Nha Trang, Vietnam
I always pictured Vietnam as a ravaged, war-torn dusty place, but how very wrong! I received an email from Brian Groff, a good friend of mine from Circle K. He actually honeymooned here recently and shared some tips of what we might visit while in Nha Trang. While our tour was structured, we DID have opportunity to follow up on some of his recommendations, and very glad we did. Nha Trang is the capital of Khanh Hoa Province – apparently very well known for its pristine beaches and excellent scuba diving – we could certainly see why! The beachfront stretches several miles – the landscaping in the adjoining parks is awesome…most all of the bushes & trees are manicured or portray some type of design – most impressive! It’s fast becoming a popular destination for international tourists, attracting large numbers of backpackers on the Southeast Asia circuit. There were two other cruise ships in port today, for a total of three. Imagine about 8,000 cruisers dropping by on a Wednesday! As we learned, Nha Trang used to be a quiet fishing village and as recently as two years ago it was still pretty sleepy, however, recent government & private investments have transformed it into a thriving beachside resort-town with a gorgeous beach promenade several miles long (as mentioned) and a variety of hotels ranging from brand-new five-star venues along the waterfront to small, family run hotels, all within easy walking distance of the beach around Biet Thu & Nguyen Thien Thuat streets. If you ever get here, take some time to walk through the older part of town to see the fishing fleet at anchor – just keep in mind that this truly is the older part of the city and isn’t very clean – it resembles Indonesia in many respects but a little cleaner. Scooters are the primary mode of transportation – thousands & thousands of them on the streets. They cost approximately $1,000 U.S. Don’t miss the Long Son Pagoda which is marked by a huge white Buddha statue. This beautiful temple pays tribute to the lives and tragic deaths of the monks who so dramatically emolliated themselves as a protest against the Vietnam War. It is a very touching, somber reminder of the tragedies of Vietnam which ended the reunification of the country just 30 years ago. It’s quite a climb to reach the top – approximately 200 stone stairs – it may not sound like much but the heat (& particularly the humidity) really take your breath away. We were both soaking wet, and it was only 9:30am. We also stopped by a silk factory – initially, I thought this stop was going to be a total waste – wrong again. The Vietnamese ladies at this factory do an absolute exquisite job sewing pictures made of silk (takes about 5 months) as well as beautiful gowns. The pictures ranged in price from $300 - $5,000 U.S., and worth every penny. We didn’t buy any of this artwork today because of shipping challenges, but may pick up a couple small ones tomorrow in Ho Chi Minh City. They are phenomenal pieces of work – and it takes a lot to get me excited about artwork! I’ve never purchased a picture over $10, and even THAT was at Wal Mart!
The locals set up a rather large swap meet on the pier to cater to the cruisers here for the day. Merchandise in Vietnam is extremely cheap, yet good quality. We intended to buy another suitcase in Hong Kong to accommodate all the little things we’ve been accumulating, but some of our new friends advised us to wait until today. Get this – I bought a huge Samsonite suitcase for $45, negotiated down from $65! Back home, we’d pay between $300-$400 for the same exact unit. Incredible bargains here! The residents here were much more friendly than Hong Kong, though Sydney still ranks as my most friendly port!