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Day 78 – Well-Preserved Reefs and Quiet Streets (Diving Cham Island)

May 20, 2010

Dateline: Cham Island and Hoi Ann, Vietnam – Thursday, May 20, 2010

Today I did two dives with Rainbow Divers off of Cham Island. The sites were about one and a half hours by slow boat from the Hoi An docks. I won’t bore you with the details of what amounts to underwater birdwatching. I’ll keep my dorkiness to myself.

A few quick notes, though. Today’s dives were the first where I actually felt cold. We had long 3mm wetsuits and I was still shivering underwater. This is odd because it’s the tropics. It also reminded me that I can’t fight millions of years of evolution. My body has been honed to cope with extreme humidity and heat. Dump a little water on me and put me in a slight breeze and I’m liable to get hypothermia. Don’t laugh. I have relatives who’ve lost toes to frostbite in 60 degree cold spells. Really. I don’t lie. Ever.

Also, the reefs here are relatively well preserved. Diving in Vietnam has been consistently better than the bombed out dives I did in Cambodia. The government’s done a decent job of preserving its marine life. Go communism!

After we finished our two dives, we stopped on Cham Island for lunch. A boatman from the island ferried us to shore. The place was nearly deserted except for another dive boat that took their meal on the other end of the beach.

I chatted with two American teachers after lunch. They’d gone straight from college to teaching English around the world. The guy was well traveled, going everywhere from Russia (worst place to teach) to Poland (okay) to Vietnam (best net pay). The girl had been in Vietnam for three years and was an administrator at her school. When they learned about my background they encouraged me to teach business English. This apparently pays quite well. Something called “legal” English also fetches a premium. They seemed happy and content. It’s good to know I have a fallback career.

When we got back to shore I ran through chores of visiting the tailor for a refit, shopping around for a cooking class (idea nixed because all next day’s classes were full), and eating (Hai Scout Café).

Then I just wandered Old Town. Hoi An at night is a great place. The local government has banned combustion engine vehicles from Old Town after sunset. Only pedal or electric bikes are allowed on the narrow dirt streets.

That means serene silence. No honking horns. No exhaust. It’s actually peaceful. Just the occasional shop owner calling out to, “Come visit my shop,” and the sounds of the languages of the world drifting round the alleys and walkways. Travelers stroll, shop, and eat.

Everyone, locals included, sits outside enjoying the cool night air. Down by the river, you can hear diners chatting and clanking silverware from the balconies above. Despite the dubious authenticity (this isn’t the “real Vietnam”) it’s quite lovely. Every once in a while even I need a break from the raw energy and heat of Southeast Asia.

Diving, eating, walking through quaint city streets. I may have said it before, but I’ll say it again: I’m totally digging Vietnam.

GALLERY: Click through to today’s gallery where you’ll find, amongst other things, bonus pictures of a wicker boat, a Cham Island boatman, and yet other TV soap opera set that Mervyn stumbled on while wandering Old Town Hoi An.

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