Australian Michael Smith takes a break from Ho Chi Minh City to savor various epicurean delights and lounge at the beach.Early in the morning at 3 a.m. one of the brothers in the family business wakes up in his Nha Trang home and rides 50 kilometers north along the coast to a small fishing village to buy seafood.He arranges his purchased portion of the catch in a big cold box and straps it on the back of the bike for the ride home.Dozens of crayfish, live crabs, mussels, small scallops, shrimp, squid, cuttlefish and various snails and clams make the journey back with him to the city.Sometimes the fishermen will deliver directly to the beachside resort town allowing the brother to stay in bed.
Nha Trang is a destination for international holiday vacationers.Families, couples and groups travel from Russia, China, Japan, Europe, and the US to frequent the coastal resort town and visit its islands.
The city is the perfect place to relax because it caters to all tastes.The weather can pose a problem for a few months before January but once the Tet (Lunar New Year) begins, thousands of people are stretched out on their towels and deckchairs along the beach.Good weather also means water visibility improves on the islands’ coral reefs and guests from all over the world come specifically to scuba dive.
The popular tourist destination offers mixed reviews for surfing fans.The coastline certainly catches some decent-sized swell, but it is mainly dumping shore breaks on the main beach.These are a lot of fun for bodysurfers experienced with waves breaking in shallow water.
But for poor swimmers, the deep water and outward water pull can present a danger.The ocean deserves great respect and Nha Trang’s beach requires constant supervision for children and inexperienced swimmers.Seafood is the other big draw for Nha Trang.The range is impressive and cheap.Huge crayfish, the size of small cats, go for about US$15 each, with smaller ones costing some $6 apiece. It is good business for the locals.
Along the ocean strip there are countless street food vendors. Foreigners cannot resist a browse along their promenade because the oceanic delectables present such good value. The crayfish and shrimps are grilled over charcoal, sliced with scissors, and served with lime juice, salt, pepper and chili, dishing out a delicious feast. The footpaths are packed with noisy tables full of people drinking beer and gorging meals. It is an impressive operation for the improvisational vendors given that they attract more customers than many large restaurants in a night.
One of the beach side street stalls is a big family operation. There are about five sisters, cousins and many brothers who make sure the business runs smoothly. These sisters meet for coffee at about two in the afternoon to wait for the trolleys carrying seafood, stored about half a kilometer away, to be delivered by the brothers. One brother drives his motorbike and pushes the trolley along with his foot while the other steers in front. The view is reminiscent of a “seafood trolley-cattle-round-up” unfolding in the town’s main street. A second trolley is stacked high with little stools and tables, buckets of cutlery and plastic tubs crammed with bowls, and boxes and bags of seafood.
It takes an hour to set up the nomadic restaurant with customers straggling in at about 4 p.m. They run a wire for the lights and by 8 p.m. the team is pumping out grilled lobsters and clams nonstop. People guzzle beer and drinks with their crustaceans.
Some of the beautiful crowds from HCMC drop by in their Mercedes or BMWs.
The brothers are running around like mad; the sisters are selling, weighing, fanning coals, grilling, serving tables, writing bills, collecting cash and sweeping the flow of leftover shells into bins.Business does not stop until the customer inflow ends. At times, the family dishes out tasty portions until dawn. On most days, the operation ends by 1 a.m.
One brother goes and squats in the median road strip to count the stack of money brought in from the night.When everything is cleaned and packed up after about an hour, everybody is exhausted.They then go have a drink at the local sailing club or return home to collapse, satisfied with the knowledge that they have filled the bellies of the hungry hordes of Nha Trang tourists.