Thoughts on Nha Trang


Nha Trang is one of Vietnam’s premier beach resorts, and with its seemingly endless stretch of sand it’s isn’t difficult to see what the main attraction is. However it’s not everyone’s cup of tea and at face value you could make a case that it’s sold whatever soul it had to the rouble & the yuan. It’s certainly growing at a giddying rate – from the hotel rooftop bar (our preferred location for undertaking research) there were at least seven hotels in various stages of development within a half mile radius. It feels more Hong Kong than Ha Noi.



Despite this we had a great week in Nha Trang for a number of reasons. Given the amount of competition the quality & value you get from the hotels is excellent – we bagged a deal at £40 a night for a 4 star hotel 100 yards from the beach, further sweetened by a room upgrade on check-in. Then there is the beach, soft white sand, warm sea lapping up against a backdrop of mountains & islands. A solid week in Nha Trang alone might be too much, but this is where it’s other great attraction comes in – the variety of trips & tours you can take into the beautiful surrounding countryside and islands. We spent a day on a snorkelling trip to a local island enjoying crystal clear water and sea life on a coral reef….



….and another on a motorbike tour that took in various stops including the precarious wooden bridge over the River Cai…..


….and up to Hon Ba Mountain to swim in a wonderfully cold waterfall and lake alongside Vietnamese families escaping the overwhelming heat of the city.



The motorbike trip included a frantic 15 minutes riding through Vietnamese city traffic, where it’s everyone for themselves. I was going to say that you need eyes in the back of your head to ride a motorbike in Vietnam, but that isn’t true as no one gives a toss about what’s behind them, it’s what’s ahead & to both sides you’ve got to be worried about. In fact, the first bit of advice about riding a bike in Vietnam was to point out where the horn was with the instruction, ‘Don’t be scared to use it – often!!’

The motorbike tour was great fun and we even got to do our Easy Rider poses – it really is the only way to travel in this crazy and fantastic country.



We had a great tour guide & as we had him to ourselves we were able to ask about Nha Trang & the impact of the influx of Russian & Chinese tourists & investors. He seemed indifferent about the Russians, not so the Chinese. Given the long running & troubled relationship between these neighbours this wasn’t entirely surprising, but he gave some interesting examples to illustrate his antipathy. “The best and most tasty coconuts are the small ones, but the Chinese always insist on buying the biggest ones to fill their big stomachs….and why is the sea called the South China Sea? It’s on our coast and is the Vietnam Sea, it’s not China’s sea…..and when they eat at seafood buffets they eat too much too fast, no respect”. We clearly had touched on a bit of a nerve here, but to be fair our own experience of Chinese guests in our hotel was that they were quite belligerent and very, very loud. I’ve no idea where the expression ‘Chinese whispers’ comes from but there was precious little of that in our hotel lobby. In the interests of balance I’m sure there are lots of very nice and considerate Chinese tourists in Vietnam – we just haven’t met any of them yet.

In what may become a running theme of the blog I’m continuing to have problems with my size. During our bike trip we visited a place making rugs & got to have a go, but I couldn’t get into the required cross-legged position, my legs just don’t fold up that way. Unfortunately, Sam captured my awkwardness for posterity, or should that be taking the pissterity.


Later we stopped at a cafe where the heat & dehydration called for a rest & sugar cane drink – exhausted I had to sit down & plonked myself on the only chair available which looked like it was built for a 3 year old. I’m surprised I didn’t leave with it wedged on my arse.


Our guide had promised us a glimpse into the lives of local people & as we sat sipping our much needed drink we observed the parenting approach of a young family. A whining toddler was not comforted by his mother but slapped around his head. When the wailing continued, one of the little chairs we were wedged into was used to whack him on his body. Quite a shock to see this, but after a minute or two all seemed well & harmony was restored between mother & toddler.

Top Travelling Tips #1

Finally for this week we are introducing an occasional series of top travelling tips (ooh – lovely alliteration), starting with Cubism. Nothing to do with Picasso, rather how we manage to keep track of our stuff. We left home over a month ago & without our cubes all sorts of carnage would have befallen our cases. Instead our cubes bring order and calm to our packing and unpacking – can’t recommend them highly enough!


6ft 1 – A Figure Of Fun

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There is a wonderful moment early on during your travels when you realise you have left your culture behind and feel truly alien. Naturally the weather, language, food, sights & sounds all contribute to the sense of otherness. However there is another crucial tell-tale sign – being laughed at.

In towns like Quy Nhon where westerners remain the exception, being 6ft+ & crashing about in giant size 10 Converse boots creates responses varying from curious smiles to politely concealed sniggers onto blatant pointing and laughing. John doesn’t mind being a figure of hilarity & ridicule – the Vietnamese are so charming about it.

On a visit to Quy Nhon’s Cham civilisation monument Thap Doi – a site of not insignificant importance – a coach load of Vietnamese tourists abruptly ended their interest in matters ancient on seeing John’s lumbering frame loom into view. From that point on, it was selfie central as the party insisted on having their pic taken alongside the hapless westerner – not so much celebrity as oddity. They jostled with each other to ensure they got their photo taken with John & he happily obliged! He loved the attention & insisted on having his picture taken with the ladies of the group.

