Sunday, January 17, 2010

Time for more beaches…is everyone cold back in the US?!?

1/10 – 1/13, by Jason

Rise and shine, or with a scowl on your face for me. As Swiss mentioned, people here drive like maniacs (ok, that was a bit harsh, but they certainly have their own unique style, that generally involves a lot of horn. As I write this I search for a more cowbell/more bus horn style joke but it’s just not coming to me.) Well technically it was a sleeping bus but with frequent stops and a horn that was blaring at least once every two minutes I got maybe 2 hours of sleep. We arrived in Nha Trang just after 6am where they brought us to a hotel we could check into (of course their recommendation, so they got a commission off us staying there.) We were not impressed and since we were already in hotel-ville we decided to walk around. Now at 6.30am most hotels and guest houses in this seaside party town are barely awake, let alone open. We decided to grab breakfast and also use internet to book our flights back to Saigon for when Cyndi and Matt are here in a week. Afterwards we checked into the Tram Anh Guesthouse for the amazing price of $6/night (total!) Amazing deals here. The room wasn’t super luxury but it was a corner room with two large windows that gave us an incredible breeze, satellite TV and hot water shower, so it served it’s purpose for 3 nights. And it was a 3 minute walk to the beach (anyone cold back home in the US?!? ;-) We spent the afternoon exploring town, getting a lay of the land and Swiss in search of a dive shop (Nha Trang is known as the dive capital of Vietnam and there is no shortage of shops trying to get your business…please he needs to put all those certifications to good use.) Late in the afternoon I took a nap while Swiss took care of some things online. That night around 6pm we were invited to join the family that owns our guest house for dinner (2 nights in a row now after that fantastic meal in Saigon at our last guest house!) It was a rice porridge made with chicken (the whole chicken even, Swiss had a chicken heart in his bowl) and also a salad of roasted chicken, onions and peppers. It was delicious and the price was right. We grabbed a quick beer at the local “Sports Bar”, which was interesting only because it was full of drunk old Australians singing golden oldies at the top of their lungs - amusing to say the least. Then it was time for bed.

Sickness, Diving and a tasty Microbrew!!

Swiss was up early and going before 7.30am before his half day diving trip. I had intentions to wake up about an hour later, grab some breakfast and spend some quality time on the beach. I did make it up about an hour later, but was pretty sick and didn’t make it out for a little while. A little before lunch I was feeling better and headed out to explore.


I made it to the beach for a little while, but the midday sun was a bit much (I know, everyone feels bad for me back home!) and I walked down to check out Louisiane Brewhouse down the beach. It was packed and also an actual microbrew that manufactures in-house, something I hadn’t seen in a while…and something we’d need to check out later. Swiss was done with his diving and lunch around 2.30pm and he joined me for a late lunch at “Something Fishy!” a local Australian run restaurant that made some of the greatest fish and chips I’ve ever had! (No kidding, the fish was light, not overly battered and hardly greasy at all!) We did a little walking around and then a little break back home getting caught up with Larry King on CNN, haha. We headed out later to that brewhouse I’d seen earlier for a drink and to check it out. It’s quite a bit pricier than a local beer, but was worth the experience and very cheap compared to back home ($3 USD for 600mL of microbrew beer.) Swiss had the Witbier and I sampled the monthly special, a light lager with a hint of passionfruit and rambutan essence. They were both great beers and we enjoyed them with a tempura salmon roll, delicious!


Continuing the theme of fish and sushi (which we hadn’t had in quite a while, and I had been craving just a few days prior) at “Oh! Sushi Bar” - talk about great deals - we had a bowl of edamame, iced tea and three rolls (including their house roll which was ginormous!!) for just over $5USD/person. Take that SF sushi places! :)


We were ready to have our big tourist day on Tuesday so it was off to bed then.

Riding scooters in Vietnam and soaking in mud :)

After seeing how people drive in Saigon and also seeing how much less traffic there is in Nha Trang, Swiss was feeling up to trying his hand at scooter riding in Vietnam. You can see the video he posted earlier and it’s just well, crazy here by US driving standards. But he was up to the challenge (don’t look at me, after Indonesia I’m just a passenger!) We headed first to the Long Son Pagoda for a look at their famous Sitting Buddha perched high above Nha Trang. After getting lost no fewer than three times we finally arrived only to be ripped off for parking and harassed to overpay for postcards. As harsh as it sounds, things we now politely say “No, Thank you” and keep walking. The Buddha was nice although the views up there a bit obstructed and after being harassed earlier we were both ready to leave.

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We headed next to Po Nagar Cham Towers for some more sightseeing and views of the Cui River and Nha Trang. It’s now a Buddhist religious sight and they charge 11,000 VND for admission, or just over 50 cents. There were no people hassling us there and honestly I don’t mind paying admission (obviously when it’s this insanely cheap also) but since you’re giving money that hopefully goes towards maintaining the site also. The views of the Cui River going out into the South China Sea were excellent!

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After the towers we grabbed a quick lunch at a local shop where no one spoke any English and it was of course delicious. A plate of rice with grilled and marinated chicken, pork, shrimp and tofu for less than $1 USD, amazing! Afterwards it was on to the Thap Ba Hot Spring Center for a mud bad soak and mineral water pools. Admission is only 100,000 VND (a little more than $5 USD) and includes a 3 mineral showers, mud bath, mineral water soak and finally unlimited use of their three mineral water pools and waterfall, quite a deal! We spent about three hours there and it was incredibly nice and relaxing (I know, it’s tough traveling.) The mud is a bit messy, so no cameras out, but we were definitely caked in mud at one point and “sunbathing” so it would dry on our skin.

Later that night (no scooter crashes!) we grabbed dinner at Lanterns, a local Vietnamese restaurant. We learned only after we sat down that it was a Lonely Planet and TripAdvisor recommended restaurant and I was at least a little apprehensive (from what we’ve seen quality really drops once a place is listed in Lonely Planet) but the food was AMAZING! Swiss had sautéed beef and vegetables and I had a set dinner with rice, sautéed squid in vegetables and a garlic/morning glory mix in pork broth. Relaxed from our day at the mud bath and playing tourist it was time to call it a night.

Smoky Vietnamese Clubs @ 1pm?!?!

Wednesday was a travel day and we were catching a bus that night from Nha Trang up to Hoi An. Swiss got up early to write his blog post for Saigon (he says he’s a morning writer) and I woke up and was glued to the TV watching the news as it poured into CNN about the horrible earthquake tragedy in Haiti. [After what seemed like an endless string of earthquakes back home in Northern California I was expecting to hear about a big one back there. I was deeply saddened to hear about a horrible tragedy striking such an impoverished and poorly equipped country that it sounds like is not capable of handling this devastation.] Eventually I had to pack and get ready to check out, which we did, and grabbed a quick bite to eat at that fish and chips place (Swiss needed to try it and I’m telling you, it was the best I’d ever had!) Afterwards we headed to M Cafe, a local joint without a single foreigner and where Swiss had spent the morning writing. Our original plan was to go to the beach but it was a crappy day with overcast skies, cool temperatures and on and off rain throughout the day. We had to sit inside (which was unfortunately smoky) but the service was excellent. Ironically, at 1 in the afternoon they have a DJ and really loud music playing (which was actually pretty good) and it was quite amusing to sit there and enjoy coffee and beer as the music thumped loudly in the middle of the day with the locals. We caught our bus a little after 6pm and met our new friend Carl, but more about him in the next post where we reach Hoi An!


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