Very mixed feelings… Russian resort or Vietnamese? Kind of confused…

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Asia » Vietnam » South Central Coast » Khanh Hoa » Nha Trang
August 21st 2013
Published: January 30th 2014
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When I was reading about Nha Trang before, I wasn’t exactly sure whether to include it in my itinerary or not as it simply looked like a party place. With a nice beach that is… Some people were even comparing it to Koh Phangan and the full moon party, with this difference that these kind of parties were taking place here on a daily basis apparently. Since Koh Phangan turned out to be nothing close to a party place – we really enjoyed our stay there and thought of it as a very relaxing and beautiful place actually (maybe because we escaped it just before the full moon? Naaaah… We just stayed away from all the craziness… 😉), we decided to give Nha Trang a try as well. If only to break down the journey south at least…

As we set off from Hoi An, Grant decided to check out what Nha Trang was really all about and the more he was reading about it, the less I wanted to stay there to be honest. Apparently there were quite a few Russian tourists visiting this region during summer months, so many actually that in the last few years they even introduced direct flights to Danang from Russia. It just meant one thing – this place was going to be pretty expensive for sure! Ah well…

We got to Nha Trang pretty early in the morning – just after sunrise actually. A couple of bikers offered to take us to the centre, but the idea of jumping onto a bike with my big backpack and once again trying not to fall off by being pulled by its weight, not exactly my idea of fun and we did try it in Hoi An already, so one time was more than enough. We shared a taxi with an Aussie couple instead – which actually cost us exactly the same as the bikes, so same same then. The Aussies said they had a cheap room booked in one of the hotels just by the beach, well maybe worth looking at it then? The cheap room turned out to be $50 per night though so maybe not in the end… Funny how money can change value in different people’s hands… We checked out a couple of hotels/guesthouses on the same street and weren’t too pleased to be honest – either very expensive or they had no rooms. Hmmm… One guy on a bike started chatting to us and we were about to tell him off, but he said he had rooms just by the beach for $10. Well, worth seeing at least I guess. It certianly wasn’t the best room we’ve stayed in so far, but for this price was more than enough, so searching for room done in no time at all in the end! Anyway from the first look at the town, we knew we wouldn’t be staying here for too long – looked like a Russian resort rather than a Vietnamese one, with all the signs written in Cyrillic… But then we only got here, so decided to give it a chance after all…

After breakfast we went for a stroll along the beach. It still was quite early in the morning and there weren’t many people around. Recovering from previous night perhaps? 😉 They say that this beach is one of the most beautiful ones in the world… Well… The spot maybe is beautiful as the beach stretches for a few kilometres with islands scattered here and there on the sea and mountains visible all around but with all the big hotels dotted by the shore, bushes and trees trimmed in the most bizarre shapes and the modern statues, it just looks, well actually is very commercial. I find remote, rough beached way more beautiful than the ones man-made like this one. As we walked along the beach, apart from the hotels already built we saw a lot of ads for new hotels coming to Nha Trang soon – very exclusive hotels that is… and veeery expensive! Definitely not for my pocket… Besides fancy hotels are just not my thing… But since they are building more and more hotels like that it looks like there certainly is demand for it… Especially coming from Russian tourists it would seem since the ads are translated into Russian as well… When I was reading about Nha Trang, I came along some comments that you could spot here some very odd couples around – like older, obese, full of gold chains men with some blond, much younger, skinny girls by their side. I thought then that it was a bit of a stereotype, but I guess I was wrong as these kinds of couples do make their appearance here! They forgot to mention the speedos though! 😉 You can tell that the boys are paying for everything, including their girls’ boobs, butts and silicon lips… Ah well... As long as both sides are happy?

