Sunday, June 20, 2010

Back From Travels

Just returned from travels- have visited many areas along the coast from Saigon to Tuy Hoa. Travel in Vietnam is much different than the States- maximum speeds here are less than 100km/h (~60mph) and are often significantly slower.  However, the countryside is lush, colorful and varied (mountains, beaches, plains) so traveling long distances can be enjoyable even with the longer drive times.

On the trip, we stopped in several small beach towns as well as a couple of very developed cities;  Nha Trang was one the large ones.  Nha Trang is the supposed dive capital of Vietnam.  Although I did not dive while there, I did see many dive shops around and the rates were very reasonable (around 40 US dollars for 2 dives and gear rental).  It is definitely a tourist city and Westerners can find all the things they are accustomed to there.  The city itself is beautiful and has many things to do: scuba and snorkel (most popular), take the cable car to Vinpearl island, take a boat cruise of the different islands in Nha Trang bay, take a several hour long mudbath at Thap Ba hotsprings, sample the various local dishes including the seafood and the locally favorite dish Bún cá ("bun ca" means "noodle fish") which is a fish noodle soup first created in Nha Trang.

However, I preferred the smaller cites and found the relative seclusion to be much more relaxing.  One small beach town that I enjoyed had an island about 12km from the shore.  We hired fisherman to take a group of ten of us out to the island and back for 40usd total.  The trip took quite a while (2hr out to island and 1hr15min return as the fishing boats here are not very fast in the ocean) but it was cool to be on an all wooden boat in the ocean.  The fisherman told us that the boats are made using wood planks secured by wooden screws and nails and are made completely watertight using a coating mixture of oil and nail polish.  The boats are produced locally in the small town and can cost a small fortune for Vietnamese people (large boats for 30,000usd to smaller ones priced at 7,000-10,000usd; small boat we took shown below. Note the mountians at very top of picture is mainland).  The life for the fishermen can be difficult and unpredictable; one day they can catch 100kg of fish and the next day they may only catch 3kg. However, like many of the Vietnamese people I have met here, the fishermen and their families were very friendly and jovial people.  Spending the day on the boat and on the island eating in a makeshift house with them was memorable and fun.

Old Style Traditional Vietnamese Fishing Boat

The remote beach town I enjoyed the most had a small hotel on a private beach where I was the only guest.  The beach had pure white sand and clear water (visibility was over 10 feet).   I enjoyed a few beers under a large thatched umbrella while looking on at a large island 5km from the shore. It was spectacularly beautiful and cost only 15 USD per night (see picture below).  I will definitely return; hopefully soon!

Private White Sand Beach in Vietnam Overlooking Island

The natural beauty of this country is amazing.  I can not wait to see more of it!  Coming soon: diving on remote islands - stay tuned!

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