A Travellerspoint blog

Nha Trang, The Honky Tonk Beach Hangout?

sunny 29 °C

There were plenty of ‘tourist’ activities to do in Nha Trang, but all I wanted to do was relax on the beach. In fact the weather was perfect. I’m not much of a sunbather, especially when it is baking hot, and so I welcomed the blustery winds that were sweeping along the sands. For what Lonely Planet describes as a ‘Honky Tonk’ Beachr resort, it was surprisingly relaxed down on the sand. Much more picturesque than Phuket beaches! So after some turbo coffee and eggs on toast we sat on the sand.

In an instant a girl selling bracelets spotted us with her eagle eyes and launched and attack. She thrust bracelets onto my wrists insisting that she made them and would prove it by making us our desired colour there and then. At first I was full of no’s “Ive got too many already” I repeated, but then I relaised she actually had some pretty good ones! We chose three for 2 dollars in the end and she went away a happy bunny, but not before I snapped a photo…which for some reason has vanished off my camera.

View Along the Honky Tonk Beach

View Along the Honky Tonk Beach

Kite Surfing on Nha Trang Beach

Kite Surfing on Nha Trang Beach

We popped back to the hotel for our bathing attire and a slather of suncream and headed back out. We were collared by some Easyriders just before the sand and we ended up engaged in negotiations about a motorcycle ride into the mountains for the next half hour. In the end he was asking far too much – about $100 for the two of us. for each day. No matter how much I wanted to do it, it was WAY out of budget. Instead we just sat on the beach; something that was free for a change. I worked on an illustration as Ste floundered in the huge waves. It was possible to stay there for hours in such a nice temperature, but we were getting pretty hungry and so we decided head back.

Drawing on the Beach

Drawing on the Beach

Nha Trang Bach 100 Metres from our Hostel

Nha Trang Bach 100 Metres from our Hostel

I would have like to sample some of the local Vietnamese food, but I STILL wasn’t really up for it, so we found a place that served Western food and I ordered something that would be difficult to get sick from...garlic and chilli spaghetti – no meat, not salad just pasta. It actually went down a treat, I could have eaten three and you certainly couldn’t go wrong at $2.

Posted by CarlaTracy 07:11 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Kitschy Valentines Day - The Valley of Love

Dalat Hill Station - Vietnam

sunny 26 °C

Happy Vietnamese Valentines day, and what better place to celebrate it than the former French hill station of Dalat, where romance is a ‘serious’ affair. Not only did the French leave behind their beautiful French-colonial villas, they left behind their language d’amour and the local boheimian artists’ predilection for swanning about in berets! And just in case the language d’amour was bit too cryptic, the Vietnamese added their own (less subtle) visual twist on the topic of love – such as the Eiffel Tower shaped radio tower, or the aptly named ‘Valley of Love’ with its sickeningly kitsch heart-shaped cut-outs for posing with your loved one. And what would love be without a horse-drawn carriage ride or a go on the swan pedalos? Dalat had everything we could have wished for, to make our valentines, an uber kitsch day to remember.

Our Room Only 10 Dollars Per Night

Our Room Only 10 Dollars Per Night

Looking Down to the Motobike Filled MAin Road

Looking Down to the Motobike Filled MAin Road

Le Tour Eiffiel

Le Tour Eiffiel

Waking up huddled in our fluffy duvet, in a cool room, was a welcome change to the tropical heats we had been experiencing for the last 5 months. Dalat is always in a state of spring time, but when we hit the streets we became aware that the locals were dressed as though we were in a ski resort. The temperature was a balmy 26 degress and there they were, teeth chattering behind their fur trimmed bomber jackets. There were even a couple of wooly hats knocking about! We made our way into a local ‘patisserie’ as I kept calling it – well we were in petite-Paris after all. Nothing took my fancy (it all looked a little stale to be honest) so we set out to find a café. We were hoping to find one where we could gaze out at the Tour Eiffel (radio station) but no such luck. We settled for one with a patio that overlooked the busy streets from above. Random choice, honey and Lemon tea and a tuna baguette for my breakfast; my stomach sadly still wasn’t ready for any Vietnamese food quite yet and I only managed half the baguette. Next a stroll down some decaying and decidedly dangerous stairs to the lake front. There was barely another tourist in sight, but still we were approached by women attempting to sell sunglasses. Our slightly irritated faces seemed to scare them away and we managed to stroll along the front without too much interference. There were horses which should be pulling carts of tourists, grazing along the grassy front and we sat a while contemplating a Swan Pedalo. What the hell, we thought, it could only be a couple of dollars surely! Well it turned out to be 5 – a day’s wages for some Vietnamese people, but it wasn’t worth the hassle of bartering over a couple of dollars.

