After my comfortable 1 hour flight from Danang, I arrived at the coastal town of Nha Trang on the South Central Coast of Vietnam. I had read some fairly mixed reviews about this place online so wasn’t really sure what to expect exactly but I had decided to check it out and see for myself. My first impressions as I arrived were that I liked the place, I mean as in – it looked really nice. There were lots of little islands out at the sea, a golden stretch of sand with a very long beach side promenade where I could see people jogging, exercising, or going about their daily business. There were also beach side bars and cafes, and quite a few skyscrapers. As a lifetime resident of a small island I guess it was comforting to be so close to a beach again.
I am not sure why exactly but I do really love a good beach side promenade so the first thing I did was take nearly a one hour walk along this promenade to the main backpackers area. I had, for reasons unknown even to myself, chosen a hostel that was a very long walk away from the main backpackers and tourist area. The hostel I had chosen was very nice, clean and modern though and had a seaside theme. The room was almost like staying in the Premier Inn! Probably one of the best hostels I have stayed in so far in Vietnam, it was called Vitamin Sea Hostel.
Within an hour, I could understand why there were some negative reviews about the place from backpackers – lots of relentless traffic, we were back to the near death experiences every time you crossed the road (I am going to try and film this Vietnam road-crossing experience when I get to Saigon for people to see), prices seemed generally higher everywhere you go, hassle factor was a little higher and more aggressive too and the demographics of the place were more middle age, wealthy tourists or big families, many of who didn’t appear to be that friendly. Me, myself and I, well I am a sucker for a big bad beach, funky beach side bars and a large promenade to walk around so I was quite liking the place and enjoying the atmosphere of the bustling streets. After my walk, I had a coffee and just watched the world go past for an hour.
That being said, the weather was having absolutely no mercy on me whatsoever. For all of my time in Nha Trang it rained pretty much constantly. I had of course done my research before I had come to Vietnam and I knew I was going to be here in the wet season but from what I had read on many sites online was that this still usually involved mainly sunny days with heavy, short lived showers that lasted an hour or so usually in the late afternoon or evening. In the hostel in Hoi An, I had spoken to the lady at the reception and she did confirm that Vietnam was having one of the worst wet seasons she had seen in many years so it turns out I had just been unlucky. I was still enjoying my time in Vietnam but it was turning into a proper washout as it had been raining for nearly 2 weeks now, apart from a couple of sunny days I had enjoyed in Hoi An and also up North during my time in Hanoi – a city with no beach.
I wasn’t too bothered though because I am supposed to be travelling for months so I know I will get some sunshine but I have felt sorry for the few people I have met on the way who are here on short term holidays,
Although, I probably could have rocked my poncho and got stuck into things, the rain was so heavy and cold it really was dampening my motivation to get involved in many activities or go out and see many sights or attractions so I ended up just doing mainly rainy day things in Nha Trang which was fine by me – some walks, lots of coffees and eating good food, a few beers, chatting to a couple of locals, reading and catching up on some Netflix. There was also a guitar at the hostel so I took that to my room and brushed up on some skills.
I was also starting to realise that I am on a long term trip rather than a short holiday so I don’t have to do stuff all the time. It was ok to just chill out and enjoy being in a new atmosphere and the small pleasures of travel. Chatting to a local, taking a walk, reading a book, eating some nice local food, watching the world go by etc. When I first came, I think I had quite a heavy tourist mentality as if I was just on a quick holiday so I must do this, and must see that, and must go on that tour. I think I am stepping back from that a bit and will start to be a bit more picky about what I do or don’t do. I mean if I go on some expensive tour or pay entrance fees to an attraction every single day I will be coming home with my butt stuck back in that office chair quicker than you can say bob’s your uncle!
There was an amusement park in Nha Trang called Vinpearl Land which had lots of rides, water park, arcade machines and to get there you had to go across the largest cable car ride across water in the world. This was the one thing I wanted to do here just for the cable car itself to be honest and I also wanted to go to the park and re-live my youth on the arcade and maybe the rides etc but the price was 800,000 Vietnamese Dong which is about £30. After my flight, I was trying to convert myself back from a “Flashpacker” to a “Backpacker” again so I decided to skip it. That being said, if it wasn’t for the rain and heavy winds I probably would have done it so I think that was the bigger factor.
