Nha Trang is one of Vietnam’s premier beach resorts, and with its seemingly endless stretch of sand it’s isn’t difficult to see what the main attraction is. However it’s not everyone’s cup of tea and at face value you could make a case that it’s sold whatever soul it had to the rouble & the yuan. It’s certainly growing at a giddying rate – from the hotel rooftop bar (our preferred location for undertaking research) there were at least seven hotels in various stages of development within a half mile radius. It feels more Hong Kong than Ha Noi.
Despite this we had a great week in Nha Trang for a number of reasons. Given the amount of competition the quality & value you get from the hotels is excellent – we bagged a deal at £40 a night for a 4 star hotel 100 yards from the beach, further sweetened by a room upgrade on check-in. Then there is the beach, soft white sand, warm sea lapping up against a backdrop of mountains & islands. A solid week in Nha Trang alone might be too much, but this is where it’s other great attraction comes in – the variety of trips & tours you can take into the beautiful surrounding countryside and islands. We spent a day on a snorkelling trip to a local island enjoying crystal clear water and sea life on a coral reef….
….and another on a motorbike tour that took in various stops including the precarious wooden bridge over the River Cai…..
….and up to Hon Ba Mountain to swim in a wonderfully cold waterfall and lake alongside Vietnamese families escaping the overwhelming heat of the city.
The motorbike trip included a frantic 15 minutes riding through Vietnamese city traffic, where it’s everyone for themselves. I was going to say that you need eyes in the back of your head to ride a motorbike in Vietnam, but that isn’t true as no one gives a toss about what’s behind them, it’s what’s ahead & to both sides you’ve got to be worried about. In fact, the first bit of advice about riding a bike in Vietnam was to point out where the horn was with the instruction, ‘Don’t be scared to use it – often!!’
The motorbike tour was great fun and we even got to do our Easy Rider poses – it really is the only way to travel in this crazy and fantastic country.
We had a great tour guide & as we had him to ourselves we were able to ask about Nha Trang & the impact of the influx of Russian & Chinese tourists & investors. He seemed indifferent about the Russians, not so the Chinese. Given the long running & troubled relationship between these neighbours this wasn’t entirely surprising, but he gave some interesting examples to illustrate his antipathy. “The best and most tasty coconuts are the small ones, but the Chinese always insist on buying the biggest ones to fill their big stomachs….and why is the sea called the South China Sea? It’s on our coast and is the Vietnam Sea, it’s not China’s sea…..and when they eat at seafood buffets they eat too much too fast, no respect”. We clearly had touched on a bit of a nerve here, but to be fair our own experience of Chinese guests in our hotel was that they were quite belligerent and very, very loud. I’ve no idea where the expression ‘Chinese whispers’ comes from but there was precious little of that in our hotel lobby. In the interests of balance I’m sure there are lots of very nice and considerate Chinese tourists in Vietnam – we just haven’t met any of them yet.
In what may become a running theme of the blog I’m continuing to have problems with my size. During our bike trip we visited a place making rugs & got to have a go, but I couldn’t get into the required cross-legged position, my legs just don’t fold up that way. Unfortunately, Sam captured my awkwardness for posterity, or should that be taking the pissterity.
Later we stopped at a cafe where the heat & dehydration called for a rest & sugar cane drink – exhausted I had to sit down & plonked myself on the only chair available which looked like it was built for a 3 year old. I’m surprised I didn’t leave with it wedged on my arse.
Our guide had promised us a glimpse into the lives of local people & as we sat sipping our much needed drink we observed the parenting approach of a young family. A whining toddler was not comforted by his mother but slapped around his head. When the wailing continued, one of the little chairs we were wedged into was used to whack him on his body. Quite a shock to see this, but after a minute or two all seemed well & harmony was restored between mother & toddler.
Top Travelling Tips #1
Finally for this week we are introducing an occasional series of top travelling tips (ooh – lovely alliteration), starting with Cubism. Nothing to do with Picasso, rather how we manage to keep track of our stuff. We left home over a month ago & without our cubes all sorts of carnage would have befallen our cases. Instead our cubes bring order and calm to our packing and unpacking – can’t recommend them highly enough!