Beached in Nha Trang

19 01 2009

Nha Trang, Vietnam

Leaving Dalat wasn’t easy. Not that we wanted to stay in the cold mountains any longer. Actually, we were quite excited about hitting the beach in Nha Trang. No, leaving Dalat just wasn’t easy because of the bus ride down the mountain. A rather high speed bus ride down a very narrow, winding, mountainside street that had both Gage and I in a white-knuckled panic and induced three people to vomit. That kind of not easy. I found myself wondering if the dense green jungle and charming tiered mountain farms were just some sort of landscape-Valium designed to make us more comfortable with the advent of our eventual demise on the highways of Vietnam.

Vietnamese mountain farms outside Dalat

Vietnamese mountain farms outside Dalat

The pain was short-lived, though, as we dragged ourselves off the bus and into our hotel, Ba Tu, which turned out to be more of a palace than a hotel room. As we walked up the spiral staircase the girl asked us if we wanted a window room which would be the same price. I said yes and she opened the door of a room that appeared to have a couch in it. I assumed this was the family living room and she was going to get a key for our room. She then popped her head out the door and waved us inside the room with not only a couch, but two queen sized beds, a bathroom with a bathtub, and a balcony about as big as our room in Dalat. I turned to her and said, “Ten dollars right?” She nodded her head. “Ten dollars USD?” She nodded her head. “Not ten Euros?” She shook her head. “Really??” She nodded her head. “Wow! That’s awesome.” This is why I’m not good at bartering in the market.

Lounging in Ba Tu Hotel

Tacky but wonderful Ba Tu.

Though January is technically off-season for beach goers in Vietnam, we wandered down to the seaside to check it out. Gage, my calm and mature husband, slowly disintegrated to toddler level-excitement complete with giggles and exclamations of Look!, Woa!, and those explosion simulation sounds which only male mouths are capable of formulating. Unlike the beaches in Cyprus and Cambodia, the beach in Nha Trang had waves. Big waves. Bigger than Gage, the Coloradan, had ever seen. Granted they were only about 10 feet tall, but they were loud, crashing, and easily swamping anyone brave enough to get into the water. OK, OK, I was pretty impressed too. In fact we probably spent about two hours just sitting on the shore and watching the waves rise, crest, and then fall away.

Gage and the Waves

Gage and the Waves

The weather in Nha Trang was warmer than Dalat, but by no means was it toasty. All the more reason to indulge our now controlling addiction to Vietnamese coffee. Unfortunately, Nha Trang was not brimming with coffee houses the way that Dalat was, so we had to seek satisfaction outside of the safety of the tourist quarters. A fifteen minute walk into town and was all it took to be the only white people within sight. When we did finally stumble on a coffee shop (i.e. garage with people drinking coffee out of mis-matched glasses) it took about two walk-byes before our caffeine addiction trumped our shyness and gave us the guts to go inside and attempt to speak a few works of Vietnamese. You see, these coffee houses are cramped quarters, made only more cramped by the Vietnamese use of children’s furniture, which makes a smooth and casual entrance all but impossible. So we instead shimmied into a table, squatted into mini-seats, ordered a couple coffees, and handed our camera to the waitress to capture the moment, in full acceptance of our touristness.

Drinking coffee like locals.

Drinking coffee like locals.

The one item on our to-do list while in Nha Trang was to hit up the local train station and buy tickets for an upcoming leg of our journey, Danang to Hue. Since the journey would be close to Tet, the Vietnamese New Year, which is the biggest holiday around, we figured it would be best to buy tickets in advance. It was here that we were fully indoctrinated into the art of Asian queuing, that is to say, rude, forceful, strategic pushing until you get to the front of the line. I actually elbowed a little old lady out of my way when she tried to cut in front of me and shoved some guy aside when he attempted to thrust his papers through the ticket window before me. It turns out that I’m bad at bargaining, but have a real skill at swatting away small Vietnamese people who refuse to wait their turn. As much as I felt like a jerk for doing it, when in Rome….

Jen pushes to the front at the train station.

Jen pushes to the front at the train station.

For some strange reason, the travel gods appear to favor Gage because around the world he has been able to sample new and different kinds of beer, while I am stuck wandering the candy aisles and bemoaning the sad chocolate collection of Nestle and Dove. I’ve been to Belgium, people. I’ve seen the light and can no longer kid myself. So while I went chocolateless, we visited Nha Trang’s Louisiane Brewhouse and got a taster of the four beers they brew there. The beers were surprisingly good and after four beers I no longer felt so bad about being chocolateless. Of course, I also no longer felt my fingers or my head attached to my body. Microbrews are strong. Expensive too, but it was a worthwhile indulgence on our last day in Nha Trang.

The taster tray at Louisiane Brewhouse.

Enjoying the taster tray at Louisiane Brewhouse.

For more pictures from Nha Trang, click here.

Suggestions:

  • If you like to get your drink on just walk around the tourist area at 5pm and collect happy hour fliers from all of the surrounding restaurants. The deals are incredible, for instance, we went to the Zippo Bar where we got free mojitos just for walking in, two for one cocktails, and beer for $0.60.
  • Ethical eats can be found at Lanterns (not to be confused with Red Lantern Bar) on Nguyen Thien Thuat St where proceeds go toward the local orphanage.
  • If you like that Nescafe stuff, you’re in luck because it’s all over the tourist district. For the Vietnamese coffee/caffeine syrup walk north. Yet Kieu St is a good bet, but be prepared to be ogled.
  • Ba Tu Hotel is wonderful, but doesn’t have a lot of rooms, so book in advance by phone (no emails for this place). If you don’t get it, no worries, there are only about 50 hotels within a four block radius. You’re bound to find something.
  • Though I didn’t go there, the prices for spa treatments at Suspa were pretty cheap and the place looked like a lovely little oasis.
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2 responses

20 01 2009
Kathy

Jen!! Small, but MIGHTY!!

3 02 2009
Rondad

Gage, I would have made those male-mouth-only sounds as well. : )

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