Similarly, on our train journey to Nha Trang our presence in the station waiting room caused stifled grins. Occasionally someone will break ranks & talk to us, enjoying the chance to practice their English. On the train Sam watched the mirth in each row of seats as John wandered down the carriage, surfing the wave of laughter & incredulity. We haven’t quite worked out if they are laughing with John or at him – probably a bit of both which is fine by us, it’s always nice to make people happy, especially when it involves absolutely no effort.

Talking of no effort, this blog has been composed while having a foot massage on Nha Trang beach.

In terms of our journey, after the resort outside Quy Nhon, we spent a few days in the town itself. The size of Brighton & Hove it remains slightly off the beaten track due to its relatively near high profile neighbours Da Nang & Nha Trang, which attract a lot of Chinese & Russian tourists (& money). Given its stretches of gorgeous sandy beach it’s only a matter of time before the same tourist boom follows. It seems to have taken the decision to prepare itself for growth by directing investment into bright neon lighting just about everywhere. No doubt Quy Nhon on a Saturday night can be viewed with ease from the Space Shuttle.

We found an Aussie run bar & treated ourselves to burger & pizza while watching the astonishing sight of England’s 6-1 win over Panama. A crushing victory tinged with sadness – “we may never live to see that happen again”. Only England fans can snatch feelings of mortality from the jaws of victory.

On Tuesday we took the 4.5 hour train trip from Quy Nhon to Nha Trang where we immersed ourselves in local culture by travelling in the second class carriage – top marks for authenticity, zero for comfort. The train was 45 minutes late, but given that it had set off from Hanoi in the north 24 hours earlier, that didn’t seem bad going – punctuality Southern Rail could only dream of. The carriage was packed, not only with Vietnamese travellers, but their over sized boxes which they all seem to travel with. They stick these in front of their seats & use them to rest their bare feet on. This meant we had limited leg room & the frequent brushing of their bare feet against our hot, sweaty legs. The ‘refreshment trolley’ consisted of frequent vendors touting their food which ranged from local tea, fresh mango & other home cooked hot food we couldn’t identify.

We’ve arrived in Nha Trang, Vietnam’s premier beach resort city, details of which will follow in the next blog. Tonight we are out celebrating our anniversary – although being 14 hours ahead of Vegas where we wed it should probably be tomorrow night. We’ll just have to celebrate twice!

Saigon to Quy Nhon

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We’ve been away for nearly a week & have started our journey with two contrasting stays – the madness of Saigon & the peace of Quy Nhon. Stepping out of Saigon Airport at 5.00am we met a wall of heat and a city already alive with activity. The expected swarms of mopeds weaving through the streets, but also scores of people practising tai chi & various keep fit activities – the only time it can be done as heat & humidity climb to energy sapping levels.

Having visited Hanoi a few years back we knew Saigon would be hectic but unlike the capital in the north, without an obvious ‘old town’ area there is no respite in Saigon, it’s in your face morning, noon & night. We summoned the energy to see a few key sites from the American War, the brutalist architecture of the Reunification Palace (looking remarkably similar to Crawley Town Hall) and the War Remnants Museum that displayed the most sobering and graphic images of the conflict, and the aftermath of agent orange & tonnes of unexploded ordnance that Vietnam continues to live with today.

Apart from monuments & the occasional poster of Uncle Ho there isn’t much to remind you that you are in a Socialist Republic. On the contrary commerce & capitalism seems to be rampant in Saigon.

A flight to Quy Nhon on the south central coast has brought us to an idyllic resort just north of the town to an unspoilt stretch of beach that is quite simply stunning & remarkably undeveloped (this is where we get to say “you must visit it before it gets spoilt” in smug travel writer fashion). There is very little to do here other than relax, swim, chill out, practice our shocking French & write a blog (nous ecrivons un blog). It is the epitome of beach bum tranquility. Appropriately Vietnam’s highest Bhudda (allegedly) sits on the mountain top gazing serenely down on the bay.

Having only booked a couple of places to stay we have to plan ahead for accommodation & travel, but having time on our hands, good wifi & the efficiency of the Vietnamese rail system makes this a lot easier. The next two stops are lined up.

It’s not all been plain sailing, we’ve been fleeced by a coconut seller (quite frankly we could have bought a plantation for the price we paid for 2) & have been welcomed enthusiastically by the local mosquitos – small prices to pay in the scheme of things. Now, back to the pool-side bar…….

The Journey Begins

DSC_0007Thanks for joining us!

I should begin by pointing out that the picture above is not Sam & John. It’s what Sam & John aspire to, but an image of us falling off paddle boards into three feet of murkey water in Hove Lagoon – as we were last week – wouldn’t have set the right tone. It is a picture I took of a lovely couple while waiting for the West Pier mumurations. Despite our fledging steps & falls, I remain hopeful that Sam & I will strike a similar pose to the one above at some point on our travels – I just hope that someone isn’t using my camera to capture the image!

After what feels like months of planning and we are now spending our last night at Landseer Road before final catch ups with family & flying out in the 13th.

It’s funny how exciting everything was during the planning stage, all of a sudden it feels very real & tough decisions are having to be made. I felt real pangs of guilt as I lined up my shirts & T-shirts & advised them which ones had got through the first cut & which were going straight to storage in the loft. I found myself apologising to my beloved Vespa t-shirt. If I can’t easily part with inanimate attire how will I say goodbye to our Greyhound Ruby – a least she isn’t heading for the loft though.