Tag Archives: russian

The Upgrade Worm, Awesome Cheap Eats, and the Russian Invasion

Well, things are looking better! Not drier, by any means, but much, much better! Judge by yourself – this is the “before” view (which would have been great in hot weather, as you can open the patio door onto the pool):

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And this is the “after” much bargaining with the management:

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We got a fully renovated room on the 5th floor, complete with a “honeymoon” treatment and a free bottle of wine:

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And who do we have to thank for it? The wriggly bathtub worm. The worm may be long dead, but his legacy lives on in the rose petals, chrome fixtures, and a jaccuzi, filled with even more rose petals. It wasn’t easy, though, far from it – it took nerves of steel and readiness to walk away from the negotiation table. The key to this dance with the management was that we actually did not ask for the upgrade, we simply asked to leave early and get a refund for the last three nights. We had Exhibit A: the worm and Exhibit B: worn-out interior. We didn’t even mention the nightmare Josh had, waking me up in the middle of the night with a bellow of “bed bugs!” (there weren’t any). I started the process by trying to call “customer relations” extension. Someone picked up the phone on the other end, but just breathed heavily, saying nothing.

“Hi,” I said trying to be friendly and annunciate at the same time.

“Hi,” said the woman on the other end.

I stated my case as clearly as possible.

“Hmm,” she said and hung up.

I then tried to dial “operator” extension. After much back and forth with the man on the other end, I’d realised that I’d called another room.

We finally went downstairs, together, as a team ready to face the opponent. The opposing team of front desk staff was so confused and stressed by our request, that it took them a while to understand what was happening. We were eventually shown to a room on the top floor, with a spectacular view, but the same worn-out bathroom and carpet. We’d asked to think about it, did some research and found that we could pay quite a bit more in Mui Ne, but get a villa in a place that not a single Trip Advisor reviewer found “terrible” or even “poor”.

We went back down and asked again, very nicely but firmly, to leave early. We were told that we could leave, but that the hotel manager will not refund any money. I then asked to speak with this hotel manager, who seemed to be some sort of a Wizard of Oz, pulling levers from back in his office. There was more confusion, and finally a polite, well-spoken man appeared. He told us that there was a misunderstanding, that he would certainly refund our money, if we would only agree to have a look at one more room. We’d agreed.

The room is awesome, the photos hardly do it justice. It turned out to be the one they reserve for the owner of the hotel, whenever he comes to visit. So, in a way, we’d ended up in a presidential suite of sorts, or the closest thing on offer. The sauvignon blanc from Chile also helped to sweeten the deal…

With this victory under my belt, and a lot of Chilian export in my veins, I attacked my frizzy hair, changed into a decent dress, and we took off for a night on the town. The second winner of the day was the restaurant called Lanterns. It’s a local favourite, and seems to be perpetually busy:

Lanterns busy

We were all smiles…

Lanterns 2

…as a personal chef cooked beef at our table in a mini-babrbecue pot filled with hot coals:

hot coals in Lanterns personal chef in Lanterns

Did I mention that the barbecue beef cost us about $10 USD? For two people?

So yes, things are definitely looking up. Except for the relentless rain, which is coming down hard, as I write this on the gorgeous balcony. I’d like to ask it to go away, but, apparently, it won’t. December is the end of the monsoon season – I shudder to think what it’s like at its peak. I’ve asked the receptionist when would be the good time to visit Nha Trang, specifically when it doesn’t rain. She thought about it for a moment.

“February,” she said decisively.

“What, one month only?”

“Ahm,” she said looking up the way all locals do when they have no idea what you just said. “August?”

Ok, I thought, if I can’t change the weather, maybe I can be better prepared for it.

“What’s the weather forecast? Will there be a thunderstorm later?”

She looked at me. “Tha…what?”

“A big rain. With lightning.” I waved my arms around, channeling Zeus throwing so many lightning bolts onto unsuspecting tourists.

“No,” she said. “Not much rain.” Then she thought about it for a moment. “Take umbrella?”

I’m trying hard to accept that I flew half-way across the world and paid tons of cash to develop a raging cabin fever. The place must be spectacular in good weather – I can barely make the outlines of the mountains framing the bay. The ocean is the hue of milk coffee, from all the waves crashing onto the foreshore. I can almost imagine it a different color, blending into an azure sky, rather than the bleak gray one. My Russian genes are stirring, aching to write Dostoevsky-style stories of soul-crushing despair, nihilism, and slow-cooking drama.

Speaking of Russians, oh my God, I have not been around so many of them in exactly 30 years! They are everywhere – I would say it’s a 50/50 mix of Russians and locals, with a few bewildered others thrown into the mix. All the signs are in Vietnamese and Russian, and it is incredibly weird to watch Vietnamese converse in Russian with their customers. It also reminds me just how un-Russian I’ve become over the years – I don’t use the same words or intonations when I speak to my family, I dress differently, and don’t wear nearly enough makeup or jewellery. I feel like an undercover agent who’s infiltrated a foreign organisation, trying hard to cover up my accent, although I’m not exactly sure why. Josh thinks this is hilarious and is threatening to use a couple of phrases I taught him just for fun, namely “I am God” and “Because I said so!”

It’s not only the signs that are customised to Russian tourists’ tastes. We have ventured out this morning in search of coffee – to add to the list of grievances, a coffee is not included in the free breakfast at our supposedly 4.5 star hotel. You can buy one, of course, but it would cost $6 AUS per cup – twice as much as back home. We found a cute little venue on the corner, with a view of the ocean and a covered outdoor terrace. We’d ordered a double espresso and a cappuccino. The waitress looked at us like we were idiots or something and wordlessly pointed to the menu. The closest substitutes on the menu were black coffee and “coffee with milk”, so that’s what we ordered. When my coffee arrived, black as the night, I asked for milk. The increasingly irate waitress picked up my cup and stirred the drink with a spoon. It turned out that at the bottom of the cup was a spoonful of sweetened condensed milk. Josh couldn’t believe it, but for me it brought back childhood memories – coffee was hard to come by, and nobody’s ever heard of a milk frother, so a cup of real coffee with condensed milk was a treat. I would not be surprised to find out that this is a Nha Trang specialty, and a recipe bestowed upon the local community by the Soviet-era Russians.

So that’s it for today. I might continue with this journaling later, if anything dramatic happens. Who am I kidding, of course there will be drama! Talk to y’all tomorrow!

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