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Buckets without spades!

Nha Trang, Vietnam
Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Nha Trang is billed as Vietnam's top beach destination, and with a 6km sandy beach that stretches as far as you can see, warm turquoise waters and a cloudless sky it's easy to see why.

During our planning we quickly noticed that the list of things to see and do in Nha Trang was a lot shorter than in previous places we have visited, however even with spending 6 nights here, almost the longest we have stayed anyway we knew the time would fly by as the night life and beach would more than make up for it :-) So far on our big adventure, apart from a few tipples in the Vodka belt we haven't really drunk anything because with lots of early starts and so much sightseeing to fit in, we didn't want to be nursing two sore heads. But Nha Trang is a real party town and if you want to avoid the nightlife you might as well avoid Nha Trang completely, so for the first time we decided to take some R&R time and experience the nightlife, Vietnamese style! After all, the next couple of weeks will be intensive travelling as we head to Thailand in time for Songkran, our 3rd new year of 2013!

Tablets and Sunburn!

Only 6 weeks ago it was -35c in Mongolia but with each train journey the mercury has slowly been creeping up and is now a constant 30c, topping 35c during the day. We have experienced similar temperatures in our previous trips to Asia, and with Sonya's fair skin and trying to prevent her from turning into one big freckle we have learnt to be careful. However we have never needed malaria tablets on our previous trips and this is where our problems started. When choosing our malaria tablets we chose Doxycycline based mainly on price but were warned about the side effects, the main one being photosensitivity of the skin. We weren't overly concerned by this at the time as we are used to lathering Sonya up on a regular basis but even with sunblock (factor 50 and 80!) we are still getting seriously burnt. Sonya for the first time ever came out in blisters on both her forearms and Ross has been badly burnt too. It just doesn't make sense that Doxie has such side effects when you are only likely to take them in a hot climate! We are looking to change tablets but are having problems getting Malarone locally and might have to wait until Thailand. Not to rub it in, if anybody is snowed in back home as we are sure you would swop weather with us, but we are currently 'sunned in' its 3pm and we can't go out without the fear of being burnt. :-(

Day 1 - The Sights of Nha Trang

We awoke to a swelteringly hot day and after slapping on some much needed sunblock, we decided to pack all the sights into the first morning to give us some bar time later in the day. First stop was The Big White Buddha. At the foot of the hill to the Big Buddha is a large temple but the combination of:

  • Seeing numerous temples in recent weeks,
  • The hordes of tourists queuing to getting in,
  • The masses of touts and scam artists hanging around,
  • And finally Sonya was starting to melt into one big puddle of sweat!

We decided to give it a miss and head straight up the 152 steps to The Big Buddha. After climbing several flights of steps there was a welcomed break at the Laying Buddha. This wasn't mentioned anywhere in the guide books we read but it was well worth seeing and a great place to catch our breath. After a quick photo opportunity between tour groups we headed up the hill to the Big White Buddha. Standing at 14m high on top of a lotus blossom the 'Big Buddha' is dwarfed by the 'Giant Buddha' we saw in China, but unlike its counterpart which was carved out of a cliff the White Buddha proudly stands on top of a small hill, adding to its size and stature and can be seen from all over Nha Trang. The views from the top over the surrounding area were just as impressive as the statue itself and worth the trek to the top even in the searing heat.

The next place on our list was the Po Nagar Cham Towers which were built between the 7th and 12th century's built on grounds that have been used for worship as far back as the 2nd century AD. Originally it is believed that there were seven or eight towers but unfortunately only four towers still stand today. The brick temples were really impressive and their crumbling exteriors really showed their age. We would have loved to have explored the inside of the temples but this is the first place we have seen signs stating you were not allowed to enter if you were wearing shorts. We respected this but were slightly annoyed to have been caught out and would have gone properly prepared if we had known. We find it is very strange that different countries have different rules for essentially the same religion. Although we respected the rules and we were a little disappointed not to see inside, we were more annoyed by fellow travellers completely disregarding the signs and walking straight in!

In the afternoon we decided to head to the beach to take a dip in the warm China Sea. Just as Ross was heading for the water he bumped into Stuart and Jackie sunning them-selves on the beach, who we met on our trip to Halong Bay. It was nice to have an unexpected meeting with such a lovely couple. This is the 3rd random meeting in as many days, who will we bump into next?


Following on from our last blog about on how cheap things are in Vietnam, Nha Trang is no different. With a massive array of bars, restaurants and nightclubs the competition is fierce and prices are ridiculously cheap. Bars often have free drink hours and if you time it right you can bar hop from one to the next and not pay for a drink all night! Just a word of warning, do not try too many 'buckets' a sweet tub full of whatever cocktail you can imagine. It's easy to wake up with a sore head as measures don't exist; cocktails are just a large helping of various cheap spirits and a token gesture of a mixer for just 35,000VND (just over a £1!) In a whole evening including a slap up meal with a beer, drinks at the bar and buying our new Scottish friends some drinks we only spent £15!

Day 2 - Thap Ba Hot Springs and Mud baths

Both nursing sore heads we decided that we needed a bit of pampering so we headed for the mud baths. For 500,000VND (approx. £15) we were pampered with a mineral mud bath, a mineral shower, hot/cold water jets, hot jacuzzi, and then we had time to enjoy the hot waterfalls and hot and cold swimming pools. One swimming pool was kept around 40c which was like swimming in a hot bath. :-) It was a great afternoon which helped the hangover no end.

Day 3 - Snorkelling

Snorkelling is on both of our 'objectives list' and as this was the first opportunity to head out to a reef this was a must do activity in Nha Trang. As with all other tours you can book a snorkelling tour just about anywhere and pay just about anything, we were quoted between US$7 and US$30 per person! We settled on a VIP boat which is limited to just 20 people and we haggled the price down to US$15 per person, which included 3 hours of snorkelling at 2 sites and lunch on the boat. The reef wasn't as impressive as some others we have seen and as the area is heavily fished at times and the fish were few and far between, but those we did see were amazing. It was good to get out on the sea and tick another box. We are both looking forward to the reefs in Thailand, Philippines and of course the Great Barrier Reef.

Day 5

Sonya's Day

When we planned to stay for longer in Na Trang, I thought that it would be a great place to do a cooking course, before heading to Saigon where we would have less time. With a bit of luck we found a great restaurant named Same Same But Different that arranged courses.

So today I left Ross to his own devices and spent the day with Dat who is the owner and chef from the restaurant and set off to learn a thing or two about Vietnamese style food. The day started with me on the back of his motorbike, weaving in and out of traffic lanes and holding on for dear life. Dat's driving skills were absolutely fine and I felt very safe, it was just the other nutters on the road that scared me!

So with the sun shining down on us, we set off and stopped at some really interesting places where I was shown how the Vietnamese make traditional clay cooking pots. I also went to a couple of places where I saw first-hand how rice paper is made, very similar to Indian poppadum's but a lot healthier as they are steamed not fried.

The next stop was a little business that made fresh Vietnamese noodles referred to by the locals as 'Pho noodles' The process itself was pretty lengthy with the main ingredient's being rice, water and a lot of hard work by those making them. I was very impressed by the skills of these lovely people who were happy for me to look around and taste the finished products.

The last stop before heading to his house to start some cooking was the local market. They had meat laid out on tables in the baking heat and it must have been at least 32c and without a fridge in sight! We have seen this many times on our trip so far but it has never bothered me as we assumed it was something the locals ate. Then I remembered I was with a local and he proceeded to buy some, err...! After buying some vegetables we headed over to his house in the countryside which was beautiful.

I learnt a lot in one action filled afternoon of cooking and cooked 3 dishes:

  • Chicken and ginger stir-fry
  • Eggplant dish with lemon grass, tomatoes and chilli
  • An amazing traditional Vietnamese salad with a tangy sauce served with the rice paper

After all of this cooking came the best bit as it was time to sit down and enjoy our efforts. It was a great informative day which I enjoyed immensely.


On Sonya's course she learnt some more info about burying the deceased in the rice paddy fields. Apparently this custom has now (thankfully) been stopped and the deceased can now only be buried in the communal areas around the paddy fields not directly in the growing areas. Apologies to the Vietnamese rice industry for any misunderstanding!

Ross's Day

I decided to have a massage. As most people know attending a Spa in the UK is an expensive activity and something you are likely to do only occasionally or for a special occasion. Well things are very different in Asia with Spa's on literally every street corner it's cheap, seriously cheap. The only problem is deciding on which 'Spa' to visit as some are much more dubious than others and a lone man checking out prices can send out the wrong message! Even though we are on a budget this is one time that cheapest is not always the best option. After finding a quality establishment and opting for a 4 handed massage, yes count them, 2 people for an hours massage it still only cost 420,000VND (approx £13.50) incredible.

Hotel Review

We stayed at the Mojzo Inn and opted for a private double. Mojzo is another small hostel/hotel with privates at the front and dorms at the rear. The hotel is well situated just one road back from the buzzing nightlife and a 5 min walk from the beach. If we squinted very hard we could see the sea from our room, so just about qualifies for the first 'beach view room' Our room was well appointed with a great, air conditioner, TV and fridge but was let down by the shocking shower and uncomfortable beds. To get the right balance between burning hot water and ice cold water in the shower it was like cracking a safe. As in all places we have stayed in Vietnam the staff were extremely helpful, we never thought you could be too polite but the 20 questions each time you wanted to leave or comeback to the hotel became tiresome very quickly. The free water bottle on arrival with free refills was a nice touch. It was a good budget stay, in a good location.


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