● For full details on our route, transport info, hotel details, etc, look at our Google Maps page

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Nha Trang

22nd - 25th December

An uneventful but uncomfortable 12 hours later we arrived in the “party zone” of Vietnam, the sunshine southern coast. The usual touts greeted us off the bus, so nothing new here, but to our immense irritation we were stalked by a guy on a motorbike for upwards of half an hour (he was literally curb crawling!) while we checked a few places out. The longer he stalked us, the more insistent we became that we didn’t want to go to “Nice guesthouse”. We ended being quite rude to him, but still he followed us! Eventually we dived into a café for a drink and hid out the back until we were sure he’d gone. Not what you need at 6am, still feeling drugged from a cocktail of sleeping pills and sea legs. We eventually settled on the Kim Tuoc hotel, a definite recommendation if ever you visit.

Nha Trang is definitely a place where you come to “do” as opposed to “see”. Aside from lazing on the beach, you can go to mud pools and a hot spring, take a boat tour to some off shore islands, go windsurfing, wakeboarding or sailing. We were looking forward to spending a few days here, and there were worse ways to spend Christmas. The sun was shining and after a morning recovering in bed we hit the beach, a busy stretch of sand more like Ipanema or somewhere on the “Costas” than we were expecting, but a beach all the same.

We met Ben and Annie that day, a French Canadian couple who introduced themselves and talked us into chartering a boat with them for a private tour of the islands. The alternative is a vessel crammed with up to 40 holiday makers at once, so immediately this appealed to us. Needless to say the price quoted was high, but we hoped to find another few people to split the costs with. We agreed to sail on Christmas Eve, allowing for some more beach bumming and a possible trip to the mud pools in the meantime.

The Biking Plan
As we’ve mentioned before, one of our intentions for Vietnam was to spend part of the time touring by
motorbike. We’d already given up plans to ride the Northern Loop from Hanoi and now hoped to spend time following some of the Ho Chi Minh trail through the Central Highlands. Easy Rider is a concept started by a biker in Dalat (tourist capital of the highlands) whereby a tourist can ride pillion with a rider, who also acts as guide. The original company is still based in Dalat, but in true Vietnam copycat style, “Easy Riders” now stand on every street corner in both Dalat and Nha Trang, touting their tours.

Having already deliberated for many hours on how we could hire a bike for travel through the highlands one way only, we agreed to talk to one of the Easy Riders about taking a tour with their company. As well as tours from Dalat through the highlands, it was possible to start from Nha Trang and travel up into the highlands, ending in Dalat, perfectly placed for onward travel to Saigon. Of course we’d have to relinquish independent travel but in return would overcome the obstacle of having responsibility for transporting a bike back to the rental company at the end of our journey. It seemed like a perfect compromise, and there was the added bonus of having a local guy showing us parts of the countryside we would otherwise have missed. The question is, would they let Ady ride? There was no way he would sit behind a guide for three days!!

We’d suggested our idea to Ben and Annie and found they were actually keen to do the same, but both wanted to ride pillion and take a guide each. Financially this would be perfect for us as we wouldn’t need a guide at all, we could just tag on the back! We negotiated a cracking price with the company Papa Hahn, who seemed to think our request was perfectly reasonable and slashed the price of $60 a day (per person) down to just $35. They’d even promised us some proper helmets and assured us they would fit (we’ll reserve judgement on this one…). Christmas Day was booked as our Day 1, agreed by all as a pretty cool was to spend the day.
And that’s when it all went wrong….

The dull, overcast skies of Northern Vietnam must have followed us. We awoke on Christmas Eve to torrential rain. At least we didn’t get round to booking the boat trip the night before! The rains of the early morning
carried right through the day, and initial thoughts of how Christmas Eve might be a washout were turning to concerns of our pending bike trip.

Christmas Eve
In the vein of our journey through Vietnam so far (a bit of a disappointment)
we were set to be disappointed some more. Christmas Eve was fun but very, very wet. We bumped into some guys we’d met kayaking in Halong Bay and joined them for some drinking games in the Red Apple. This must be the simplest drinking game in the world, but also the easiest to lose! Basically you take it in turns to flip a coin, calling out “stars” or “no stars” (Vietnam coins for heads or tails) and if you call out wrong you get to down the drink. The real downside is that before you call, you have to top up the communal glass with a drink of your own choosing, as much or little as you want, but the concoction of lager mixed with Whiskey, red bull and coke (at one point Ady threw in some Christmas cake too) is enough to make anyone’s mouth water (in the wrong way). Of course if you guess right, you get to pass the glass along to the next person. Sam guessed wrong three times running and downed three large glasses of this stuff in the space of 10 minutes and (not being a lager drinker) had to swiftly declare out before the night was ruined.

The rain held out all night and despite some dancing in the rain (not by us, the rain was freezing and we’d learnt from Brazil that dancing in the rain isn’t as cool as it looks!) it put a real dampener on things. Christmas Day was just the same and our desperate pleading for it to stop wasn’t having any effect. Papa Hahn did their best to persuade us to go anyway, and even pulled out some plastic ponchos, but there was no way we were riding without our Hein Geriche waterproofs! We cancelled and were refunded 80% of the tour fee, deciding to head by bus to Dalat (perhaps for the best with the hangovers we had!) in hope the weather would dry up and we could ride from there the next day.

No comments:

Visitors Since 19th May 2009...