Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Nha Trang - Oct 7-8

The sleeper bus to Nha Trang wasn't bad. We weren't expecting luxury for the 11 hour trip and we didn't get it, but aside from a super sketchy pit stop at midnight and a pretty bumpy ride, it was a good experience and a cheap convenient way to travel.

We almost skipped Nha Trang on our itinerary because its simply known for being a beach town. Water sports, resorts, surfing etc. Its not exactly the prime season for that right now and all of my guide books said if we're traveling in the off season, its best to skip Nha Trang altogether. Maybe we just lucked out, but we were super happy we went despite the suggestion not too. When we arrived it was a beautiful morning and we rolled into town at sunrise with the streets full of joggers, walkers, people doing tai-chi (or something) on the beaches and generally just out getting some exercise.

We had no problem finding a "nice" hotel. In fact, that's the name of the hotel - Nice Hotel :) Our standards are pretty basic at this point. It has to be clean, friendly, have air con and not smell (seriously). This place measured up and came with the price tag of $15USD a night. We'll take it! We did have a run in with a cockroach the size of a mouse one night, but we just named him, posed for photos with him then showed him the door (and the descending view from the balcony).

We figured out in Hoi An that the best way to get around town was by bicycle so after breakfast on the beach at the sailing club we trolled around town on a few beat up bikes. You really do get to see a lot this way and its at your leisure and its cheap! $1 for the whole day. We went from one end of town to the other stopping to visit a temple but mostly just cruise.

It was a beautiful day, the first blue sky day we have seen actually. It was nice, but it was hot. Really hot. We found a group of cabanas on the beach and it ended up being the Louiseanne. A resort I had read about where for using the bar and cabana services you were welcome to the pool, restaurant etc. So we decided to make the day a beach day. We drank cocktails, swam in the ocean, laid out in the sun, enjoyed a nap in the shade of the cabana, used the pool and just enjoyed the relaxation of it all. Towards the end of the day I was getting a little nervous with the tab we were running. My experience with beach resorts is that the cost of the cabana, towels, drinks, lunch etc can add up pretty quickly. However, I was pleasantly surprised when the bill came and the damage was in the proportion of $32 (for two of us combined). Nice.

We inquired about an island not far from the beach which we could see had a gondola cable car running over the ocean to get to it. It was called Vinpearl and apparently was an amusement park of sorts. So we decided that's what we would do the next day.

We rode our bikes the 30min trip and parked them for the day. Renting the bikes for another whole day even though we were just parking them was cheaper then taking a taxi to and from. The gondola ride across was pretty cool. Just like going up Whistler mountain except going straight across ocean. The view was amazing. Vinperal land was just like any other amusement park except for one small detail. All the rides, games, water park and the aquarium was all included in the $19 ticket price that got you over there. Since it was a weekday and off season, it was like having our own personal amusement park! Water slides, wave pool, lazy river, the coolest aquarium I've ever been to (with a tunnel going through the main tank so that the fish/sharks etc swim all around you), rollercoasters, carousel, and all the games in the two story arcade were all free. We spent all day there like kids and again, the price tag was a staggering $19 plus the $2 we spent on lunch.

We weren't surprised when the rain started, like I said before, we've come to expect it now. However, this time it came just as we were wanting to leave. Getting a little wet wasn't the problem, it was the combination of torrential downpour and the bicycles on the other end that we needed to ride back to the hotel.

We tried waiting it out at the gondola station, but an hour later the sheets of rain hadn't slowed and the water level in the streets was steadily climbing. Having a good laugh about it, we found a couple of garbage bags and thanks to Anthonys cadets training fashioned ponchos with fitted hoods and all. All wrapped in plastic we were ready for the storm. We rode our rusty old broken bikes through the heaviest rain I have ever seen, through streets flooded to our knees, we kicked fish off our feet and laughed and giggled the whole way. While some locals were laughing it up with us, others seemed appropriately annoyed but the inconvenience and others obviously worried about the damage being done to homes and businesses. We had to keep our fun to a minimum in some areas and keep things in perspective.

Back at the hotel, the neighboring locals we rented the bikes from had a good laugh at us and our garbage bag rain protection but their mocking quickly turned to intrigued when we took them off and they saw we were bone dry. Was quite funny actually.

We were amazed at the level of water in the streets. It was easy for us to have so much fun knowing all our belongings were sitting safely on the 6th floor, but it was clear that for some, this was going to be devastating. We wanted to get a few good photos to share the experience, especially of people catching fish in the streets, but by the time we had a shower and headed out again, the street drains that we had previously seen as overzealous and ridiculously large, now made perfect sense. The water drained out like the streets where a bath tub and someone had pulled the plug. Within 30min of arriving back to the hotel, the abandoned cars that were up to the doors (and further) were on solid ground and had been moved, we could cross the street on pavement and even the hawkers selling us sunglasses and deep fried dumplings were back in business. We were speechless. In our room just moments ago we were comprising "plan b" if we couldn't get to the airport in the morning or if we were flooded in for a few days, and here we are back in the streets as if nothing but a little shower had past. Amazing.

Knowing that we wanted to get up with the sun for breakfast on the beach before catching our flight to Ho Chi Minh City we called it an early night. Anthony would be flying home in 24hours and I would be carrying on solo.

More pictures of Nha Trang here:


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