Posts tagged ‘Nha Trang’

Hawkers and hookers. Nha Trang, Vietnam

The best way to describe Nha Trang is as a Vietnamese Playa del Ingles. A playground for westerners and wealthy Vietnamese, Nha Trang offers everything you would expect from a tourist blackspot – a beautiful white sand beach, plenty of accomodation, more bars than you can shake a beer at and a handful of great nightclubs. Unfortunately it has all of the less attractive trappings too including hundreds of persistent tauts selling sunglasses, beer, cigarettes, photocopied books and “massa” (massages – usually with happy endings). There is also a pretty distasteful group of prostitutes strutting about at nighttime cornering western men, groping them and while they are distracted, stealing their wallets.

Usually that many tauts and drunken westerners in one place would have been our nightmare but by the time we reached Nha Trang – tired, dirty, and with painful saddle sores – we were more than happy to surrender to shameless tourism for a few days of eating, drinking and recovering on the beach. And that is exactly how it turned out. Within 20 minutes of arriving we had already tracked down all our old friends from Hué – including the lovely Rhiannon and Alex and the painfully funny Adam – and organised a three night piss up. We also stumbled upon Dave who, after a forgotten night in the infamous Sailing Club, was vomitting on lawns, in ponds and just about everywhere he could find a space free of stalls and motorbikes.

That set the tone for the trip and we spent a fun-filled few days bouncing from Why Not Bar to Red Apple, alternating between 50 cent double rum and cokes and buckets of red bull and vodka. The Aussies, as usual, were letting it rip on the female tourists, waitresses, hotel staff, hawkers, bar maids, tour guides, sales girls, mothers, daughters and bystanders of Nha Trang creating a web of scandal, controversy, bitterness and hilarity wherever they went.

So for three guiltfree days we sipped cocktails and whispered about the latest sex scandal on the backpacker scene, pausing only to fend off wayward hookers and drunkenly harrass American tourists about their role in the Vietnam War (“so how do you feel about what your people did to all those poor Vietnamese women and children? Huh?! I don’t care if you weren’t born and if your parents were anti-war protestors! I’m holding you personally responsible!”).

I’m sorry to say that we also saw very little of Nha Trang – just the enchanting Po Ngar Cham towers nearby and a quick excursion down the coast which found us peering over the wall at a lively fishing village where boys were playing football, girls were pretending not to watch and men were swigging beers and swinging their legs over the edge of a pier. Apparently Nha Trang can be pretty nice if you can set down your beer, say no to the booze cruise and set a course of your own.

More pictures from Nha Trang are available in the gallery

Rhiannon

January 24, 2010 at 1:05 pm 3 comments

Continued – Sunburn, squoodles and splattered chickens. Hoi An to Nha Trang, Vietnam (Day 2)

It’s difficult not to get annoyed when every single car, truck and motorbike that passes beeps at you. This counts doubley in the morning when you have just woken up, have not yet eaten and are facing a 10 hour ride on the rock solid seat of a bike which is smoking as if it could explode at any second. After two days of this we were getting a little fed up – everyone flashing us, slamming on their horns and shouting out their windows. Why us? What does that strange clicking jiberish mean?

Some time around 11am the penny dropped though as it escalated and motorbikes pulled up alongside us to talk, bicyclists strained their quads to keep up with us and drivers wound down their windows to wave and smile. The sleeper buses brought most of the tourist through here in the middle of the night on their non-stop trip to Nha Trang so we were the first westerners many of them had seen in years.

When we pulled over at villages for water and breadrolls, people stopped eating and beckoned to us to join them, children crowded at a distance screaming “What is your name?” and whenever we slowed our bikes women came to stroke our arms and necks and run their fingers through our hair. One quick stop to reapply suncream attracted a gaggle of locals with outstretched arms. They thought we were using skin whitener and, concluding that whatever we were using must be the best stuff, they were desperate for a sample.

