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Nha Trang’s Fantastic $6 Boat Escapade

Nha Trang is rightly considered the biggest beach destination of Vietnam. Miles of sandy beaches, soothingly warm ocean waves, a huge range of hotels and restaurants for any budget… Nha Trang is a good time. To enhance your experience here, any traveler will tell you: take the six dollar all-day boat trip. Let’s hop aboard and see all the goodies this escapade entails!

1. The boat trip may be booked from your hotel or from any of the ten billion tourist agencies within a one block radius of your hotel. There are many different boat trip companies, but they all have similar elements.

Tell the company your hotel so they can conveniently pick you up in a minibus at 8:30 in the morning. Bring your sunscreen, swimsuit, and camera!

2. Hop from the minibus onto a lovely blue and white boat with half Vietnamese and half Western tourists. The darkly tan Vietnamese emcee with deep laugh lines around his eyes gives a rousing welcome first in Vietnamese, then in English. If you are lucky and have a bilingual friend, you will have all the untranslated jokes whispered in your ear!

3. First stop: the island with the aquarium! You must pay an extra $1.50 to get in (ahh, they are sneaky about these extra fees), but it’s fun and worth it. My friend David and I took riotously hilarious photos saying “coochie coo!” to a myriad of ginormous fish, and then frolicked all over the cheesy tourist sculptures outside.

I mean, what’s not to love about a seven foot tall clam shell bed, or a shark sculpture as big as a city block? Those architects know what we zany boat tourists enjoy.

4. Sea Urchin fun in transit… Since the leg of the trip between the aquarium island and the sea fun island is rather long, the emcee gives an animated talk regarding a spiny black LIVE sea urchin that he holds aloft on a plate. He passes it around and the reactions are priceless. I particularly love the photo on the right with the Vietnamese women doubled over in laughter and the Australian stepmother who is having a fight with her step kids (sitting on the far end of the boat with their father) looking on in utter disgust.

In Vietnamese, the emcee talks about the supposed Viagra-like effects of eating the prickly beast. In English he says, “It’s good for your health!”

At this point you may pay $2.50 to order your personal fresh, steaming bowl of sea urchin soup. Don’t worry– the spines are removed! It tastes like… slimy ocean.

5. Sea Fun Island. Drop anchor in a platform off the shore of the bushy green land, and grab a free snorkel and mask to dive into the sea metropolis! For a fee you can also whiz around like a daredevil on jet-skis or soar to the heavens on a multicolored parasail. The best part is the parasail technician who runs with the sailers full-tilt until they are aloft, then flings himself from the momentum into the salty ocean… uniform and all.

6. Luuuunch! Included in your $6 fare is a hearty, multi-dish lunch. The bright yellow benches of the boat fold flat to create a family-style table, upon which is laid out plates of rice, vegetables, fish, soup, spring rolls, and more. Yum! Bring your own big bottle of water before hopping on the boat in the morning, as charging for beverages is one more sneaky hidden fee.

“I think I’m getting better at using chopsticks!” boasts the Australian pre-teen to the blond older sister she idolizes. Two minutes later the Vietnamese emcee walks by her and remarks, “You not good at chopstick.” The girls titter.

7. Holy heaven… I didn’t see this one coming. The lunch table is converted into a dance floor, and the elderly emcee starts belting out songs and shaking his rump! He pulls a rotund and sunburned Irish lass up to the stage with him to pseudo-tango for a romantic Vietnamese number. She stumbles to follow as best she can in her flipflops as she is dipped and rotated. At the end of the song the boat gives her thunderous applause and she beams. Aww– a tight-knit little floating family the sea vessel is becoming becoming!

The boat has dropped anchor in a nice clear stretch of sea off an amusement park island, so you can cannonball into the warm water from the bottom floor of the boat, or from the freaky high top floor. The Vietnamese women swim with their full clothes on, and their ocean-heavy collared shirts drip onto the inner tubes provided by the boat crew.

8. A beach island. For the final island stop, the boat chugs to a pebble beach overlooking the purple mountains of Nha Trang, with its precipitous cable car strung for kilometers between the peaks. Ordering a head-spinningly rich and sweet Vietnamese iced coffee is a scrumptious idea here.

9. Fruit party! Vietnam has a delicious and nutritious habit of having fruit plates for dessert, and the day boat proves no exception. The crew lays out a rainbow array of pinapple, banana (which taste like zesty oranges to me in Vietnam, honestly), guava, watermelon, and white crispy anonymous fruit slabs. All of this is served with a side of chili and salt dip. Ooo mm.

10. Back again, back again, jiggity jig to the port and the minibus and the hotel. Everyone gives the emcee and the crew a roaring round of applause, and in the minibus he falls asleep, exhausted.

“I work seven day a week,” he sighs proudly between snores.

And a good job he does!


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