Monday, January 24, 2011

Nha Trang

Nha Trang is the main beach town destination for both westerners and Vietnamese. The long sandy shore curves with the city trimmed by a wonderful boardwalk containing well kept gardens. A scattering of islands poke up out of the South China Sea with a large closer one connected to land by a long gondola. The fifteen minute gondola ride brings you to Vinpearl Island which is an amusement/water park on the ocean. We did not go.

The ocean shines an emerald green in the pictures and postcards I see here, but the weather right now resembles the shore in northwest U.S. There are dark wet clouds are mixed with the soft hazy mists and the waves are curling in large crashing surf with an equally powerful rip tide. It is an absolutely mesmerizing scene, but it sure don't make for a beach day. No complaints, it's nice to be out of the heat.

Across the street from the boardwalk is a line of high-rise four star hotels. Many are still under construction and the completed ones seem mostly vacant. This place looks like it is planning on growing their tourism industry quickly, but for now most of the action is still in the smaller backpacker district a few blocks off the beach where there are a tons of cheap little guest houses, restaurants, and scuba shops.

We ended up staying more to the north near downtown by the market. We jumped off a sleepless bus ride at 7am in front of a hotel that had a $10 room with a balcony and hot coffee - we took it. The hotel that was the easiest to get proved to be the most impossible to find again. We probably headed in and out of the place eight times over two days and could never find it before three tries. The streets go in weird directions in Nha Trang, rarely staying straight for long so so its kind of funny we decided this would be the place we wanted to rent a motorbike and tool around.

I had a motorcycle when I was 19. It was not the functioning of the vehicle that I was concerned about. Moving through the streets in Asia, as far as I've seen, looks like a great challenge in itself. There is a beautiful grace that the motorbike traffic displays. The dance is crowded yet ever flowing in the same calm pace navigating thought intersections. It's like a video game where the anticipation of twenty moving objects make you plan your flow thru a two dimensional maze. The best part is that this traffic is not in a hurry and they are all very patient.

A bus can block the whole street and everyone will wait as long as it takes. Other places I've been the horns would be going off while they tried to drive over each other to get in the front of the pack. That was not for me. I drove, with Asiana on the back, up and down coast in the drizzle and I did pretty good. I can't say i drive as graceful the lady with three kids (one in front - two in back), and a couple of ten gallon baskets of produce on each side with her right hand on the throttle while the left is typing a text message, but I only nailed my breaks a couple of times.

Our ride tools us up the coast over small hills, rice paddies, and fishing villages. We stopped at a tall statue of Quan Yin (Buddha's mom) where we got a very nice tour by the monk who was really into photography. He took our camera and made us pose in front of everything at the little temple. He was a sweet man and it was a sweet place.

I give Nha Trang a thumbs up. I think it would be a great place in the "on" season.

Location:Nha Trang Vietnam

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