so jumped in.

It had been raining quite heavily the day before so visibility was very low. We could just about make out some grey-green coral and Claire thought she saw a clown fish but wasn't sure. I had spent so much bloody cash on multiple waterproof cameras in the trip I was determined to take some underwater snaps. When we got back on board it seems the camera saw a lot more than we could.

After a move away from the coral island we were joined by a boat full of locals for lunch. The benches we had been sitting on were transformed into a table and a huge spread laid before us.

As we chatted and had some more beer Funky Monkey started to pluck away on a guitar. Much to everyone's surprise he was soon joined by a drummer (playing pots and pans) and a basist. They were actually a really good make shift band – Funky had a great voice and they got both boats going in no time.

Then the karaoke started – Nick was called up for a decent rendition of Waltzing Matilda and then it went around the boat – the Filipinos, clearly well practiced karaoke afficionados were very good. The Chinese weren't great and the English girl called up was a bit young to know the lyrics of The Bangles 80s singalong classic Eternal Flame. Thankfully Funky Monkey let Claire and I escape scott-free in favour of 2 Vietnamese girls who were brilliant. I actually thought they were professional go go dancers – they got the whole boat gyrating - the table had now become a dancefloor.

The sun shone brilliantly as the band packed up and we motored on again. We stopped and a strange metal contraption was produced and flung overboard. We soon found out it was the floating bar. The music was cranked up and the boat disgorged its occupants who floated about in rings. The hilariously foul mouthed floating barman who only answered to the name homosexual told us the only rule – if you say no you finish your cup of cocktail.

So, those people who had had enough of the concoction and declined were topped up again. Now that I'm writing about it it does sound like a recipe for disaster – 40 people in various states of inebriation bobbing around a bar tethered to the ship by a thick piece of twine but it was great fun and a unique way to spend the afternoon. The Filipinos in particular were great sports. A lot of them couldn't swim but soldiered doggedly on in their life jackets, never turning down a drink and water-dancing and insulting the barman along with the rest of us.

After a final stop at yet another island we made for home and poured ourselves into our taxis home, promising to meet up with everyone later. We broke all the promises – I'd like to blame it on HBO but I suspect it had more to do with a lack of stamina for all day drinking than anything else.

A massive rainstorm descended on Nha Trang the following morning. Nick had left a note to say he'd had enough of Nha Trang and was trucking on. it's not much fun in a beach town when the weather is crap so we decided to book our own onward trip but could only leave the day after. We settled into an Irish bar and had fish and chips for lunch and eventually felt ready for a quiet beer and a few games of cards. We played pool. The rain kept coming. We visited another bar and played more pool. It continued to pour down. We went back to the irish bar and played darts and got talking to a Franco-Irish couple. The Irish guy was pleasant enough but he got a bit weird and started talking about the merits of the Real IRA. We moved on and met a Norwegian helicopter pilot and his crazy girlfriend. Then finally a brief respite in the rain which allowed us to go home.

The sun returned the next day and after checking out of the hotel we rented some shaded loungers on the beach to kill the day before our bus in the evening. The water was beautiful and calm and the beach peaceful except for the constant hawkers peddling trinkets and tat.

A lady in the ubiquitous Vietnamese conical hats approached. She carried the most amazing mobile restaurant on a bamboo balancing stick on her shoulders – she looked a bit like a human scales. On her scales were a fire, a huge pot of boiling water, and a pot of lobsters and crayfish fresh from the fishing boats. We couldn't refuse and decadently ate 2 exquisitely cooked lobsters for breakfast. It only cost about a fiver!

The day languorously flowed on and eventually it was time to pack up and jump on the next bus.

Tags: bar, beach, boat, island


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