Suddenly all the annoying honking noises sounded a lot friendlier and, waving and shouting “Hello! Hello!”, we sped through what was to be our best day on the bikes. The run up to Nha Trang was the most spectacular stretch of palm groves, smooth road elevated above lush forests and the most impressive mountain passes we had ever seen. The first few passes were pretty quiet so we had the snaking roads to more or less to ourselves. Uphill labours (which I spent talking to my bike, making empty promises to change her broken tail light and get her an oil change if she would only just get me up this one last hill) were rewarded by sprawling views and steep downhill nosedives that flung us from the top of the world to sparkling blue water, rocking fishing boats and hammocks swinging on pastel porches. With the width of road at our disposal, we flew headlong into spirals and jarring hairpins, certain at every second that we couldn’t possibly get any closer to the bay below us without falling in.

Of course life on the road could never be as wonderful as that all the time so we knew there were hardships to come and sure enough they did, in the form of Joe’s bike Gladice. Pretty popular when she was first released some time around 1940, Gladice was growing tired of her workhorse life; tired of always being overlooked in favour of younger, prettier models; tired of being jolted this way and that into oncoming traffic; and tired of being ridden senseless by fat, lazy, sweaty men. She used to be top of the pile, beloved by the masses and well able to hold her own on the road. Now though, everywhere she looked she saw herself – filty, beaten down and broken. Now she was angry, indignant, tired and reckless. Until now, Joe had overlooked her flaws, shelling out 500,000 dong in hush money when she rammed a younger bike in a carpark in a fit of hysterical jealously. He had been patient but today Gladice took it too far. Today Gladice took an innocent young life.

“I was just driving down the road and she was running fine,” said Joe when he spoke to police later in the day. “And there was this tiny little chick on the road but I’m pretty used to seeing livestock on Vietnamese roads so I didn’t take any notice of it. I mean, just today we passed a water buffalo tied down in the middle of the highway and we all know that chickens have a bit of a road fetish so no big deal right? Well the rest is a bit of a blur. Maybe she was jealous of the chicken’s youth or maybe she’s bloodthirsty but Gladice suddenly veered straight for the chick and mowed it down like a woman possessed. The chick tried to run but he had no hope – all that was left after she had done with him were a few feathers floating in her exhaust smoke. I think I heard her laugh then and I’m positive she revved her engine but we’ll never really know will we? Maybe I should just have her scrapped. It might be kinder at this stage…”

Mourning our fallen feathered comrade we pushed on, battling kamikazee mosquitos which collected in our tear ducts, spattered against our tshirts and dove between our teeth as we raced the falling light to the beach resort of Doc Let. We also got our fill of mountain passes as that night’s tourist sleeper buses raced in either direction, choking narrow roads in their quest to overttake each other ten, twenty, thirty times before the journey’s close. I can honestly say that there is nothing more terrifying than approaching a corner on a struggling morotbike to see two huge buses filling the breadth of a narrow pass, honking and swearing at you to get out of their way. Desperately you search for an escape route only to find no ditches. You contemplate veering off the side of the road and sailing through the air to the beach 50m below but then you remember the metal barrier placed ‘for your safety’. You slam on your horn, slow down and cling to the side of the road, closing your eyes and gritting your teeth in preparation for the impact. Then just as it looks like your days are numbered (or would look if you could see through closed eyelids), one bus falls back, allowing the other to overtake and they zoom past you, waving and smiling as if they didn’t just almost kill you.

After such a day its not surprising that everything after it was a bit bland. Doc Let was nice but nothing to write home about and the 30km drive to Nha Trang the following morning was dull enough, apart from one wonderful stretch of completely empty Grand Prix track which wound its way up and down a mountain in a series of tight, smooth turns which climbed up the walls at parts and made us feel like we were in a video game. Finally, around 600km after leaving Hué, we hit our halfway point filthy, exhausted and gagging for hot shower and a cold bottle of Tiger beer.

More pictures from the road to Nha Trang are available in the gallery

January 23, 2010 at 11:35 am 1 comment

Sunburn, squoodles and splattered chickens. Hoi An to Nha Trang, Vietnam. (Day 1)

From the very first day, our biking tour was the real Top Gear experience – our shoebox of money only bought us rattley old shopping trolleys; having the largest head in Vietnam meant that Simon almost had to resort to strapping a collendar to his head; and Gary obliged us by kickstarting our two day trip from Hoi An to Nha Trang with yet another copycat emergency.

