It’s been awhile since a good update, so here’s my attempt to fill you in on what I’ve been up to the past little while.
Hoi An was a tricky place for Braydon and I. We had heard fabulous things about it. It was cited as many people’s favourite place in Vietnam. Beautiful beaches. Fascinating markets. We had high hopes.
Then we got stuck in Hue while the typhoon hit–you guess it–right on the coast where Hoi An sits. We ended up rolling into Hoi An on the bus the day after the typhoon hit, and it was definitely an interesting experience. Upon first impression, I saw Hoi An as a beautiful city having a hell of a rough day. Walking from the bus stop to our hostel we walked around tress thrown down by wind, ducked under power lines swinging over head, and tip-toed around piles of debris already swept up for removal. I have to say, they were extremely punctual in cleaning up after the storm. We spent two days in Hoi An exploring, however met with some difficulty as many areas were either closed or simply impassable due to fallen trees and debris.
It was an interesting city to explore, though it didn’t capture me the way I was expecting it to. We did visit a small pagoda, which was an incredible space of calm and peace amidst a city torn down by nature.
We did have one absolutely phenomenal meal while in Hoi An, at a little spot called Bale Well Restaurant. Braydon had read about it, so while wandering we made sure to find it. When we did, it was a little spot in a back alley with the traditional plain tables and plastic chairs sitting on the street that becomes normal quickly when visiting Vietnam. We sat down and with a minute a woman had come and placed plates filled with rice paper, spring rolls, a pile of skewers of meat, greens, and dishes with sauces in them. She then proceeded to demonstrate how to fill the rice paper: first with greens, then a spring roll, followed by one of the pieces of meat off a skewer. She then instructed me to dip it and take a bite (I gladly obliged). It was absolutely delicious.
After a few minutes of Braydon and I making our own rolls she came by with a type of egg/pancake with shrimp in it, and repeated the demonstration of how to add this to our rolls. We ate and ate until we were absolutely stuffed. But apparently, according to our hostess, we hadn’t eaten enough. She came by and picked up one of the meat skewers and said “Very good” to which I nodded. She proceeded to put the skewer in my hand, unwrap the piece of pork and push the piece to my mouth… and then into my mouth. Yep, I was quite literally force-fed by a Vietnamese woman. One of the highlights of Vietnam so far for me.
We had heard one comment repeatedly about Nha Trang by fellow backpackers: It’s full of Russians. Ok, we figured, there’s a few more Russian tourists there than elsewhere. Nope, saying it is full of Russians is not an exaggeration. Most menus were in Russian, English, and Vietnamese (sometimes there wasn’t even Vietnamese)–in that order. There were signs for restaurants and other places that were entirely in Russian. Upon talking to a few people in Nha Trang, we discovered that there is a direct flight that runs from somewhere in Russia into Nha Trang, and it is what Mexico is to people in Canada. WIth several resorts and tourist attractions, it’s full of the one- or two-week vacation crowd.
That said, Nha Trang has been one of my favourite spots in Vietnam so far. Yes it was full of tourist traps, it was a bit over-priced, and the beach wasn’t fine white sand, but it was a cool city. We wound up spending 4 days there because we enjoyed it so much. We spent a day just lounging on the beach and soaking in the hot sun, which we were both craving. We had a little acrobatic fun on the beach as well (can you tell I love being upside down?)
While in Nha Trang we also walked up to a pagoda and to see the Great Seated Buddha. Even though it was a couple kilometre hike from our hotel, we enjoyed the walk and had a chance to leave the tourist-soaked section of the city and see the local business area. We wound up a little back street with a steep incline, and found ourselves in the middle of the path that lead up to the Buddha. The Buddha itself was a sight to be seen, a stark white and massive.
While there we also saw another beautiful Buddha.
Visiting the Great Seated Buddha, hanging out at the beach, and soaking in the wild night life of Nha Trang pretty much sums up our days there. I enjoyed the city, not a place to spend a lot of time, but I would recommend spending at least a couple of days to see the sights.
Up next: moving south again, Dalat and Mui Ne.