The train from Hue to Nha Trang was number 25 of our travels and it has not been too bad so far so this journey was a shock! Our hotel booked the tickets and said that the soft sleeper was sold out, so we felt we could make do with hard sleeper. Maybe lost in translation or maybe a mean joke, they booked us hard seat! This basically consisted of a bench, a very hard bench, for 12 hours.
Nha Trang is the town we had picked to meet Tara and help her celebrate her birthday! It is a beach town and a bit of a backpackers hub. When you arrive the first observation is how overly Russian this place is. Suddenly the menus and shop names appear in Russian, and every second person is a Russian, a very popular holiday destination.
For the day we went to Vinpearl amusement and water park across the bay on Bamboo island. We crossed the bay on the cable car which had a great view looking back towards the town and beaches.
At Vinpearl we rode the dodgems, played in the arcades, had a quick dip in the sea, then feeling brave we did a few of the water rides and rode the waves in the wave pool. Just about warm enough!
We took a toboggan ride which took us far up the mountain and then snaked back down again, then continued riding the toboggans, the merry go round and the few roller-coasters until we decided to call it a day and take the cable car back.
We had dinner at an open air lantern restaurant across the street. We ordered a BBQ for the middle of the table and grilled our own pork and beef which was really tasty. We also had a few bubbles to begin Tara’s birthday celebrations.
The party began in the hostel. It was Tara and her English friend Louise, then 3 English people we had met in the room. In honour of the many Russians in the town (and the fact we first met Tara in St Petersburg) much of the night was spent talking in a Russian accent and calling each other comrade.
Russians may be even more amusing outside of their own country. The fashionable combinations of bright flowery shirts and chequered shorts stand out even more. We went to the sailing club, a bar on the beach which was great fun. Mullets and dodgy dance moves were a highlight.
In the morning we had an explore of the town and the beach. It was warm but not quite sunbathing weather, unless you are Russian. We walked along the beach feet in the sea when a huge wave came and took us all by surprise.
In the afternoon we decided to go bowling at the Nha Trang centre. It was about £1 and you have some sort of table service as well. My bowling is no better in Vietnam!
Finally taking the chance to recover from the horrendous train I slept most of the evening. Ricky took the chance to explore the night markets and various alligator body parts available for sale.
Feeling refreshed Tara, Ricky and I went to the Po Nagar Cham towers. This is a Buddhist temple, or rather lots of little temples, quite unique to anything we have seen before.
After a little explore we headed back into town. It is rainy season in Vietnam meaning short showers come and go throughout the day. We spent most of the afternoon in a restaurant marvelling at bangers and mash.
At 7pm we caught the night bus. These are quite comfortable as the seats recline into beds, however funny as every inch of space is used. For the most part we slept well.
We arrived in Hoi An bright and early. We have taken a bit of a strange route to come here as we had to skip Hoi An on the way south in order to meet Tara, but I am so pleased we did as a week ago this quaint town was underwater. The town used to be a fishing village but is now mainly a tourist stop, and it is so beautiful. Walking around the old town the shops and markets spill on to the street. The town is full of pedestrianised streets and has a river running through it. We had a bit of an explore then rented bikes (1USD for the day!) and rode to the beach.
At the beach we met the others, Tara, Jonny, Claire and Hannah. The waves were massive and the weather was warm enough to sunbathe. We spent a few hours at the beach and Ricky made a sunbed from tree branches. Whilst we were all sunning ourselves the tide was coming closer and closer. In the end it was only Ricky who saw the huge wave approaching. He said "guys…. Guys… Guys guys guys!!!" and we jumped up as a huge wave soaked us. The Vietnamese beach sellers were laughing so hard at us!
We biked back to town and walked down the river to find somewhere to eat. Hoi an has some of its own unique dishes so we tried Cao Lao- thick noodles with bean sprouts and pork, White rose- shrimp dumplings, wontons- nacho type crisps covered in meat and veg, as well as an aubergine dish. It was so delicious. A lot of the bars and restaurants also serve fresh beer, a brew I'm pretty sure they make themselves, for 3000 dong (about 8p!) so you can wine and dine a little to well, very cheaply!
The streets of Hoi an are lined with tailors. They will make you anything to your fit from dresses to coats, suits to shoes for about £30 and it will be ready the next day. I am sad I wasn't a bit more decisive and got something made here. We spent the afternoon pottering.
In the evening we met the others again at a little street food restaurant. The kitchen was set up on the street, just a little wok and few bits of equipment. We sat on a little bench and chairs also on the street just by the river and tried some more of their lovely cuisine. At night the town is lit with lots of lanterns and people buy candles and float them down the river. It really is the most picturesque little town. After dinner crossed the bridge to the An Hoi peninsula, a less touched part of the town where they hold a night market. We had a look at the various stalls all with “happy hour,” a concept I think may be slightly lost if it is always happy hour, and went for a few drinks at the backpackers bar.
Waking again to beautiful weather we hired bikes once more and rode to a beach a little further away. The Vietnamese are so entrepreneurial. They have accustomed so well to tourists. When you get to the beach they have set up bike parks all the way down the street to keep your bike safe. Then arriving on the beach they all have sunbeds and umbrellas set up but I guess over time they have wised to the fact this is a luxury, so now they offer it free, all you have to do is maybe eat at their restaurant later. We often marvel to just how adapted to our needs they are as a whole flock of taxi drivers and hotel owners will memorise the bus schedule to be there to meet you off the bus, and the sellers will be there with chewing gum or baby wipes!
We spent the best part of the day at the beach which had a nice breeze.
In the evening we went to a tucked away vegetarian restaurant we would never have spotted otherwise- thank you for the recommendation Jamie and Chantal. The food was very simple but really good, about £1 per dish and the place filled up fast.
We had a fresh beer on the river facing restaurant. Everyone so far has assumed we are either Dutch or German without fail. When we told the barman at this particular bar we were English he said, “wow, it’s nearly Christmas in your country… Congratulations!” And then proceeded to ask us about Christmas trees, snowmen, mulled wine and roast dinners. It was so strange as it feels nothing like the approach to Christmas here!
Later went along to why not bar to meet the others. They have an all you can drink offer for 100,000 dong, around £3. “Mot, Hai, Ba, Do” means one, two, three, cheers! At the end of the night Ricky and I both got a moped taxi home which was pretty scary!
A day of no power in Hoi An, not that you would ever guess. Life continues on! We had lunch again by the river and then walked to explore central market.
In the afternoon we went to visit one of the Vietnamese old houses. It is made out of dark heavy wood, 5 rooms in total and the family live there but allow people in to show them the old style of housing. It looks simple but I’m sure it would belong to someone well off. The lady took us around talking about her grandfather and his woodwork trade. The family now also work with silver and make lanterns. The lady invited us to share with them Vietnamese tea and cookies which was really refreshing on such a hot day!
After one last walk around the town, we will be sad to leave, we returned to the hotel to catch the night sleeper bus.
Next stop Dalat, South Vietnam.