“Oh crap!” I heard him shouting as we zipped down Highway 1. “My key fell out of my ignition and I have no idea when. I won’t be able to turn the bike off or open my fuel tank!” Fortunately for us, if there is one thing that every Vietnamese person knows how to do, it’s fix a motorbike. Any problem can be solved using two lollipop sticks, a tube of pritt stick, a handful of pipe cleaners and some coloured paper. Three minutes after he arrived, panicky and urgently pantomining his predicament, a small man covered from head to flip-flopped foot in oil handed Gary a brand new key tied on a string for safer keeping free of charge. Mechanical geniuses and they’re warm hearted – we were really growing fond of these curious, smiling people.

A little boring at the start, the road eventually developed into a pretty easy-going, flat ride through tiny tumbleweed towns. For hours we cruised uneventfully past flooded rice paddys, watching distant lime green tones develop into murky reflections of nearby mountains as they blurred in and out of focus. Thankfully, the scorching heat of the day was offset by the dusty, exhaust-infected air whipping past our skin so it wasn’t until we pulled in at My Lai for lunch that we realised just how badly sunburned we were. Not happy to let us eat in peace, Joe whipped out his trusty Lonely Planet guide and proceeded to tell us all about the town’s tragic history.

As it turns out, My Lai was home to the worst massacre of the Vietnam War. Under the pretense that they were aiding the North Vietnamese Army, the US army decided to make an example of the small market town. During the weekly market, when they knew that everyone would be in the town centre, the army landed nearby, pouring out of their helicopters and surrounding the town to cut off any chance of escape. Over the next few hours they threw grenades at houses, shops and bomb shelters and mowed down every person they saw. At least once, they lined over 150 people up in a ditch on the side of the road and shot them one by one. At the end of the day, every single person in the village was dead. Most were women, children or elderly people and not one single member of the NVA was found.

Sitting in a shaded porch listening to the kitchen staff’s easy banter, watching chickens dart between noodle stalls on the street and marvelling over the man zipping up the street with a full chest of drawers tied to the back of his bike, it didn’t seem possible that such a thing could have happened in living memory. How could such a close-knit town ever develop out of all the ash and corpses left behind that day? Not surprisngly, finishing our lunches was another impossibility so we morosely decided to press on in the hope that we could find a hotel before dark.

On that front we were incredibly lucky. Just as dusk began to spread it’s jaundiced fingers across the sky, we came to another rural town and, spotting those six golden letters glinting in the falling light, we pulled into a hotel on the side of the road. Rounding the building we were thrilled to discover a small lake crossed by a rudimentary bridge which lead to a beautiful white sand beach. This discovery and the sucessful completion of another trying day definately called for a few Huda beers on the beach so we settled onto a wall and reminisced over the day as the sun set and the boats on the horizon twinkled to life.

Later, after scrubbing violently at the black film smeared across our exposed skin and tenderly treating our excrutiating sunburns (well, Gary and I treated our burns while the Aussies admired their golden tans) we popped over to the canteen across the road for dinner. Fed up of pho (beef noodle soup), we ordered a feast of grilled beef, fried rice and sautéed chicken. As is the norm in Vientam though, what we had ordered was less important than what the cook felt like dishing up so our succulent feast came out as several bowls of squid noodle soup – squoodles – which the waitress identified as “rice” and “beef”. A second, and even third round of ordering was no more successful so, after downing four whole squid, six packets of instant noodles and three litres of chicken stock each, we decided to call it a day and get an early night so we would be ready for the ambitious 340km ride we had planned for the next day.

To be continued….

January 23, 2010 at 11:25 am Leave a comment


Welcome

Thanks for coming to visit us – stay tuned to watch us argue, punch, kick, pinch and scream our way around some of the most beautiful parts of the world.

Over the next year we will be fighting in Asia, Australia, New Zealand and South America.

If you are interested in printing any of our work or would like us to write or take photos for your publication, please contact us at -
gary.boylan2(at)gmail.com

This blog is featured on

Lonely Planet

This blog was a 2010

This blog is featured on

Most recent Twitter Tweets!

Most recent image

New Delhi, India

Previously . . .

Enter your email address to subscribe to our blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 81 other followers

This blog has been viewed

  • 291,076 times