The beach stretches for quite a bit and as we kept on walking in one direction we thought that we might as well check if there was something worth seeing around. It looked like we were heading in the direction of the Po Nagar Cham Towers, so why not visiting them straight away right? Once we got out of the shade of the palm trees, the heat became almost unbearable but we were so close already, or so we thought at least, that there was just no point in turning back. An extra layer of sunscreen would do! We came by a fishing village – very interesting to see how they transport some materials – like ice for example, out in the sun on the deck of a boat? We were able to see the towers from the village already, so in the end it wasn’t that far at all! The Towers were built between the 7th and 12th centuries. Only four remain and you can admire them in full shape and scale as they were totally restored. Looking at the pictures of how neglected they were when they were found you definitely appreciate the restoration work done. Still in some parts the restoration maybe went a bit too far? I found a few things a bit out of place to be honest, for example some of the new little statues on the roof of the big tower looked very awkward next to the old rough bricks… But then they were just small details as the overall look was still quite impressive. Since the towers are set on the hill you can admire a full panorama of Nha Trang from up there. Definitely worth a visit!

Next we headed to Long Son Pagoda. I remembered reading about all sorts of scams going on around here so kept in my mind we had to be pretty careful. Easier said than done though… Straight away a young guy came over to us telling us about the place. I kept on moving forward but Grant got caught up in the conversation… Eventually he also tried to say goodbye to our new ‘friend’ but he just wouldn’t give up that easy. At this point the only thing I could think about was no way he’s getting any money from us! The usual story started – where you’re from, ‘Ah! Australia, 20 million people… and you? Are you from Russia?’ Hmmm… Somehow I knew that this question would come up in Nha Trang sooner or later… No, I’m not from Russia, I don’t speak Russian and I’ve never even been there… ‘Ah, Poland, 40 million people, famous people, the pope was Polish!’ Ok, I see you’ve done your homework then… Time to go though… Think he got the point this time and instead of just asking for money he took out some cards and tried to sell them to us. Well, I thought at least he was trying… So we did look at the cards in the end and we did decide to buy a set… I thought that the cards were20,000 dong per set of 10, so agreed to take one set… Grant only looked at me strangely then, but took out 200,000 and gave it to the guy. Before I realised what was happening and that the cards were actually 20,000 each, rather than 20,000 for a set, the guy was gone with our 200,000 ($10 for 10 silly cards!)… He just took advantage of our ‘little’ misunderstanding… I have to say I got really frustrated after this as I came here with a plan of avoiding situation like this and yet fell right into the trap anyway… My frustration was reaching sky levels to be honest and it took a while before Grant helped me get over it… Seriously incredible how patient he is sometimes! I think I am in general as well, but sometimes just loose it a bit. 😉 In the end it was just a bit of money but what a valuable lesson learnt right? There was some kind of break at the pagoda when we were there so we saw only the big Buddhas – reclining one and the white seated statue, both quite impressive actually! The incident left a bit of a bitter taste in my mouth so instead of waiting for the pagoda to be reopened, we just headed to the beach. A bit of relaxing and a few beers well deserved!

The rest of our time in Nha Trang we spent just walking around, sipping fresh coconuts and beers on the beach and in general practicing the art of doing nothing once again. 😊 And watching a bit of rugby in between… What can I say? You have to compromise here and there once in a while. 😉 Finding a cheap(er) place to eat proved to be a bit of a challenge as well… As we were walking around trying to decide where to eat, on one of the side streets next to our guesthouse we came by an interesting looking place called… Tarantino! That certainly got my attention! I was put off straight away though as we were welcomed by some big guy shouting ‘zdravstvuyte’ at us. As far as I was concerned we were still in Vietnam, not Russia so why would you welcome your guests in Russian? Since when was it an international language? Anyway… We still had a look at the menu but even if it was the cheapest place in town, which it obviously wasn’t – way overpriced! I was ready to head somewhere else… We headed to a lovely Indian place around the corner instead.

In the end we spent here two nights, which was more than enough to be honest. The beach was nice, even though it did become quite crowded by afternoons and you could have a lovely stroll all along it – actually I was surprised how many people were jogging and biking around. Active holiday? Nice one! Beside that I still found Nha Trang to be bland and overpriced – as if it got lost somewhere between Vietnamese and Western (or should I rather say Eastern, focused on Russian tourists) worlds… Quite pricey restaurants, shopping malls with expensive brands, flashy jewellery shops… It was time to escape this place and head further south. Next stop: Mui Ne.

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