View of the Lake

View of the Lake

Swan Pedalos

Swan Pedalos

Our swan was a little grotty inside and as we pedaled out I started to get swan envy - some of the swans on the lake had a much glossier coat than ours and a better sunroof! But there was no time for jealously, as I noticed Ste’s steering to be slightly awry; we were going round in circles! I thought a swan pedalo was supposed to be a relaxing experience but when the rudder seems to take you in every direction apart from the one you desire, it can get a little irritating. Of course this was all Stes fault and a great opportunity to question him, that if he couldn’t drive a swan how would he ever be able to drive a car. He obviously then found the need to prove himself and our swan finally made it more than a few metres away from the shore. We were heading into open waters now; some serious pedaling was needed “do you think there is a Guinness record for making it around the world in a swan pedalo?” I asked – Ste was doubtful. We wanted to head to the end of the lake, but the wind had other ideas, and as soon as we stopped pedaling, we twizled around and started head back off in the direction we had come! I started to think we would never make it back to shore and end up owing 3 million dollars or even worse there would be a news report ‘Two tourists die in Swan Pedalo’ but with sheer determination we eventually made it back – on time and a man fished us out of the water.

IMG_1857

IMG_1857

IMG_1851

IMG_1851

Swan Lake

Swan Lake

Next on our list of kitchness was the Crazy House, this place honestly exists, you couldn’t make it up! Lonely Planet has it down as ‘a free wheeling architechtural exploration of surrealism’ Some compare it to the work of Antoni Gaudi – I just thought it looked like something that should be in Alton Towers – the Nemesis to be precise. It looked like a playground, but you wouldn’t let your kids run around here – there were stairs and walkways over 15 metres high, with barely any sides and on one certain roof, the walkway wasn’t even finished and just dropped off the side without any warning. Tunnels with fleshy coloured walls wound their way like a labyrinth to different rooms, where it is possible to stay; if the kangaroo with red glowing eyes at the end of your bed doesn’t put you off! At one point we found ourselves climbing up a rather precarious giraffe’s neck to reach some of the rooms! Bizarre. But this house wasn’t built as a theme park, it was actually the brainchild of the owner Mrs Dang Viet Nga, who has a PhD in architecture from Moscow. One of her previous masterpieces ‘House with 100 roofs’ was ripped down for looking antisocialist, but to make up for it the Crazy House is expanding and becoming more ‘crazy’ every year. An hour was plenty in this nuthouse and we flagged a taxi to The Valley of Love.

Central Building

Central Building

Steep Stairs With No Sides!

Steep Stairs With No Sides!

Winding Stairways

Winding Stairways

Labyrinth of Passageways

Labyrinth of Passageways

IMG_1890

IMG_1890

IMG_1898

IMG_1898

DANGER!

DANGER!

We were prepared to reach new heights of kitchness, but when we climbed out of the taxi and heard the tacky love music emanating from the gates we couldn’t help an ‘oh…my…god.’ It was surprisingly busy, not with tourists, but holidaying Vietnamese and we seemed to become more of an attraction than the park they had come to see. Ignoring the stares I saw the park was dotted with various tacky statues, all symbolic of love, including a Mickey and Minnie one! How romantic! However tacky the valley was there was no denying the view was stunning looking out across the lake and the gardens blooming with flowers. To be honest we were having a brilliant time, the whole thing was so utterly cheesy, it had us giggling for a good couple of hours. We strolled down to the lake and onto ‘Human Paradise Hill’ which had even louder love ballads blasting out into the otherwise peaceful countryside. We didn’t stay for long and headed back up through the beautiful flower beds and into the rickety little funfair. Not much there, except some people firing bows and arrows over the edge of the valley to win prizes; safety first! Fearing our taxi driver might desert us, we headed back to the road and we could see he was still waiting. I stopped to take one more photo and when we looked back he had vanished. Fantastic I thought. The man on reception was surprisingly helpful and called us a taxi, which didn’t turn up for a good half an hour. So there was plenty of time to be harassed by a little old woman and her artichoke tea and also the moto drivers who were pretty insistent that we would be getting a lift with them. Fortunately the taxi eventually turned up and we could make an escape back to Dalat town Centre.

