One of the strange things that happens when you live without a schedule, is you literally NEVER know what day it is. So I’m laying in my room in Ho Chi Minh when the desk calls up to ask why we haven’t checked out yet. “Um…cause I don’t know what day it is”? So the race was on. We needed to pack up (a task which normally takes us about two hours) and get out in the next thirty minutes! We somehow managed to throw our stuff in our bags, wash our faces, and get out the door with only a few casualties. Lunar new year was upon us and it was time to head to the beach to soak up the sun and enjoy the festivities.
We hopped on the night bus to Nha Trang. Despite the non-stop honking and the disco lights, we actually got a little rest and arrived at our hotel at 6am. Unfortunately the rooms weren’t ready yet so we enjoyed a long buffet breakfast and a facial to pass the time till we could finally nap.
Nha Trang is a cool beach town. The pace is a little slower than Ho Chi Minh and the vibe a little more relaxed. Unfortunately the weather played havoc on our beach plans, raining almost everyday, so we spent much of our week inside watching movies and catching up on school. Once the weather let up, we managed a trip to a nearby waterfall which included a very interesting hike full of surprise paths and pools.
The highlight of any trip to Nha Trang has to be Vinpearl Island. You can see the “Disneyland of Vietnam” from all over the city. The worlds longest cable car takes you to and from the park so you get a ride in before you even step foot inside. While I wouldn’t liken it to Disneyland, it was a really fun day with lots to see and do. Charlotte was just tall enough for the fast rides so we spent the morning spinning and dipping on coasters while fighting our way through the lines. One of the strangest things about this park is that Vietnamse people, and Russians (of which there were many), don’t have any quams about cutting on line, or worse yet, sending their kids in to do the cutting. Quite annoying to Americans who are stonch rule followers when it comese to waiting on line. By the end of the day we had sharpened our elbows and widened our stance in the lines figuring “if you can’t beat em you can hopefully block their path!” Maybe a useful life lesson for the future? With our fill of rollercoasters in, we made our way to the aquarium which was surprisingly interesting. They tend to over stuff the exhibits, which may not be all that ethical, but does create some interesting tanks. In the afternoon, with the sun shining, we slipped and slid through the attached water park until it was too cold and late to enjoy anymore. Filled with junk food and tired from the day we headed back across the ocean for home.
On our last day in Nha Trang the sun showed its beautiful face and we were finally able to get in that wonderful beach day we’d all been so looking forward to. We soaked up the sun, played in the water and enjoyed the New Years festivities still going on up and down the beach.
Again it was time to hit the night bus and head up north to Hoi An. The novelty of the bus had worn off a bit this time and none of us sleep very well but this time when we arrived at our homestay they had an extra room we could rest in until ours was ready. The family that runs the home were lovely and accommodating and the view of the rice fields was fabulous. Once we were rested up we were thrilled to explore our new town.
Hoi An was much more up our alley. It’s a peaceful beach town far from the racing motorbikes and towering buildings of the city. We traveled by bike almost everywhere enjoying the beaches and the countryside. We got lost in the rice fields, wandered the neighborhoods and laid on the beaches. The ancient city, as its called, was filled with charming shops, assorted vendors and street food. Since it was still Tet the river was lit at night with floating candles holding wishes for the new year. We did again have to fight the rain but we were able to eke out a few great days in the sun.
We ended our stay with a trip to marble mountain. The hike included steep staircases and marble caves but offered views of the city and stunning caverns. On our way back I finally got that delicious banh mi sandwich I’d been craving as the cab driver knew the best spot. We got back to our room in time to finish packing up, squeeze in another round of hearts (the kids are addicted!) and head off to the airport.
Michael said about Vietnam, “I think they do the best they can with what they’ve got”. I think this is true. The country was ravaged by war for so long it’s really just finding its grounding. The food is so-so, and the conditions most places are very unsanitary with the streets often filled with trash. We loved getting a taste of the culture and met some very kind people but it wasn’t a place any of us are in a hurry to return to. Hopefully someday soon they’ll recover from what the world has done to them and flourish in this beautiful country.