Published: December 21st 2006December 20th 2006
My anticipated visit to Nha Trang
turned into a few days of braving out the wind, clouds and occasional shower while sipping mojitos by the pool and doing plenty of reading. Nha Trang is a medium sized city situated towards the southern end of Vietnam, and showcases some of the nicest beaches in all the land here. Long stretches of white sand are lined with palm trees and loungers covered by big thatched umbrellas.
The two plus mile beach runs parallel to the main boulevard behind which a vibrant neighborhood of hotels, restaurants, dive centers and tourist shops thrive. Nha Trang could probably best be described as the Hawaii of Vietnam and for many upwardly mobile Saigon city dwellers; it serves as a weekend getaway just one hour by air. And despite the spike in upscale resort development over the past few years, it also remains a well traveled backpacker destination for those passing through Vietnam.
Like everywhere in Vietnam, people are friendly and eager to serve you. It’s not uncommon to see eight or ten bartenders falling over themselves behind the bar. Likewise, smiling servers usually stand at the ready and waiting, often grabbing at you on the
street to come in and have a seat. I enjoyed some nice dinners while I was here, hand selecting from the plethora of freshly caught fish, prawns, squid and other seafood from the displays in front of the restaurants. As happens with peculiar frequency, I bumped into familiar faces - Warrick and Lauren who were sat next to me at dinner on my first night in town. They were the couple who I last shared company with last week during the overnight Halong bay trip. Fortunately, they had arrived in Nha Trang a day before me and were plugged in on where to go after dark….the Sailing Club. By night, I became a regular at the Sailing Club, where most of the western travelers and a healthy dose of locals congregate to shoot pool, listen to DJ music and burn up the dance floor come eleven o’clock. After dinner I met up with Richard from Portland, Oregon a new friend who had been on my flight down from Hue. We then met up with Warrick and Lauren for a few beers and sharing stories of life on the South East Asian traveling road.
I'm sad to report I don’t
have many tales to tell from Nha Trang as i was mainly planted on the beach and poolside most of the time.
Twenty hours in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
When the city of Saigon was reclaimed by Northern Vietnamese forces on May 1st 1975, following the U.S evacuation, it was ceremoniously renamed Ho Chi Minh City in honor of its communist government leader. Today, many locals still call it Saigon and others call it Ho Chi Minh City, depending on your political views and/or during what generation you lived. I call it Saigon because it’s just easier to say and it was the original name of this thriving metropolis now numbering around seven million. Saigon is the largest city in Vietnam and located near the Mekong River delta. I had read many comparisons between Saigon and the more leafy capital city of Hanoi and would agree that Saigon has a more energetic edge that you don’t find in its Northern neighbor. From what I observed, Saigon is very much working to come into the modern 21st century. It's a city that seems destined to leave more conservative sensibilities behind and embrace a hard working, striving and consuming
Nothing like seeing this city from the back of a moped.
western style culture ahead. A six day work week is common for the young middle class who save weekends to come out and play and to show off their new found upward mobility. This is not to sugar coat things, as many people still live a meager and impoverished existence here. On my first and only night in the city, I rode on the back of a moped through some of the flashy fashionable districts with trendy nightclubs and swank five star hotels like the Caravelle (where I enjoyed a drink from the rooftop terrace) and the historic Rex Hotel. When the young come out to play, they congregate throughout these streets in massive flows of mopeds, socializing the night away. “Cruising”just like the good old days is alive and well in Saigon. The girls often pile two and three to a scooter, clad in the brightest flashy neon fashions, make up and hair-do’s. Since I was in town on a Tuesday night it was fairly sedate by Saigon standards. On Friday and Saturday nights, the crusing crowds swells to massive proportions creating quite a spectacle in the city.
For much of my trip I’ve relied on the good
The stylish, and on this night, silent Qbar Saigon.
old Lonely Planet guidebook for choice hotel and sightseeing recommendations. For Saigon, the blue bible turned me onto a super hotel find called Madame Cuc’s, a budget traveler location ($20 per night) centrally located to the museums (which I didn’t have time to visit) the parks and the backpacker district. The Hotel provided me with a driver meet and greet so I couldn’t resist the temptation to travel under my Rock Star Alias for this leg of the journey just to spice things up a bit...plus no one spells my last name proper anyway. They couldn’t understand why I was asking for Mr. Cuzzi to be picked up when my last name was Holmstrom. The rooms were surprisingly quiet, comfortable, and filled with character. Better yet was the super friendly hotel staff, most of which are all nieces of the venerable Madame Cuc. When me and Mr. driver rolled up to the curbside outside of the hotel from the airport, they ran out with a silver platter of juice and fruit….what service! They even offered to iron my wrinkled linen trousers at no charge and made all of the travelers in the hotel feel like they were at home away
from home. Highly recommended!
Unfortunately my time in Saigon was fleeting and limited to a walk in the park, browsing a few markets and catching drinks at the Q-bar and Caravelle Hotel. I carry a hulking SLR camera for all those snazzy photos so I also decided to pick up a small and more nimble digital camera at the electronics markets here. This camera should catch some more candid evening debauchery which is due to increase when I fly to Cambodia today to meet my friend, the not so "Quiet American".
There are more photos below