Published on March 31st, 20136
A Dash to Nha Trang: As-It-Happens
O.k., let’s try something a little different. Though I’m most certainly not known for my steadfast reliability when it comes to how often and what I write about here at TL, just for giggles, let’s see if I can post a blow-by-blow account of one of my travel adventures AS IT HAPPENS.
In the past, my posts here have all been written well after the fact. Indeed, often weeks or even months later, after I’ve been back “home” (which in itself is argueably a slippery term given my nomadic tendencies) a good while and have had a chance to catch up, mull it all over and distill it all down to just the highlights. Indeed, after so many other life chores and events have crowded in, no doubt dimming the details, and twisting my first impressions.
O.k. so here I am PRESENTLY in Nha Trang (pronounced Nyya Chang), said to be one of – if not THE most beautiful beach in all of Vietnam (which is saying something ‘cuz Vietnam has no less than a 2,000 mile coastline with its fair share of beaches strung along it). And I now believe it, ‘cuz I just arrived yesterday and am practically sitting on that famed Nha Trang beach (well o.k. in an a/c room on the top floor across the street from it). It truly is a fabulous beach. Stretches on a lovely crescent for miles it seems, very wide, with some very enticing islands you can apparently ferry easily to off-shore. Clean white sand, scattered palm trees, sparkling blue sea lapping at the shore – you get the picture, yes?
But I’m getting a little ahead of myself here (I’m pecking this on the morning of day two) – let’s go back and grab a few thoughts on…
DAY 1: I took the 8 am bus from Dalat (a whopping 130,000 vnd – about $6.50). But for that outrageous amount (NOT) not only did I get a comfy a/c ride to the coast, but they sent a FREE shuttle to pick me up! Yep, whenever you take the bus in Dalat, they send a shuttle to your door, no matter how far you live from the bus depot (which for me, at L’Auberge Ami translates to a good 5 or 6 miles).
So by 8 am I was on my merry way for a 4 nt. getaway to sun, sea and sand.
(Incidentally, one of the happiest bits of serendipity about this little beach escape is that – while I normally have a Saturday morning class to teach, for some reason they didn’t schedule me for any this week, so… As I otherwise only have 2 classes each on MWF nights (and there are no classes on Sundays) I figured I could dash away Saturday morning and have 2 nts. in Nha Trang – returning to Dalat Monday morning in time to teach my 5 pm class. BUT, at the last minute – read: after my 2nd class on Friday night – I learned that there would be NO CLASSES ON MONDAY due to some recruitment meeting or somesuch so… YIPPPEEEEEE! That meant… that I could STAY IN NHA TRANG TIL WEDNESDAY – 4 nts. at the beach instead of just 2!)
ANYWAY, the bus was suppose to be about a 4 hr. ride to Nha Trang. But the good news is – it only took little more than 3 hrs. The bad news? Uh, the road through the mountains east to the coast was (as mountain roads are naturally wont to do) decidedly swervy with hairpin turns in abundance. Ah but no problemo. Leastwise for ME (who apparently, nay blessedly has a stomach of iron, and a most kindly accommodating inner-ear). BUT… sadly, not so for a small (and LOUD) handful of poor Vietnamese who spent pretty much the entire 3+ hours retching into the black retching bags handily provided in their seat backs. Enuf said.
O.k. so we arrive before noon in Nha Trang, a medium-size city on the coast. Hop off at the bus depot (just a few blocks from the beach) and hop on a xe om (for 20 dong, negotiated down from 60 – good grief, have I landed in a Tourist Trap or WHAT?). We speed along the beautiful beachfront (which btw, is lined with well-kept parks filled with palm trees and kewl sculptures) to my hotel, the Golden Lotus (I treated myself to an a/c Deluxe Seaview room – regularly $59 on sale at agoda.com for $27 – I say “treated” ‘cuz I normally try to stay in the $12 – $15 range for my travel sleeps here in Asia). Check in, and turns out the only deluxe, seaview they have available is – on the 10th/top floor, a room with TWO queen beds tucked into a smallish basketball court. Okeedokey, I’m happy. 😉
Unpack my few belongings – just a sundress, a pair of cotton capris plus a t-shirt or two and a couple of requisite scarves to add a dash of très chic. That, in addition to the clothes on my back (black cotton ankle-tie pants plus black tank top layered with a black t-shirt and a fleece hoody tied ’round my waist should the bus a/con get too icy). The latter outfit, instantly proving to be completely inappropriate, nay nutso, for the sweltering temps of life at sea level (as opposed to my sweetly, ever temperate mountain haven, Dalat.), and…
Grabbed my iPhone (now happily with 3G and a nifty geocaching app – but I take my dedicated Magellan GPSr along just in case), and head out to the nearby park to find (the first?) of 4 geocaches hidden in Nha Trang.
