So we got to Mui Ne and realised there isn't really that much there! The whole place has been built there for the beach, but to be honest we weren't that impressed with the beach! We'd found a great little hotel run by a family with a lovey garden which we ate breakfast in every morning though, and had a very nice swim in a pool located next to the beach at another hotel.
We decided there wasn't much reason to stay any longer, so after 3 nights we caught another bus to Nha Trang (a sleeper!). The boys always travel really well on the long bus trips (they're used to it!), and Ash and I love watching the scenery go by.
The strongest impressions I had were of mangos, lotus flowers and cows. The landscape was surprisingly arid, I suppose I had the impression of Vietnam as being covered in jungle, but it actually has an amazing range of landscapes, like Australia. The people had turned the arid landscape into hay and rice fields, we saw farmers harvesting hay by hand/pitch fork and throwing the hay onto wooden carts pulled by oxen. For a country that's moving ahead so quickly in so many ways there are some things that are still so very traditional!
And wow, what a first impression Nha Trang made. Ash and I are very big on the feel of a place, it's amazing how you can like, or not like, a place for no other reason than the feel (or vibe!) of a place. We really liked Nha Trang straight away. Once we checked into the hotel we wandered around, as we do when we first get to a place, and checked out the beach. Beautiful!
Nha Trang is big enough to have everything some wandering tourists could need, like stacks of restaurants and an unbelievably number of coffee houses (coffee is very important to the Vietnamese and Vietnamese coffee is great, especially iced with condensed milk, awesome.....). So we set about settling into our new place, balancing some wandering around exploring with school work, and trying to avoid the very hot humid weather. I'd see some clouds building up on the horizon some days and start hoping that a storm would come and cool everything down. So far, that has happened very rarely unfortunately, it's not the wet season yet! But a trade-off for the hot days is the lovely evenings, all the locals hang around outside from about 5pm onwards, when the sun loses it's strength. It's still very warm but pleasant, a great time to wander around.
Most of the hotels that we've been staying in don't have pools, so with the hot weather Ash and I try to work out ways to get a swim or two in somewhere. Luckily, there's a place in Nha Trang called the Louisanna Brewhouse, on the beach, where if you rent two sunbeds (for 40 000 Dong, or AUS$2) for the day, you can swim in their pool AND swim in the beach. Awesome! So we spent a day down there and it was lovely, the ocean water was just the right temperature, and when we wanted to get away from the sand we'd hop in the pool. Only problem was that apart from the umbrella over the sunbeds, there was no shelter, so despite reapplying sunscreen we all got burnt a bit. I'm happy to say this was the first time the boys have been sunburnt, and now they know what it feels like so we don't want to repeat the experience!
Cameron turned 6 early May, so the day before I was out exploring the local area for a toy store. One of the great things about Nha Trang is that it hasn't yet succumbed to the massive department store theme unlike many of it's Asian counterparts, but it would have made things a lot easier when looking for a pressie and cake! After much wandering around and asking I managed to find a LEGO (or cheap Chinese rip off) train which Cameron loved, plus an icecream cake (thanks Baskin Robbins!).
A couple of days later, Ash woke up early in the morning with stomach cramps, which quickly degenerated into constant pain and extremely frequents trips to the bathroom. When a fever turned up the next day we decided it was time for some extra help. We visited a local hospital and after many ultrasounds and blood tests Ash was diagnosed with acute gastroenteritis and placed on antibiotics and a drip. He stayed for a couple of days but then wanted out because he'd had enough of the whole hospital thing! It took a week but he's much better now, thank goodness, and back to normal.
While we were waiting for Ash to recover, we spent a bit of time at the Lanterns restaurant nearby, where Cameron worked his charm and ended up behind the bar making fruit juices!
The boys and I headed down to the beach for a swim at about 5pm (wanting to avoid being burnt again!), and found the water full of locals that head down after work/school every day. People were swimming around fully clothed, maybe as an impromptu swim, or maybe because the Vietnamese are actually quite modest, you don't see a Vietnamese lady swimming in a bikini that's for sure! The ladies here cover themselves up completely while getting around, despite the heat, in long sleeved jackets and pants to preserve their skin and not go brown. I don't know how they do it! The boys and I were the only Westerners there, which always warrants a few stares.
Once Ash got better, we visited the Long Sun Pagoda, a 19th century pagoda that still has monks living there. We watched part of a sermon, then wandered up the stairs to the giant seated Buddha.
We ended up staying in Nha Trang for 10 days, but decided to keep moving on and check out Danang, which is basically the gateway to Hoi An. The last time we came to Vietnam (11 years ago!), we didn't stay in Danang but passed straight through to Hoi An, so we thought we'd check Danang out a bit this time. Because the distance from Nha Trang to Danang is huge, we decided to take the sleeper train which would take about 12 hours. Another adventure! Cameron's first sleeper train which he was super excited about. Unfortunately, there were no "soft sleepers" left (better mattresses and only four per cabin), so we went for the "hard sleepers" instead, which, as you can tell by the name, had harder mattresses and six beds to a cabin. Luckily, we ended up sharing with a couple of nice Vietnamese ladies that didn't speak any English. Ash and I didn't get much sleep (perhaps due to the announcements over the loud speakers whenever the train stopped), but the boys slept and had lots of fun. We had a little bit of time before reaching Danang to look at the countryside, rice paddies with people actually ploughing using an ox!
It turns out that there wasn't too much to see in Danang, although there was a great beach and some impressive bridges (one particular bridge was the shape of a huge yellow dragon which was very cool). We only stayed a couple of nights, then caught the local bus to Hoi An, which is about 30 minutes away. And that, ladies and gentlemen, will be the topic for our next post!