Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Cultural Nha Trang


It's very touristy, with an oddly large number of Russian families are there, and you're guaranteed to be scammed at least once!

These are all things we were told to expect from the coastal town of Nha Trang in Vietnam. Each one of these warm fuzzy predictions came true. However, despite these shortcomings we actually really enjoyed our stay in Nha Trang.


Perhaps its something to do with having spent so long in a dusty car driving through a desert in the early part of our trip, but landing in a beautiful tropical beachside town full of bars, clubs and restaurants without much in the way of a "cultural experience" was actually rather welcoming.


We arrived early in the morning after another bus, this time down from Hoi An, and set off in search of a hostel. Deciding to part ways with the backpacker crowd we had spent time with over the last few days we checked into a little flashpacker place called LeSimoLe Boutique Apartments.


This obviously sounds as though we had given up on roughing it, but we had different motives to our sudden departure from the hostels and late night drinking.

We remembered that we aren't backpacking!

That might sound a little daft, but we started this mad trip back in London with the sole objective of covering 22 countries in about 4 months. It just isn't possible to cover so many miles if we are to stick to the crowd of boys and girls in their early 20s who have designated almost 6 weeks to each country.



Obviously it can be a little disheartening knowing you'll inevitably have to miss out on much of the fantastic places other people are going to, but that is their adventure. This is ours.

With that in mind, we found ourselves a new place to stay, just Jess and myself... it just happened that this place was a rather nice flash packer place with an en-suite bathroom and kitchen. What can you do!


Once we got settle in we decided to take a look around the town of Nha Trang, and maybe treat ourselves to a little beachside breakfast.

It was a little odd to suddenly start seeing signs outside shops in the Cyrillic script (there really are a large number of Russian tourists), but it makes just as much sense to cater to Romanov as it does to Robert. Remember, we had been through Russia twice in the last two months, and they really aren't as scary as you might expect. It also was quite novel asking for the price of things in the little Russian we had been able to pick up during our time there.


After breakfast was polished off, we walked back to the hostel but found a guy selling hair cuts on the street corner. Now, I hadn't had my head trimmed down to presentable levels since Ulaanbaatar so I took the opportunity to get myself looking normal again.

Trimming a guys hair with clippers doesn't take a genius but once he started to clean up the loose hairs on my forehead, ears and nose using a barber's razor I realised I was getting something a little unique. The guy was fantastic, I had never looked cleaner!


Afterwards, with the sunshine still not quite ready to poke its head out from behind the clouds we decided to treat ourselves to one of Nha Trangs local mud baths. We grabbed a quick cab up the hill, overlooking the incredibly green coastline and tropical estuary, towards the Thap Ba Hot Springs.







Once there we paid our money (noting from the receipt that the breakfast restaurant had scammed us out of about 100,000 dong) and quickly got ourselves chin deep into a wooden bathtub of sticky running mud. We opted for the shared bathtub option, which allowed me to take pictures of Jess and for Jess to dunk my head completely underneath the muddy water.


After 20 minutes you get out, let it bake for a while, before finally washing off all off to reveal your now beautifully exfoliated skin. Well my skin still seemed as lacking as ever, but Jess as aways seemed to be glowing. After all the hard work they finally let you jump between wallowing in the hot pools and lazily swimming in the cooler baths. After a couple of hours we were finally feeling nice and refreshed and decided to head back down to the city to grab ourselves a little street food.










The taxi driver just couldn't fathom why a couple of white tourists wanted to be dropped off on the small streets next to the grubby street food vendors, but you quickly find that it is the only place to find the best food in town.




However, after a sleepless night on the bus, then all that hot water wallowing, topped off with a belly full of miscellaneous meat, we headed back to our flash packer hotel for an early night and let the youngsters party.




We woke up and decided to head to a 1000 year old Buddhist temple. We rented ourselves a scooter and rode up ourselves. Po Nagar temple was founded sometime before 781 AD, and looks like something out of the Junglebook! Built out of beautiful red clay it stands at the top of a hill surrounded by tropical palms and ferns. There are three main buildings each of various sizes, each for pray and/or meditation, and all have beautifully decorated alters and buddha statues inside.



Certainly worth a trip up the hill to take a walk around, but if you do make sure to wear longer shorts than hot pants, otherwise they wont let you into any of the buildings, much to Jess' dismay.



Culturally exhausted from a place we were told wouldn't have any cultural experiences, we headed back to the beach for a cocktail and a dip in the pool. There we stayed, wallowing, drinking and eating, until finally we had to make our way back to the hostel to pick up our bags and jump onto a bus heading to Saigon!

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