A somewhat interesting hide, given the usual challenges of cache hides in Vietnam (i.e. extremely manicured parks + ultra-curious locals who FLOCK to said parks in DROVES at all hours of the day and night = a decidedly precarious recipe for an insecure, highly muggleable hide). Indeed, a white film canister, simply tossed willy-nilly (i.e. not secured via a wee hook/zip tie as one would – hello! naturally, why wouldn’t you? find in like circumstances in Seattle) into the dense, but nonetheless manicured (uh, by human hands, hello cache hider!) bushes. Interesting too, as not only was the place (naturally – hello again cache hider!) crawling with locals out for a beachside stroll, but… finding the joy (the wee cache container) was hampered by the plethora of (similarly colored/sized) trash strewn around and within the bushes. Shoot, I even found an entire HIBACHI tied in a plastic bag and tucked into said bushes (presumably stored for frequent private beach barbecues?)
In any case I found the cache, signed the log and tried my best to replace it somewhat securely within the dense bushes so as not to drop down to the ground where it would surely be spotted by the aforementioned gardener as trash. Kewl, 1 down, 3 cache hides to go. If nothing else, geocaching swiftly gets you out and about discovering some pretty kewl places in a strange city.
I then continued to walk down the beachfront to my next quarry: the SHOPPNG MALL!
Seriously, when I lived in Seattle, I absolutely LOATHED shopping malls. Wouldn’t get within a quarter mile of one if I could help it. Same with shopping in general. Just never been one to mill about like a zombie, with all manner of shiney capitalist trinkets glittering at ever turn.
But here in Asia, after nearly a year and a half, I’m verily STARVED for new duds – more specifically, duds that halfway fit me – leastwise those that I can squeeze over my head and then suck in my breath without bursting the seams. I mean, even XXXL often is too small for we gargantuan Westerners here (and I dare say, I’m somewhat of a lean, albeit annoyingly plump around the middle – sigh, specimen.)
Thus, my first stop (well, after grabbing a requisite geocache of course) in a largish tourist center like Nha Trang, was the local shopping mall – in hopes of securing A. a dud or three that might fit me, and B. duds that were C.O.T.T.O.N for heaven’s sake (I mean, what IS it with these Asians – one of the most tropical hot and sultry regions of the world, and everybody’s walking around in POLYESTER – which any one with a brain knows DOESN’T BREATHE, so… I mean, what’s with THAT???)
Long story short? Yippppeeee! I managed to drop a (somewhat unprecedented for this otherwise frugel lass) nearly 2 MILLION dong (o.k. so that’s less than $100, but still) on some very nifty new duds. Mainly, cool cotton duds ‘cuz most everything I brought/own is for the cooler climes of Dalat (i.e. long-sleeeved, fleece, wool, etc.) But seein’s how I have this penchant for dashing off to sea level/sweltering spots like Laos, Nha Trang and such, I guess I best lay in a supply of tropical, sleeveless duds, no?
O.k., two requisite “chores” accomplished, it was time for dinner. Ambling back towards my hotel (I’d walked about a kilometer to get to the mall), there were TONS of restaurants – offering both the local yummers seafood specialties, as well as Western fare. Interestingly, (like its sister beach mecca Mui Ne a bit down the coast) Nha Trang caters heavily to Russian tourists (go figure) so all the menus and signage is mainly in Vietnamese and Russian. If you ask nicely though, you can usually snare an English menu, and as a tourist haven in general, many folks here speak a smattering of English.
So I pop into one of the restaurants recommended in my online research: The Veranda (mainly because – unlike many of the others, there was an inside AIR CONDITIONED dining room!) Also, from their street-side menu, their food and prices seemed most inviting. As in…
- Garlic bread starter
- (my choice of) fresh or grilled oysters – I chose grilled to be on the safe side)
- Chicken breast satay with spring veggie pasta
- Fresh fruit dessert, and…
- A glass of wine (coincidentally, Dalat red wine!)
After dinner, I continued strolling down the beachfront avenue (where tourists and even more so, locals alike) were out and about enjoying a beachside concert and the (relatively) cooler temps of the evening.
And the perfect icing on my first day in Nha Trang? I just happened to look up at the inky black sky and spotted a most uniquely beautiful view of the near-full moon prettily peeking out from the clouds.
And thus ends this (what turns out to be my usual TL TOME!) Proof positive that I apparently can’t be trusted with a keyboard even on a netbook. Indeed it doesn’t matter if I’m reporting on a month in Mongolia, or a single day at a nearby beach – I simply CANNOT hold my blathering tongue!
In any case, we shall see what tomorrow brings here in Nha Trang. Given that I now realize that I can easily return most any weekend, I’m utterly footloose (well, even more footloose than my usual footloose) and thus not in any rush to see/do every blessed sight/activity here. That said though… Apparently there’s quite a lot – from ferrying out to the offshore islands and partaking of the dubious glitz of “Vinapearl” land, to the (much anticipated by yours truly) nearby mud baths. Not to mention those remaining 3 geocaches…
Ah but, tomorrow I’m up for none of those enticements. All would seem banal compared to a most intriguingly unique activity that I happened to spy on a poster in the elevator of my hotel: