Sunday, 4 September 2011

Vietnamese Beaches: Hoi An and Nha Trang

We made a quick run down the coast of Vietnam from Hue, visiting 2 towns along the way: Hoi An (not to be confused with Hanoi) and Nha Trang.  First up: Hoi An!

Hoi An is most famous for its tailors and shoe makers.  You can get custom clothes and shoes made quite cheaply here, and there are many, *many* shops willing to do it for you.  The old town is quite beautiful, with very interesting architecture.  Hoi An was a trading port beginning in the 17th century, and there's a lot of Japanese, Chinese, and European architecture as a result.

We arrived in town at about noon, and surprisingly there was a man with a sign labeled "Greg Kutz" there to meet us.  He took us to the hotel, and it was the quickest bus-station-to-lying-on-a-hotel-bed transition ever.  Since we had a whole afternoon ahead of us, we decided to rent some bicycles and head off to the beach!  It was quite a beautiful beach, and we sat under palm trees and read books (and fended off people trying to get us to buy things, of course).

Hoi An beach

The following day, we explored the Old Town, buying tickets to gain admission to several sights.  Some of the places we saw were rather lame (i.e. the house of an old merchant, where the current family members just tried to get us to buy things), but some were very cool!

Japanese covered bridge, built in 1593.  You actually had to pay to walk across it since it's such a tourist attraction.  (oops, finger in the frame!)

This is an old Chinese assembly hall.  The man who worked there collecting tickets seemed rather bored, as he showed us around a bit, pointing things out and insisting on taking numerous pictures of us.  He was very sweet!

Another picture in the assembly hall.  Have no idea what it says on the wall behind us, but there's a lovely Vietnamese flag there...

Old family house where we were pressured to buy hand-embroidered table linens, vases, compasses, decorative boxes....  They were quite beautiful, but of course we did not get any.  The house itself was interesting, but the guide was bored out of her mind, and I certainly don't blame her!  The house has been occupied by the same family for hundreds of years, and the family members all seem to sit around all day and wait for tourists to visit.

Umm, a temple?  We saw so many old buildings, I'm losing track of them all!!

Then, we took an overnight bus to Nha Trang!  We figured we'd try the sleeping buses out.  We'd heard quite a few horror stories, but it was much more convenient to take a bus on this route rather than backtracking an hour north to hop on the train (which is also more expensive).  Well, I must say that sleeping buses are NOT comfortable!  There were 2 levels of seats and the lower level is directly on the floor. The seats only recline so far, so that you are not lying flat.  Your feet are actually tucked in underneath the seat in front... it's very odd.  The lights never fully go out, so I was happy I brought my sleeping mask!  And the driver makes liberal use of the horn as well, which is also not conducive to sleep.  Oh, and our bathroom on board was full of car parts, so I was forced to use the rather disgusting squat toilets at the rest stop.  This rest stop was a rather sketchy restaurant serving all sorts of bizarre food.  I saw a large jar of scorpions, as well as a jar of snakes or worms.  Needless to say, we did not eat there!!

Anyways, we arrived in Nha Trang about 6am, and we were dropped off in the north end of town, a couple of km from our hostel.  Being stubborn and cheap, we of course walked it.  Once again, the hotel had the room ready, so we checked in and had a quick (one hour) nap, which I think only served to make me more tired!  We weren't really too keen on visiting Nha Trang because we heard the only thing to do there was visit the beach and drink.  So we immediately walked 3 km north to the train station and booked a ticket out of town the next day.  Close to the train station was a pretty pagoda as well as a giant statue of a seated Buddha on top of a hill.  We visited, and were forced to buy some overpriced postcards from some manipulative kids (guess what everyone's getting in their Christmas stockings??).

Giant seated Buddha statue (yes, obviously).

View of Nha Trang from the Buddha statue hill

Nha Trang beach.  Much busier than in Hoi An!  We did not swim as we were advised to check which way the wind is blowing before jumping in.  If it's blowing towards shore, watch out!  Human sewage is heading your way.

Happy Communists.

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