Nha Trang – where strange things happen

Posted from tp. Nha Trang, Khanh Hoa province, Vietnam.

IMG_2381I had 24-hours to spend in Nha Trang. And oh the day I had in this seaside town. I should’ve known it was going to be one of those weird days, but I ignored the signs – certain they were just random occurrences brought on by travelling in a foreign, socialist (communist) and under-developed country. This, of course, was not the case, only the catalyst.

I left Mui Ne on an afternoon bus. It was meant to leave at 2 p.m., and it was meant to be a sleeper bus. Sleeper buses are basically uncomfortable and cramped coaches with nearly fully reclined seats (they’re fixed) that would probably comfortably sleep a Vietnamese person, but not someone of the common Western stature. I hadn’t travelled in one yet, so I was curious. But when our bus rocked up a mere 40 minutes late, and the people in the T.M. Brothers Cafe began shouting at us to get on our bus, I realize it is not a sleeper, and nor does it have a toilet. I’ll survive. It’s only five hours to Nha Trang. T.M. Brothers has the worst reputation on the Internet. I haven’t travelled on any luxury transport, so I really don’t know the difference at this point. I think most of the buses in Vietnam are run down and decrepit.

We arrived in Nha Trang just after 7 p.m. after one seedy stop at a country cafe where we were allowed to pee. Having had made no reservation and only having an address for the backpacker area, me, a Brit, an Irishman and a Dutchman headed on foot the 1km or so towards hostels and beds. Alas, it was not to be. What ended up happening was all four of us, quick friends from the bus and our previous stay in Mui  Ne, had no choice, after searching for well over an hour, to stay in a two-bed room and share beds at the Ruby Hotel (where I ran into my friends.) The plus-side – it was $5/each. The downside … wasn’t really any. I slept great after a few beers.

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In the morning I grabbed my passport and left my luggage with reception. My bus to Hoi An wouldn’t leave until 7 p.m. so I had the day to check out this town – a town I did little research on and had really no clue about. I decided to start with the beach. Nha Trang’s waterfront is glorious! It’s all sand and open to everyone. Locals and tourists and hordes of Russians frequent the golden sands and many pay a few thousand Dong more to have a lounger and shade structure with an attendent to watch their things should they need to escape to the semi-clean waters to cool off. This expanse of beach is broken up by a few resorts and some parkland. There’s also an abandoned amusement park with a rotting roller coaster, water slide and lazy river attracting nothing but weeds and mould.

While on my walk a man asked me to take a picture. I said sure and held out my hand for his camera, but instead he handed me his child. I’d heard of this – getting a photo with the white person. So there I am, confused, awkwardly clinging onto a child who, in her own right, stares me in the eyes, sees my confusion, and screams. Oh, does she wail. All I’m thinking is “international incident.” People are looking and he’s laughing while trying to snap photos. Eventually I’m able to hand back his squirming child and head on my way, not before he hands me his camera to take a photo of the two reunited.

A little further down I run into a group of people having a Tet meal in the park. They call me over and force feed me a shot of alcohol while pushing a pickled onion into my mouth. They’re happy and laughing, no doubt quite drunk, and take numerous photos of the tall foreign female with the smaller men in their group. I play along and put my elbows on their shoulders as I am considerably taller. I thank them and say good-bye in Vietnamese and they send me on my way with a gelatin-meat snack on a stick.

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From the park I hire a cyclo driver to take me to the cable car station to go to Vinpearl, an island/resort 2km from the mainland. This is the longest cable car over water in the world. The lineup was over an hour long so after paying my $23 fee I opted to take the ferry over and vowed to ride the cable car back. On the island is an amusement park with a slew of rides, including swings, a rollercoaster and an upside-down-thought-I-was-gonna-die ride. There’s a water park which regrettably I was unprepared for having left without my swimwear, and there’s also an aquarium. There’s numerous resorts, too, like the kind you expect to find in Cancun – these ones are filled with Russians.

My way up on the Alpine Coaster with the bay and cable car line in the distance.

My way up on the Alpine Coaster with the bay and cable car line in the distance.

When I got to the island I made a B-line for the Alpine Coaster, a ride on rails down the mountain where you sit in your own car and control the brakes. There’s collisions all the time when people go too slow or too fast. There’s attendants on every bend to ensure people slow down and sit properly in their cars. That was a way cool ride.

The aquarium was kind of blase, basically small fish tanks with a few species barely swimming around because they’re packed into too small of a space. But the manta ray and shark tank was pretty cool. There’s a moving walkway that goes underneath the tank.

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I took the cable car back to the mainland, in high winds, and then took an $8 taxi to the Po Ngar Cham Tower. The tower is over 1,000-years-old and is Hindu-influenced. I saw traditional weaving, pottery and calligraphy here. I also ran into the Dutch guy I shared a bed with the night before.

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On my walk home a motor bike driver stopped and offered to drive me home for 30,000 Dong. I said okay, but when we stopped at a cafe and his friend gave him a Swiss Army knife I got concerned. I asked him to stop and told him the backpacker district was back the other way. He argued with me and then showed me the knife. It was a rusted piece of crap that was used as a key-chain! Phew. He rounded the corner and we were at my hotel. But you can never be too careful, especially when taking random rides from strangers.

I got some food for the overnight bus, had some amazing bun cha ca, picked up my backpack from reception and walked to the bus station. It was an expensive but very unusual day. I wish I had more time to spend in Nha Trang, but tickets were booked, hostel was scheduled and it was time to leave to the ancient town of Hoi An.

 

One Response to Nha Trang – where strange things happen

  1. Travel is my water, I can drink to that, after travelling the world for 45 years,
    over 2o trips to SE Asia it has become my lifes blood. Great to grow old and introduce my son to the world….he’s keen…travel wise, travel safe..cheers
    Doug hague-Smith

    douglas haguesmith July 30, 2017 at 11:44 pm Reply

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