Naked people! A bit risque for Vietnam

Naked people! A bit risque for Vietnam

IMG_1915

IMG_1915

IMG_1918

IMG_1918

IMG_1920

IMG_1920

IMG_1933

IMG_1933

Venus De Milo

Venus De Milo

IMG_1938

IMG_1938

IMG_1939

IMG_1939

IMG_1945

IMG_1945

IMG_1948

IMG_1948

Happy Valentines

Happy Valentines

IMG_1960

IMG_1960

We talked about having a valentines meal but as I wasn’t feeling that well we settled for fresh baguettes and ….CHEESE..yes cheese, proper cheese, Edam to be precise. It wouldn’t be my first choice at home, but this was the first cheese I had seen in 5 months that wasn’t a ridiculous price (usually about 7 pounds!) So we grabbed a small feast and headed back to our hotel. We used our spare bed as a table and our penknife to slice the cheese. YUM! I loved our tacky day, it would certainly be the most memorable Valentines I’ve had.

Posted by CarlaTracy 07:22 Archived in Vietnam Tagged lakes countryside dalat hillstation Comments (0)

Goodbye Cambodia - Hello Vietnam!

A hassle free border crossing

overcast 31 °C

“On the road again, I can’t wait to get on the road again” Well there we were packed and ready at 8am outside our hotel. There wasn’t time for breakfast, after my pathetic panic while packing; I thought the cleaners had thrown away a bag of my knickers that are all matching sets to my bras, but it turned out that they were just behind the door of the leaky room we moved out of in the night. A tuk tuk driver turned up and squeezed us and our elephant sized backpacks into the carriage, it would have been okay if there weren’t two other people and their entire luggage already in there. He convinced us that we should be happy despite the crush, as this would be our last tuk tuk ride. There are no tuk tuks in Vietnam, only scooter taxis and taxi taxis.

Express Limousine?

Express Limousine?

Our Bus Out of Cambodia

Our Bus Out of Cambodia

‘Express limousine’ were the words emblazoned across the front of our rather rustic looking bus. The first thing to sort out was the fact that our tickets had us both sitting at opposite ends of the bus, god knows why, but this was rectified in no time. More to my surprise was the comfort of the bus! It looked like its day had been and gone 70 years ago, but actually, the leather seats were springy and came complete with leg rest and full reclining capabilities! Amazing! The bus even had a toilet. It was probably the best one we had been on since Singapore and there were no locals with chickens stuffed up their shirts this time. I settled in for the 7 hour journey which flew by. We had lengthy conversations about returning home etc and managed to sufficiently depress ourselves. But my spirits were lifted when I found custard apples on sale in the service station.

We were at the border in no time and the bus company had even filled in all the paperwork for us without requiring any money. This could be the best bus journey ever! We glided through the Cambodia Vietnam border without a single hitch and touched down in Ho Chi Minh around 3pm. We hadn’t planned anywhere to stay, but some people behind us on the bus had a recommendation. We looked at 3 places. The first for 10 dollars a night was pretty alright – large room, private bathroom and balcony. The second which was the recommendation was the biggest hole EVER! THE worst room I have seen on my entire travels, it looked like a crack den. The first place was gone when we returned so we settled for a 12 dollar room down a quiet sidestreet – lovely family sized room, tv, bathroom and immaculately clean. Brilliant. The rest of the day was dedicated to resting and sorting out computer stuff, oh and eating.

