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Published: July 11th 2012
Our latest blog comes to you while lying on a sleeper bus our first real backpacker mode of transport! Wow what an...not sure how to describe this one... We are squeezed in on bottom and top bunks in leather reclining seats with a seatbelt and foot holder developed for the size of a child. God help anyone larger than us! We are being transported to Saigon on an 11 hour overnight journey for $11 each and we don't need a hostel some might say bargain, we think the honking and bumpy road might have us question our sanity! It reminds Lauren of the Harry Potter knight bus all sleeping in rows, the bus fitting in spaces it doesn't seem possible and surrounded by strange folk! There are no other apparent westerners on here and we wonder if we have missed a trick and got on the local bus, not that that is a problem but you wonder why. It does have one plausible answer- this is a 9pm
bus which doesn't run according to the, as we may have mentioned, unreliable Lonely Planet. The reason it is running is that at this time of year students return to university and looking at
our sleeping buddies they are predominantly of that age. Ben however didn't see the connection that Lauren did, choosing instead to think of the slave boats where they were crammed in side by side row upon row in a space assigned to that of a child! His seatbelt also doesn't work which is kind of worrying as we sway about on top deck. Argh the lights have gone out may be it is our chance to get fifty winks but there goes the horn again!
There isn't too much to report on Nha Trang where we have spent the last two nights and three full days. We had a lovely sight coming in on the plane with the crazy standing Vietnamese(!) of many islands with stunning coves but as we got the airport shuttle, without hiring a car at big expense, we would not see them. We were dropped in the hub of the tourist area and tried to get away from the overbearing moto drivers trying to sell rooms in the hundreds of hotels and simply walked one block off the street and passed an ice cream parlour. An American was sat having one
and said if looking for somewhere nice, ten bucks a night hang a left then a right and back of the Texas BBQ place. Well we didn't trust any of the local guys but an American tourist, sure! It didn't disappoint and we had two restful nights' sleep with ac private bathroom tv and even wardrobes!
We headed into town and to a beach club, think 90210 and you got it! Overinflated prices but ensured you could use a free pool with stunning deck area and had home brewed ales for Ben. We raised a toast for grandad and had some great food. We swam under the impressive heat with barely a cloud insight then wandered onto a part of the 6km beach. It wasn't the prettiest sand but definitely not the worst, nothing like that "beach" in Turkey to Lauren's family! The south china sea was warm though and went deep within walking in two feet. The beach had a great atmosphere though full of every type. Local hawkers selling everything from lobster and crab, to fake sunglasses, books and cigarettes. Also local people sunbathing as this was a Sunday and foreigners enjoying a beach vacation,
especially amongst Russian people. There were inflatable slides and such like you could pay to go on and typical water sports and jet skis to participate in. It was definitely the most Western place we have visited, more so than Dubai. So much so it wanted to be California they even have "VinPearl" island with its name written to mock the "Hollywood" sign in LA. to get there you could cross the sea on cable cars which looked fun and within there they had a mini theme park and water park and hotel with rooms starting at $250 a night, so out of our price range! There is also many high rise hotels here from the likes of Sheraton trying to ensure this is a worthy holiday destination and one being constructed from the same architect that designed Burj al Arab in Dubai.
We went out in the evening and the destination became a Magaluf of sorts, bar after bar with promoters outside handing out flyers for free shots, happy hour etc, at every corner, middle of road, you name it! We were happy to be given them wanting to ensure we got a good deal, but
more pressing was finding somewhere to show the Murray tennis final. We actually settled on the bar next to us, aptly named, "Why Not Bar?" we watched the first part of the match till the rain poured in the UK, which apparently is an all too much regular occurrence. We also shared a pizza distinctly lacking it's tomato base, but still not trusting meat! Ben left to Skype his parents and Lauren tried the famous buckets! Although Ben said it was not like anything yet to be seen at the islands of southern Thailand. We retired to bed to see Murray lose a good fight and looked forward to a destination of rest and chill out.
The next day we rose leisurely and headed to hunt out food and book our onward travel, the said bus we sit well lie on now. We went to a locally famous roof top bar and enjoyed some more western food and decided that although we came for the beach and chill out let's go on a walk and see at least one sight. This was about a 6km walk to the sitting buddha sat high on a hill with
a temple and pagoda. It was very spiritual again with people lighting joss sticks rather than candles and there was another lying down Buddha which we were becoming accustomed to seeing.
A few wrong turns we got back eventually but walked far away from the tourist area and saw the place this was and what the local tourist board wanted you to see. Within our area and along the beach front the pavements are neat and tiled with no cracks, no parked bikes blocking your path, ice cream vendors on every corner and between those hawkers selling everything. Further out there was cracked uneven pavements, dodgy roads, and locals sitting on the street eating their local food and no overpricing of drinks. It was interesting to see and opened our eyes further to the manipulation one faces when hitting the places on the backpacker trail.
We hunted out the original ice cream parlour thoroughly deserving it after our inadvertently 13km walk! It was then chill out watch a couple of films on the tv and go out and grab some light dinner, enough to take our talents with.
We had decided to leave the next day, not as we did not like it here but we were pretty bored and hungry for more action, there were things we could have done but we needed to claw back some money having spent so much on visas. It was a shame as we knew there were some mud baths that cost about $6 each but then that again to get there and back. VinPearl also cost $25 each and even the inflatables cost $5 each and on a budget of $50 a day it would mean no food or bed! So Tuesday we headed back to the beach club hired loungers for $4 and spent the day trying to even out our random tan lines from our last few weeks' travel. The first time we had actually sunbathed. We started on the beach and the moved to the pool which was as refreshing as we remembered.
We ate there then saw a huge cloud coming over, weirdly from inland, and decided to retreat back to our hostel area about 3pm
. We got some gorgeous crepes from a Parisian cafe and then the tropic thunder storm occurred.
We waited it out for an hour but it did not ease off, we literally were 30meters from our hostel and we got soaked, the roads were completely flooded up to our ankle bones and you could not tell the pavement from the road it was crazy! When the rain stopped about 5pm
it did not take long to clear but it was the craziest weather we had encountered so far! It even brought a frog into the reception area which freaked Lauren out a bit but the owner literally swept it away! We got some food at a local restaurant, chatted to Lauren's parents and awaited this magical transportation.
Things of note-
Vietnamese have no respect for anybody, they do not know how to queue, thank people or have manners, sorry this may be a very big generalisation.
Despite how hard the tourist board has worked to make this a must see destination the locals sweep all their household rubbish onto the street, as you can imagine when that rain came down all the rubbish was swimming and you had to walk through it, as the rain went away they swept it back out
their restaurant fronts/homes etc.
There are a lot of disabled people who no matter how they sustained this will tell you it was due to the American war even if they were clearly, unfortunately, but clearly born this way long before the war. We were warned it is their way to make a quick sympathy buck, very sad but true.
The traffic here was still pretty crazy with bikes and they really will hunt you down if you dare cross the road!
What would we do differently:
We wouldn't have stayed longer despite people spending two weeks here but would come with more money or more care free to spend money
Near misses:0 although a bike went the wrong way up one way dual carriageway nearly taking Lauren out
Fallouts:0 and we still have things we talk about but craving a little bit of mixed company!
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