Date sent: Mon, 25 Mar 1996
From: (Sylvio Lamarche)

Kayaking The South China Sea, sounds great.....

It all started last year [Jan.95] when I went to Vietnam for three months touring around on land. It was so wonderful, the scenery, the people and the perfect temperature, not too hot or muggy...Coming home was real hard.

In the summer I purchased a folding kayak/lepper, so what's next, kayaking in Vietnam...

Off I go.... When I arrived In Vietnam, a big storm was a brewing, so I hung around Nha Trang and China beach for two weeks; there were waves of up to two meters breaking. We played in the mouth of the Song Cay river, within the same sized waves, but with a few sheltered spots to give us a break...pulling figure eights was a blast. It was also quite the entertainment for the locals as they had never seen this before. When we finally rolled over, the first time was alright, but the second was totally funny to us and the crowd was laughing like mad - it was great.

Once in Dannang, I was told no way, kayaking is not allowed. Being addicted to the sport and the place, I went to a quiet bay that I knew from last year and off I went. It's nowhere, just a deserted paradise with nothing around except a village seventy or so kilometers each way...Couple of days here and there were fabulous, fantastic, I wanted we went for awhile, leaving with tents and food...then a couple days later we arrived at a small village with a army/coastguard outpost, we get waved in so we paddled a bit faster, turn away from shore. Then the whistles go off and we paddled faster...a small fishing boat comes after us, we paddle like mad fools, and then a big Vietnamese trawler loaded with laughting soldiers comes after us... we gave up and turned around. For three hours this guy wrote stuff on paper, four copies, no carbon papers, no typewriter or computer. No one speaks english, I hardly speak Vietnamese...

Did I mention no passport...or documents, they were at the bungalows with the rest of our stuff [In Vietnam, one must hand over your passport to the hotel when checking in] ... then off we go to load the kayak on a boat and head out, no sweat we're off to our bungalow I think. !!!NOT!!! we get off at another army post on the mainland, and off by jeep. We end up at the army base in Nha Trang city....11pm....we were told that we were being detained.

What a pad, 6 beds for 2 of us...the toilets are quite crummy, but all is well....

day 2, we got taken out for breakfast, what a deal , menus to boot. In the afternoon , we again travel the hundred or so kms to get the kayak. It was afternoon entertainment for the boys as none of them had ever seen a folding kayak, or any kayak for that matter. On the way we get to stop for steamed prawns and beers...not bad for jail. Our passports were delivered that day also...We also had to write a confession saying we broke the laws and must be punished...

day 3, we get to go out for lunch by ourselves. On our return I pulled out my Vietnamese dictionaries and went to work...When can we leave? much?...let's go to the bank! After the boys decided on $250 USD each [for two of us] we got our passport back...then the immigration translator arrived saying no!no! maybe a few more days, maybe $2000 USD each, maybe we are spies....I panic way, we already made a deal....$250 USD each...They all race outside, huddle and return in minutes. O.K. let's go quick to the bank...Which is closed naturally!

We return, Can we go to a hotel and return tomorrow morning...huddle! with no passport? you're the police/immigration you can arrange it!...translation, huddle...No way! here are your passports, you promise to return tomorrow morning?

Day 4, 8 am we are at the bank and at the army post to pay our fine, get our stuff back except for three rolls of film and we are off. They may of taken away our souvenir photos, but I am sure that I will never forget this week in paradise! And I never would of believed there is a jail in paradise with steamed prawns and beers!!!

It was altogether so much fun. I plan to return next year for my third year in a row, and maybe even move there if the government relaxes it's tune a bit...I will try to avoid this fine military accomodation, which although a bit on the expensive side, it was quite polite and friendly and surely quite secure!!!

I am already planning a multiple stop kayak tour of the South Pacific and S.E. Asia starting next December, maybe I will have some more tales to tell you...

I'll be looking for a small remote paradise, hopefully with boat only access, for top of the line budget huts on the beach with organic gardens and kayak touring...

From a well entertained Traveller. I am located in The Canadian Rocky Mountains, in South Eastern British Columbia, on a small organic farm, on a mountain side about twenty kms from the small town of Kimberley.

For some great tips for Vietnam, please contact me:

Sylvio Lamarche

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