There probably is one other noteworthy story in Nha Trang which some people may have different opinions about. I wasn’t going to mention it but as I didn’t do that much in Nha Trang I might as well tell this story. Carrying on with the rainy day theme, I was walking back from lunch one day when it started to pour down. I had forgotten my umbrella and poncho and was a bit tired from all the walking so I decided to stop for a massage. I stopped at the first place I saw and this man at the entrance showed me the prices. It wasn’t uncommon for a man to show you the prices, and then you would be met by a woman inside. I decided to go for the Asian Sense full body oil massage. I took my shoes off and stepped inside. The man gave me a bowl of hot water with oils in them to soak my feet in and a water and I sat and waited before being shown to the massage room where I stripped down to my boxer shorts and took my position lying face down with my face in the table hole. The same man came back into the room and I thought he was just preparing the room for the massage which I have also seen before, he lit an incense stick and turned on some soft Asian style music which had a romantic tone to it. Now, I am sure there are people that will disagree with me here but although a body massage is not in itself a sexual experience in any form, to me there is something slightly intimate about another person rubbing and massaging oil all over your body to relax you. For anyone who has seen the classic film Pulp Fiction, you would have seen the fascinating debate that Vincent Vega and Jules Winnfield have about whether a foot massage is cheating or not. Well I am on Vincent Vega’s side in that argument who thinks a foot massage is an intimate experience to share, and you will of course have your own views on the matter but for me, I prefer a member of the opposite sex to give me a massage. A man massaging me just doesn’t feel right and well to cut a long story short, I simply don’t like it. Maybe I would have a different view if it was a strong sports massage that a physiotherapist was giving me to help with an injury but a full body oil massage taken for relaxation purposes is a little different.
To my utter dismay, this man started rubbing the oil on his hands and massaging my legs, slowly and sensually like. All the muscles in my body tensed up and in a state of desperation I tried to think about how I could extricate myself from this situation, which was highly uncomfortable for me, without being too rude. I mean I had nothing against the bloke, he was a nice fella but I have already explained my feelings. At first, I thought about just getting up and walking out without saying a thing but I was down to my boxer shorts so there would be a horribly awkward few minutes where I would have to get changed in front of him. As his hand roamed further up the tops of my legs toward my thighs and buttocks I started to exclaim “Oh no, I forgot I have to meet my friend, what time is it?” He told me the time and I got off the bed and started to pretend to panic and said “Oh no I am so late, I forgot to meet my friend for lunch, he will be waiting for me, I make him angry”. I think the guy knew what was going on but I quickly got changed and decided to give him a 20,000 Vietnamese Dong anyway to say sorry for wasting his time and bolted out of there back into the rain.
Nha Trang is known for its nightlife so I couldn’t leave without sampling it for myself which I chose to do on the Saturday night. After my 45 minute walk along the beach to the nightlife area wandering again why I had not checked the location of my hostel………..
I started my night in an expats bar watching the Saturday football. This seemed like a bit of a clique expats bar and I wasn’t sure if the locals seemed that open to outside conversation – I didn’t get chatting to anyone anyway – so after the Chelsea / Newcastle match finished, I left and found a bar where there was a very good musical duo playing various rock songs which I enjoyed a lot. I took a few videos of them here. This bar was buzzing and full of Russians.
After the band finished, I got chatting to a Polish guy at the bar and also the Russian barmaid and he eventually started buying Vodka shots. I was trying to stay off the shots but had a couple. He seemed like he was very wealthy and was here on business I think. He said he spent 4 – 5 months travelling in South East Asia every year. I asked him what he did but he wouldn’t tell me for some reason which I thought was strange, if not a little shady. The barmaid was nice and chatty too. After that, I made my way to a club called the “Why Not Bar” and was a bit ticking by this point so I mingled with a few of the locals, got chatting to a couple of English guys who were twins and did a bit of dancing before taking a motorbike taxi home. One observation that struck me as odd in this bar was that it was well past midnight and there were quite a few local Vietnamese people in the bar and some of them had their children with them, like really young children about 5 – 10. As a UK resident, this was a bit odd to me where children are not allowed inside these type of alcohol serving places after 9PM where I am from. It was a rowdy bar too with lots of very drunk people, dancing and partying!
Unfortunately, the next day I checked my wallet and there was a 500,000 Vietnamese Dong note missing from my wallet. I had taken out two 500K notes and was completely certain that I had not broken into the second note and had only spent about 400,000 of the first half mil. Not sure what happened there! Some of the notes do look similar. It cant have been stolen as my wallet was still there, they would have just taken the whole wallet. I must have given someone the wrong note or just dropped it. Oh well, it is only about £16 so I will get over it although I was very annoyed at first, you sort of lose track of the value of money in these countries – 500,000 Dong seems like a huge amount of cash but if I lost £16 at home I wouldn’t fret about it for too long.
The next day, I booked myself on a bus to Dalat which is a town a bit inland in the Central Highlands of Vietnam and which i supposed to be very nice and a bit different to anywhere else in Vietnam. I was thinking about skipping Dalat and spending longer in Saigon but the Polish guy I met in Nha Trang said I musn’t skip it as it was one of his favourite places in Vietnam.
The bus journey itself from Nha Trang to Dalat was very scenic even though my heart skipped a few beats when the bus driver started overtaking cars and motorbikes on blind corners on the drive up the mountain to Dalat.
Next post: My time in Dalat.