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Published: September 10th 2013
Traveling down the coast of Vietnam, Klaudia and I were convinced that Vietnam was one of the most beautiful countries in Asia, and that this country’s beaches were some of the best. We heard and read several times that the beaches of Vietnam are what Thailand’s were twenty years ago. That may be so - I cannot know for certain - but I can say that the beaches of Thailand are certainly rivaled by anything Vietnam has to offer.
Hoi An, in spite of not necessarily being a beach town, was the location of our favorite beach, An Bang. Stretching for miles, the beach was completely devoid of crowds - except for some exercising locals and fishermen with cigarettes in their mouths floating along in bowl-shaped coracle boats – but full of gently sloping sand that stretched for miles, all the way and passed Danang, towards gorgeous hill scenery in the distance. We spent a calm couple days there, swimming in the warm - and clean - waters of the South China Sea, enjoying the tranquility of an almost deserted beach.
The town of Hoi An, with a history of two millennia, is now a
charmingly colonial place with roads that lead to a pretty Old Town and the Thu Bon River. Bicycles are a perfect method for visiting the sites and many hotels will include free bicycle rentals with a night’s stay. We rode ours along the streets of the Old Town, through markets, and along the river. The symbol of the town is surely the Japanese Covered Bridge, constructed in the early 17th
century. Zen-inspired - and true to the Japanese convention of masterfully combining function and form – I could almost not help but feel a sparkle of peace crossing the short bridge.
Hoi An is also home to three regional dishes, all of which were delicious: cao lau, which is a rice noodle soup that can only be made with water from a special well in Hoi An; white rose, which is a dumpling of translucent dough with shrimp filling; and wonton dumplings, which is as we all typically know it.
Finally, Hoi An is a great place to shop, abounding with souvenirs and custom-made shoes and clothes. While Klaudia enjoyed a shopping spree, I located charming restaurants all over town that, in addition to
serving the delicious dishes mentioned above, have plenty of cold beer perfect for a hot day. In the late afternoons and early mornings, we rode our bikes along peaceful roads that led through green rice fields towards the beach.
As peaceful as Hoi An was, Nha Trang was bustling. It too offers a beautiful beach that stretches for a long distance, but tourism has taken on its consummating form, especially by the Russians: all signs posted at places of business announce services in Russian, while several Vietnamese joked with me that the Russian tourists call them “comrades”. We walked the beach almost end-to-end, stopping at a couple sites along the way, such as a small aquarium and the Tram Huong Tower. Walking the streets can be a bit precarious with the “Easy Rider” touts driving their 250-cc motorcycles all over town selling toured motorcycle rides across Vietnam. One such driver, wearing a Vietnamese military helmet, with a cigarette in his mouth, and cutting us off with his motorcycle as we were crossing the street, jumped off his bike and pulled out a tour catalogue as soon as I displayed some interest. He showed us pictures of the
pretty countryside surrounding winding roads while derisively saying: “See this place. Stupid Americans bombed this place. Nothing grows.” I looked at him apologetically until he began a harangue about Americans and “their little chili dicks” and how they walk around with “little dicks”. I’d learned my lesson in Northern Vietnam, so we said our goodbyes and, deciding a motorcycle ride around Vietnam booked with these guys might be a mistake, walked into a dive agency to enjoy one of the most fun things to do in Nha Trang.
As soon as we’d walked in, the agent at the dive center warned us to be careful if we were planning to book anything “with that guy” on the motorcycle. In an English accent, he advised: “I know him. A lot of people know him, but for all the wrong reasons. Sometimes things go wrong with the bikes and it’s not going to be their fault. It’ll be yours.”
We informed him that we understood and would steer clear of him. Moving on, we began booking our dive while our agent then continued to warn us not to expect too much from our dive, as it
wasn’t Thailand or Australia or whatever. The fact is, however, we were extremely pleased with our dive: the visibility was great, the coral was beautiful, and the marine life was plentiful. Granted, I understand much has been destroyed in the bay from the dynamite fishing of the past, but what we saw was wonderfully intact. Our first dive was Madonna Rock, named so because of the two roundish-shaped rocks protruding from the water. Though we didn’t see any new marine life for us, the rocks below the sea offered some great swim throughs and caves filled with glass fish. Visibility was about 30 meters with beautiful views. Our next dive was at a location called Tri Minh’s Treat, named after a Vietnamese diver. The beginning of the dive was along a silty bottom, but then moved along into a beautiful coral garden. The fish were plentiful and we were fortunate to spy an excellent look at several lion fish congregating near a triggerfish. Again, the visibility was fantastic that day and, per our usual, we rented a camera but were happy to hand it over to our dive master when he offered to take the pictures. Lunch on the boat
was excellent, as was the staff.
We headed to Mui Ne the following day. Honestly, there is not much to the place: it is a coastal resort town of one main road with no traffic lights and with not much to do other than lay around the beach; and we spent a couple days there doing just that. We ate some excellent hot pots and a good pizza at a place owned by a Russian who’d married a pretty Vietnamese woman (if we’d thought the Russians were in force in Nha Trang, they’d completely taken over Mui Ne). The town does get some waves (though not anything near the type off the Pacific), so there are surf and windsurfing schools dotted along the beach should anyone have interest. It was pleasant, but we regretted not staying in Hoi An a little longer.
Tot: 3.433s; Tpl: 0.059s; cc: 11; qc: 52; dbt: 0.054s; 3; m:saturn w:www (188.8.131.52); sld: 5;
; mem: 1.4mb