Millionaire! In Dong Anyway

Millionaire! In Dong Anyway

Ngoc Han - Our Hotel

Ngoc Han - Our Hotel


Posted by CarlaTracy 06:17 Archived in Cambodia Tagged travel bus phnom_penh border ho_chi_minh Comments (0)

Fanny Ice-Cream

Ho Chi Minh - Vietnam

sunny 32 °C

Having finally shaken off a stomach affliction due to some dodgy Cambodian cuisine, we decided on a gentle stroll around Ho Chi Minh to see what it had to offer. We bypassed the Soupy noodle café at the end of our street, that has chunks of lung and god knows what floating in its beef stew, in the hope of finding something a little more palatable. It took a while. Prices were through the roof in this tourist hub, there wasn’t a 1 dollar pork and rice or baguette to be seen! We stumbled upon a tiny restaurant called THI Café that was shoehorned into a cranny, between two much larger eateries. It was dark inside. Was it closed? Nope, the door pushed open to reveal a funky little number that plays live music in the evenings. The menu was in English, so no problems there. We folded and ordered two spaghetti Bolognese; a Western fix. I had doubts about how authentic it would be, but so long as it didn’t have chicken legs, pig’s trotters or chunks of lung, then it would more than suffice. We even went all out and ordered a salad and bread as an accompaniment. Something worth noting was that in the ‘Sideorders’ on the menu, between your usual chips and garlic bread, you could have a side of Marlboro Lights…odd. Anyway, the food was pretty alright and only cost 8 dollars. It was a bit more than we would usually spend on one meal but I hadn’t eaten the entirety of yesterday.

We ambled along trying to avoid eye contact with the “Moto, moto?” guys. We were making good progress, until one guy armed with a notebook of tourist comments and an unusual fake thumbnail complete with intricate pink floral designs, chased us down the street. He thrust the book into my hand and pointed to some haggard passport photos “How many language you speak? I have comment in German too!” We gave him a thanks but no thanks, but it wasn’t working and every pace I took backwards he took two forwards. Determined was the word. I showed him Ste’s Koh Phangan Tattoo from the last incident – “He’s scared to go on scooter,” but it was to no avail and we ended up literally running away.


Streets of Ho Chi Minh Near Ben Thanh Market

Streets of Ho Chi Minh Near Ben Thanh Market

Full Bloom at Ben Thanh Market

Full Bloom at Ben Thanh Market

We crossed the hectic streets to the Ben Teh Market, dodging yet more moto drivers insisting that the Saigon market was better, and that they should be the one to take us there. We hurried inside. Hands grabbed and clothes were almost making their way onto my back as we worked our way along the rabbit warren stalls. “You want cotton shirt” “You want bag” “You want this or that”, it was manic. Fortunately, the further away from the entrance we headed, the more we lost our smell as fresh meat on the market scene. We were soon left in relative peace to sift through the endless snide stock, which included North Face rucksacks for 6 dollars! And they pretty much looked like THE real thing. The heat eventually drove us back out onto the streets where Ste purchased some snide Calvin Klein boxers and I, a pair of 5 dollar Ray Bans.

Onward! To Fanny! We made our way through the more up market side of town, which boasted all the big names, such as Chanel and Louis Vuitton - to name just a couple. But there is no forgetting where you are, as beggars and street vendors crouch outside these glamorous buildings, asking for a dollar so that they can feed their family. After passing a couple of 5 star hotels and making a few sharp turns, we finally arrived outside fanny. Fanny is an ice cream boutique and it is recommended in the Lonely Planet. We took a seat at one of the decorative tables on the outside decking area. The menu looked fantastic – it even had avocado ice cream! But I ordered a Cherry Bibbi that had something along the lines of macadamia vanilla ice cream, chocolate ice cream, ice cream and more ice cream, oh and cream. This fanny ice cream had better pack the punch at 75,000 Dong a pop, I thought. It arrived. The aesthetics certainly didn’t disappoint; mine was garnished with 3 wafers, cherry and little shards of cinder toffee. Both ice creams even came with straws (amazing idea) to drink the melted mush. Needless to say, they didn’t last long and not because it was hot!

Cherry Bibi

Cherry Bibi

Avacado Ice Cream

Avacado Ice Cream

Alfresco Dining at Fanny

Alfresco Dining at Fanny

The day was drawing in as we headed down to the riverside to admire a huge boat that looked like a shark and also the amount of weed that was clogging up the river. But there was one last event for the day, crossing the Ho Chi Minh roads a rush hour! Considering the city has a population of over 16 million motocycles it should be eventful. It was. I have never seen anything quite like it so we stuck behind a dare devil 70 year old local, who had the guts to just march out into the battle zone! Hundreds of scooters zipped past us, literally a gnats breath away, I’m sure my life flashed before my eyes a couple of times, but we made it. And what better to celebrate than to collapse into an absurdly minute plastic garden chair and watch the traffic go by with a cold drink.

