next stop: nha trang

We’d had a lazy last morning in Saigon, Zac had been to the gym one more time, while I’d made the most of the down time to read.
Just finishing of the packing, there was a tingle of excitement and surprise when our room phone rang.
Our taxi was here!

We were en route to the airport, our first domestic flight in Vietnam.
As economical as they are, long bus ride after long bus ride gets tiresome.
We’d had our fill of the Cambodian countryside and crossing over to Ho Chi Minh City looked markedly similar.

No, planes were the way forward.
Besides which, we both love flying.

Vina Sun, it would seem, have a complete monopoly on the market in terms of taxis in Saigon, and while we’d been told Uber was alive and well in HCMC, being within walking distance of everything, we never needed to test it.

up in the air.

Flying over the red dunes in Mui Ne I did somewhat regret our last minute decision to avoid it, but when the pilot announced for the cabin crew to prepare for landing I looked down and couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.
Nha Trang looked like the place for some serious water sports.

As we exited the airport, I tried to ask a cardboard cut out the best way to get in to town, before we clocked a sign for the shuttle bus.
We weren’t given much of a choice; ticket thrust in to hand, we were shouted at in urgent Vietnamese and hurried across the road to the bus.
Despite only just being handed tickets, it seemed as though the bus had been waiting for us before it could leave.
Bags unceremoniously plonked into the remaining space, we clambered over passengers and cargo to the only remaining seats and drove down the long road from Cam Tanh to Nha Trang, speculating over which undeveloped luxury resort we’d most like to stay in when it was finished.

A sweet welcome to Nha Trang

Greeted by sand dunes and lines of hat shaped lush green trees, it was one of the more unique terrains I’ve landed in.
A giant mock Hollywood ‘Welcome to Nha Trang‘ sign finally appeared (next to an actually mock Hollywood sign) and looking across I began to snigger: our driver looked like Elvis.

It was a fitting introduction to this try hard Western beach retreat.
When we finally reached the main road it was hard not to think back to driving to Apollo Bay along the Great Ocean Road and as we rounded the corner and Nha Trang opened up before us I was thrown back to memories of Cape Town.

Much like the Gold Coast in Australia, Nha Trang exists for tourists.
As it turns out, they’re largely Russian; we were even turned away from travel companies while looking for potential day tours because we were ‘foreigners’.
As the old main naval base for Russia during WWII, Nha Trang remained home for many expats – it made for an interesting dynamic to the city, breakfast in particular was a strange Vietnamese-Russian hybrid.
Not for me.
There’s only so much rice and cured meat a girl can eat!

We’d been told about Vinpearl Land, but apart from that, some mud baths and the promise of water sports and a ‘stunning beach’ we weren’t sure what else Nha Trang had to offer. Vinpearl Land was quickly ruled that out after we found out most of the water park is currently closed for maintenance, and the hefty price tag for entrance.

In lieu of a water park, we booked a ‘try dive’ for Zac and a ‘fun dive’ for me, with some bonus snorkelling to boot. Zac has never dived before and I’ve been subtly working on him to take a holiday somewhere exciting to get qualified next year, this was the perfect way to get him hooked see if he likes it.

As for the beach, you’d be a braver girl than me if you wanted to spend any time there, we were shocked – it was one of the filthiest beaches I’ve ever set foot on.
It smelt from the sea soaked, rotting flotsam and jetsam and the water itself just looked murky and uninviting.

a little luxury: thap ba spa

I’d been pestering Zac to go to Thap Ba Spa since we started planning Vietnam and, despite the hoards of Russians making the pilgrimage to Thap Ba, it was a really fun afternoon.

We certainly got our monies worth, as well.

There are guides at each part of the mud bath ritual and they’re supposed to time you and lead you through the stages.

We’d opted for a private bath (not too keen on the idea of a communal slop up) and as the only people there, we were slightly forgotten about.
Gradually more people began to arrive and after what was certainly more like 40mins that 20mins we clambered out to rinse off.

After the mud we sat in what’s essentially a giant tea cup for a further 30mins – filled with hot ‘mineral waters’.
It looks and smells like herbal tea and it’s ‘made’ by filling the bath with warm water and then adding a giant thermos of ‘mineral waters’ to is.
Definitely tea, but my skin feels incredible now, so who am I to argue?

Thap Ba Spa offers relaxing mineral water baths

Sitting in the tea in our giant private tea cup

Then it was time to find our massage.
Oh yes, we went all out.
And it was only slightly disconcerting when I realised the small Vietnamese lady was now walking on my back.
She was a fan of cracking your bones – Zac got off a bit lighter, but it was certainly worth it.

Coming back from the spa we got caught in a traffic jam for what felt like a small eternity.
It was the type of queue where the drivers turn off the cars and get out to look and you start to think about walking.
Thankfully we got moving again and dinner made up for missing the sunset.
We’d found a Greek restaurant (of all places) and it was so good we went back for lunch the next day – super cheap and you get free dessert! Not arguing with that.

making a splash.

The next day we both woke up before the alarm, excited for our dive.

I was nursing some pre-dive nerves, worried I’d forgotten it all, but the last time I’d dived I hadn’t really enjoyed it. I often have problems with my ears and the memory of a painful decent and excruciating ascent was giving me jitters.
We’d booked through Turtle Dive, ignoring friends recommendations to go through Rainbow Divers (mainly because we couldn’t find them) and I’m so glad I trusted my gut and went with them.

It was a good price, all your kit was included as was lunch and fruit and drinks and the dive boat was lush!

We were really looked after by Cheun our Dive Master – despite finding out after we came up he was hung over from ‘many beers‘ the night before.

I was pleasantly surprised with the dive site too, I’d never really considered Vietnam as a hotspot for diving, but with rain in the morning all the fish had come out to play.
Even though it’s supposed to be the off season for diving, there was plenty to see!
Cheun said as soon as we got up…

“Today very beautiful, many, many fish. Today we are lucky, very beautiful.”

If the locals were impressed we were right to be.

Not just the hundreds of bright fish we saw (including a Picasso Clownfish and some Regal Tangs) but the corals were beautiful too and Cheun took us between two huge coral stacks opening out to a bed of mushroom corals and a huge school of yellow finned fish.
Zac said it even rivalled the elephants for top experience this trip.

Our next stop is Hoi An.

Driving to the airport, the sky began to light up with hues of pinks and oranges, pastel blues creating a soft backdrop for the deep grey clouds. The dark silhouette of palm trees and mountains completed the frame, a perfect ‘hipster’ sunrise.

Freshly brewed Vietnamese coffee in hand, I’m not sure there’s a better way to start the day.


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