Thursday, September 3, 2015

Hoi An, Vietnam, Part 2: You Go For Scuba?

100 million points to the movie quote identifier.  Ok it's not that hard, so maybe just 5 points.

So I read in my Lonely Planet about some nearby islands to Hoi An called the Cham Islands - they're apparently beautiful and great for a day of snorkeling or scuba diving. The night before, one of my guesthouse roomies, Varun, decided to sign up and come with me.  We had initially signed up for snorkeling - but on the boat out to the islands, both decided to change to scuba diving.

Cliffnotes of the Day:
  • Took an hour+ cruise out to the Cham Islands - on the way, we got assigned into dive groups and instructors.
  • On a side note, I am actually scuba-certified (took it as a gym credit in high school), but I've only ever used it once - in Mexico a couple years after I'd been certified. By then, I had promptly forgotten everything I learned during certification, and I maybe didn't remember that you have to stop partway on the way up or your lungs can burst and you can die. Oops. Traumatic.  Anyhow, it's been a good 8 years since I've been diving, and I was slightly nervous.  Varun and I got assigned to different groups since he wasn't certified (but his group ended up having a girl with an underwater camera, do he definitely won there).
Sailing out to the Cham Islands
  • In my dive group, there were four of us.  We did a 45-minute dive, then drove the boat to another location for a second 45-minute dive.  Given that nobody in my group had an underwater camera (booooo), I guess I'll have to describe it in words with no pictures. Worst.  To sum it up, however, I don't know why I haven't been as into diving before.  It's like a whole other world under the sea, and to be a part of it is kind of amazing.  I can definitely see why some people are crazy about it.  There were a ton of gorgeous reefs and fish swimming about - some parts were pretty sandy and it probably wasn't the prettiest dive ever (cough, the Caribbean), but it was still incredible.  During our two dives, some of the cool things we saw:
    • Clownfish everywhere!  These guys are really friendly. You can poke around and they'll interact with you. Like, if you hold out your hand, they'll think you have food and swim right up to you
    • A moray eel!  He was just chilling in his cave home
    • An entire school of sardines came barreling at us at one point. It was like one second we were just swimming along, and the next, there were hundreds and hundreds of silvery fish swarmed around us - like we were in their highway or something. It looked like they were going to hit us because there were so, so many of them - but they magically diverted around us and continued on their way. Our instructor said that was the first time he's ever seen a school of sardines like that
    • I SAW AN OCTOPUS. Nobody believes me because nobody else in our group saw it, but I swear it was an octopus. In fact, I was so certain that people weren't gonna believe me, so I made sure to inspect it extra carefully to make sure it was one so as to not get ridiculed later - and it was. Bulbous head and all.  But then everyone was swimming away and I wasn't sure if it was because they'd seen it already - however, true to form - nobody had seen it and after we got to the surface I was ridiculed anyway. #jealousy
My new friend Amanda, who I met in my dive group. She's from Canada, lives in Hong Kong, and was in Vietnam on a work trip
  • Post-diving, we got shuttled to a nearby beach on one of the islands - not only was it incredibly picturesque and pretty, but we were the only ones on the beach. It was so great - they had a volleyball court, hammocks galore, and restaurants that served you iced coffee. Perfection.
Sailing to our own private beach. The Vietnamese flag has to be on every boat
Eh. This'll do.
Amanda, Varun, and me
Hammock time! I don't know why this looks so uncomfortable in the photo, but it was highly comfortable
And then Varun and I played some 1-on-1 beach volleyball, in which I annihilated him.
Who knew Vietnam had beaches like this
You know how I like to get those artistic shots in wherever I can
Sailing back to Hoi An at dusk

  • That evening, I met up with Amanda for dinner at a delicious local spot for Bun Cha - the dish where you wrap grilled pork skewers in rice paper and shove it full of veggies and greens, then dip it in sauce before shoving it into your mouth. True wordsmith here.
Hoi An by night
We got post-dinner drinks at a swanky adorbs bar called Q Bar - the owner sent us over free cocktails, and then the front of the restaurant opened up and they were playing "Roman Holiday" on a projector on the building across the street. It was so perfect.
  • Later on, my roommates from the hostel came and met us for a drink. We had plans for one drink, but ended up at this backpacker's bar called Why Not? with half of the tourists in the city - and it was so much fun.  Just one of those nights you have the best intentions to go home early, but end up staying out way later than you intended because you're having such a good time.  A great last night in Hoi An.

    MVP(s) of the Day:
    When I initially checked into my hostel (it's actually a guesthouse because the family lives there too and they are freakishly nice and adorable, but I am digressing from the actual point), I arrived at my room to find this:

    Beds all in a row
    It was basically like one giant bed across the room, given there was no space between any of the beds.  

    Later on, I met my four roommates - Varun (India), Amir (Belgium), Moe (Germany), and Johnny (U.S.).  They were all guys, all solo travelers, and from a variety of countries, backgrounds and age groups. We all went out to dinner the first night, and then all met up the next night again for the aforementioned drinks.  

    They all get MVP status because they were truly the greatest.  It was incredible amounts of fun hanging out together - we got along amazingly, and it felt like we were truly a family. The best part was that I truly really liked each and every one of them individually and thought they were the greatest.  

    It never ceases to amaze me that all these people from totally different situations and walks of life and ages (ranging from 19-me) could all bond together so well.  It's pretty common to meet people in hostels and hang out with some of your roommates - but to have every single one get along so well and to really like and connect with all of them was beyond my favorite.  This, to me, is another one of the amazing things about traveling.
    The roomies L to R: Amir, Moe (practically invisible), me, Johnny, and Varun. Plus Amanda; now part of the crew!
    At Why Not bar, they sold balloons filled with laughing gas - I've seen these at a bunch of bars now in SE Asia - apparently you can suck the gas and laugh or feel happy or euphoric or something.  
    Even after the five of us got back to the hostel way too late, we stayed up an additional hour or two just talking, eating chips, and hanging out in the room.  Serious. Greatest. 

    The best part was - after Varun, Johnny and I all left the next day, Moe happened to go back to Why Not bar the next night, and wrote '203 Squad Love' (our room # was 203) on the wall in honor of our crew.  Seriously best crew ever. #feelings

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