Ho Chi Minh Streets

Ho Chi Minh Streets

Shark Boat Restaurant

Shark Boat Restaurant

Sunset Scooters

Sunset Scooters

Scooter Madness - The Busiest Road I have Encountered to Date

Scooter Madness - The Busiest Road I have Encountered to Date

Posted by CarlaTracy 05:41 Archived in Vietnam Tagged food city vietnam scooters ho_chi_minh Comments (0)

Mountain Road - Dalat to Nha Trang

overcast 25 °C

It was very last minute but when we realised that an ‘Easyrider’ trip into the mountains didn’t figure into our budget at $50 for the day, each! We decided to push on from Dalat, even though we would have like to have stayed longer. It was an instantaneous decision that had us turning on our heels in the street and rushing back to pack our bags before checkout.

The lady at reception was being very confusing about the types of buses and bus times and so we decided to go it alone and head to the bus station that we were dropped off at on arrival, at least we knew the buses were more than decent with this company. Unfortunately when we arrived there wasn’t another bus departing for another two hours, so we paid our $10 each or 20,000 Dong and took a seat. I think I have become a master at killing time since I have been away, because the bus arrived at the station in no time.

It wasn’t quite as luxury and modern as the one we got from Ho Chi Minh, but I did have a feeling that it would be a one off. No head pillows this time, but we did receive free water. I was expecting that we would head off along the same route that we arrived in on but that wasn’t the case. It was pretty good actually as we headed into the hills of Dalat and gained unrestricted views of the farmed landscape. There were lines of vegetable patches that stretched onto every available piece of land, to the very edges of the road. The bus hurled up dust and grit onto the white plastic sheeting roofs, that were protecting the delicate cabbages and carrots emerging from the scorched soil. Dalat may have a temperate climate suitable for growing vegetables up there in mountains, but rain obviously hadn’t fallen for a long time.

Dalat to Nha Trang Road

Dalat to Nha Trang Road

Rugged Mountain Roads

Rugged Mountain Roads


As the journey progressed the landscape grew more and more beautiful. Mist was clinging to the dense forest that lined the mountainsides; we really were in the middle of nowhere as the bus made its way along the hairpin bends teetering along the edges of giant cliffs. A little unnerving, were the landslides that had swept great chunks of the road into the valley hundreds of metres below! I must admit that I found the journey a little hair raising for at least an hour or so when we were descending the mountains. We plummeting down a little faster than I would have taken it myself and I was being sucked to the side of my seat on each and every bend. I tried to relax and just admire the scenery which was phenomenal. But it was a long way to the bottom and the driver even stopped the bus for a toilet break at the side of the road, no public conveniences here!

Misty Mountain

Misty Mountain

It seemed like we had been on the road for an eternity, when we finally pulled over, at what could only be described as a shack. There were pigs roaming around and I would have loved the opportunity to explore, but we barely had the time to guzzle down some Pho (soup noodles) before climbing back into the bus for the last hour or so of the journey. The landscapes and tiny rural villages we passed were fascinating, and it was at times like these that I realy wished we were on an Easyrider tour and could just shout “pull over.”

We reached Nha Trang at around 7pm, there was a free shuttle bus waiting to take us to our accommodation, which was kindly organized by the bus company! We chose one of Lonely Planets ‘Top Picks’ but when we arrived it was booked out. A man guided us around the corner into another hotel called ‘Happy House’ which was pretty damn good for only $10 a night, with a tv, aircon, ensuite, the full lot! and very clean too. We threw our bags down before heading out for food. I think this was the first time that I actually felt hungry since the end of Cambodia…so we chose Indian. It was all very delicious, but when I started eating I could barely manage any again! I picked at my naan bread then called it a day. Tomorrow would definitely have to be a day of relaxation, all this travelling so quickly was starting to wear me out.

Posted by CarlaTracy 07:21 Archived in Vietnam Tagged travel bus vietnam central_highlands Comments (0)

(Entries 26 - 30 of 32) « Page 1 2 3 4 5 [6] 7 »