Thursday, April 2, 2009
A journey's lesson on Jungle Beach
I pull myself atop the large boulder perched above a rural road. I turned off the road onto a path just past the skull and cross bones sign with Vietnamese writing. I'm about 60 kms outside of Nha Trang, a seaside city on Viet Nam's central coast. I've been traveling now for about three weeks and already on my third country. I hiked down the road in search of a waterfall that a fellow guest at the secluded Jungle Beach resort told me I'd find. I'm hot, sweaty and likely to impale myself on the underbrush at any moment. I see, nor hear, any signs of a waterfall (which I was told could be spotted from the road). That's when it hits me. Feelings that have been building up in me over the last three weeks--who's journey is this? Do I really want to scramble up these rocks or is just because others did it? Why am I comparing my southeast Asia travels to Tansy's, the fictional character in a book I bought off a hawker on the beach two days ago? One of the most important lessons that I've learned as a rookie, long-haul traveler is simply to slow down. This, I realize, is one of the many introspective discoveries I'll make traveling, mostly independently, over the next fourteen weeks. I'm a chronic "bite off more than you can chew" kind of person. I'm one who boasts how I can multi-task but, this is not the time for me to be crossing things off lists or measuring my success based on the experiences of others. Your journey is for you, and you alone to make. So I stop scrambling and sit on the boulder looking out at the China sea. A young Vietnamese boy passes by on his motorbike, oblivious to my presence. I listen to the waves crashing onto the shore that stretches out below me. All of these things become part of my Viet Nam experience. I take a deep breath, wipe the sweat from the bridge of my nose and, ever so cautiously, slide down the rocks I climbed. I won't be reaching a waterfall today. I head back to where I want to spend my last few hours in this place. Back on the beach I take in the lush green mountains that jut up to the sandy beach. The sun shines after spending the previous afternoon hidden behind rain clouds. Never ending waves toss me back towards the shore. "This is my journey!" I scream over the crashing waves as I take another leap into the surf.
Jungle Beach is the creation of Sylvio, a Canadian expat, and his Vietnamese wife. It's a collection of low-impact huts sprawled across their property outside of Nha Trang. Each hut is equipped with bamboo lounge chairs and hammocks for proper lounging. The huts are made from bamboo and have raised platforms where mattresses and mosquito nets are set up for sleeping.Bathrooms and showers are shared and a middle of the night trek can be an adventure. Communal meals, served family-style, were included in our daily price. The food was some of the best I've had in Viet Nam. I was especially spoiled one night when they made fresh guacamole, something I've missed since leaving Chicago.