January 15, 2007

Central Vietnam and the Beach

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Wet Weather in Hue
Scenic Hoi An

On Monday the 8th of January we rose at 4:00 AM. We had packed the night before and were ready to leave after a quick breakfast. At that hour of the morning, the taxi made good time to the Hanoi airport. We checked and waiting for our 6:30 flight more than an hour before departure. Less than an hour after lift off, we landed in Hue. Flights on Vietnam Airlines are fairly inexpensive, just $50 to Hue. The bus to Hue is only $8, but the journey in more than twelve hours by bus.
It was raining in Hue. We asked about the weather and the locals said that it would rain all the month of January. We had hardly checked into the hotel before we were looking for a way out of town. The only site we visited was inside the citadel, where the Vietnamese imperial residence was once located. Very little is left of a once vibrant old city. By the middle of the afternoon, we were checking weather forecasts for Hue, Hoi An, Nha Trang, Mui Ne and Ho Chi Minh City. It looked to us that the weather on was not going to be good anywhere for the next couple of days, so we opted to travel more slowly. We booked a trip to Hoi An, a tourist center 100 miles to the south.

On Tuesday we traveled by bus to Hoi An. We passed through Da Nang and passed by the Army airfield that US servicemen first came to in Vietnam. Just across from the airfield is the famous China Beach. We arrived midday. It was not raining but it was overcast and misting. We spent the afternoon exploring the little commercial center. There are resorts just a few kilometers to the east, but the real charm of the place is in this little village. Unfortunately, there are hundreds of foreign tourists roving around its little alley ways. There were so many that they seemed to pollute the atmosphere. It rained a bit in the afternoon. We were figuring out how to get out of the town by then. We were very disappointed to discover that the open tourist buses only depart at night. Not being willing to travel by bus at night we looked for a plane or train to take us away. The plane was booked the next couple of days, so we opted for the train.

On the Beach in Nha Trang

Our train left from the Da Nang train station at 1:15 Wednesday afternoon. We took a taxi to Da Nang. The driver spoke good English and was the son of rice farmers. So we tried to learn as much about rice farming as we could. We also learned about the land redistribution that took place at the end of the American War. The simplistic redistribution was probably popular, but did little to improve agriculture in Vietnam. The train ride lasted 8 Ω hours. The central part of Vietnam is green, green, green. Rice paddies, rivers and small mountains fill the misty horizon as it rained all day. We met a wonderful couple, Antony and Thao. He is English and she is Vietnamese. They met a year ago and were living together for the past year in England. They were back to arrange their marriage and her permanent entry to England. When we arrived in Nha Trang, we shared a taxi to our hotel.

Thursday and Friday were glorious days. Finally we felt the heat of the sun. We felt the humidity of the tropics. The beach is beautiful, clear fine sand that stretches for several miles right through the center of city. We slept late and so we did not find the beach until midday. We languished in the sun and sand, drinking beers and playing cards.
Some advice from Antony convinced us to stay on Friday. It was just as wonderful as the day before. Both nights we visited the Blue Gecko bar where Thao had worked for three years before moving to England. Saigon Beer is good and we drank plenty of it. All in all, Nha Trang turned out to be a very nice city and a place worth returning to, especially since we saw so little of the surrounding countryside - which Antony clearly explained was very beautiful and devoid of the all the western tourist so numerous in the area where we were staying.

Day Trip in Mui Ne
The Fishing Village
On the Beach
With Kites All Aflutter

Video from the Mui Ne Beach

On Saturday we took another open tour bus, run by Sinh Cafe. The bus was excellent and the four-hour ride very comfortable to Mui Ne. The only draw back was that they did not drive along the beach; instead they came in on a road from the north in the center of the beach area. The problem was that we wanted to stay where the there was no sea wall about two or three miles to the west. I got on a moto-taxi on a resort discovery mission. I booked at the second resort I visited. The beach was wonderful. The sky was filled with large colorful kites pulling windsurfers over the waves. We also saw several of the older style windsurfing rigs with a sail attached to the board. With winds at 15 to 20 knots, all the surfers were cruising con gusto over the waves. We found a couple of beach chairs under a palm tree and made the most of the afternoon. A long walk down the beach showed one resort after another.

I rented a motorbike on Sunday. We wanted to explore a bit of the peninsula. There was a canyon to find, the red and white sand dunes and a small fishing village. I think that we found everything except the beautiful white dunes. I now think that they were five kilometers further east than we went. Still it was a great ride. We found the red dunes, nice but not super impressive. The canyon was pretty but not much to see. I loved the fishing village. We also saw a large number of dunes far to the east, but not the impressive ones that we had seen in Antony's photos. Then we made it back to the beach to rest and enjoy the wind, waves and water. Before returning the bike, we rode west until the beach disappeared into a rocks and surf. In the evening we went out for beers and met a lovely couple from Canada, Conrad and Patricia. With no TV, we retired early.

Today, Monday, was our last day in Mui Ne. We changed hotels due to a small dispute with the owners. It seems that they have trouble keeping their word; in fact, they down right lied to me and would not face up to it. And I, despite the nice rooms and great location, I cannot recommend the Heip Hoa resort. We moved next door and are pleased that it costs less than half our previous night's bill. It was not as sunny today, but the beach was still great. The windsurfers and kite boarders were flying through the air. I tried to catch a picture of one twenty feet up, but he was just too far away for a good shot. You will find it among the posted pictures. We both have begun to tan. I love the sun and the heat this time of the year.

Tomorrow we are off to Ho Chi Minh City.

Posted by bill at January 15, 2007 06:52 PM

Happy New Year to both of you ! We love reading your adventures, Betty you look great & seeing you basking in the sun, makes me so happy! We , Jim& Daughters' family, & good friends...9 in all went to bask in the sun @ The Tesoro Resort in Ixtapa Mexico .Got the frost out of our bones..lots of nice people from Minn. there too thawing out !!I will ask Lyette, daghter, to send u the snaps of Jim & I parasailing !!Can u believe it ???Never know what Senior Citizens will do ! Ha!Your trip is an exciting walk through History, the pace & discoveries that you experience are well described..feel there with you..xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Posted by: Lise at January 15, 2007 07:37 AM

dear Betty and Bill, I enjoy very much reading your trip; tanks.
I'm reading with a friend of mine : Magda.
I've been many time in Nha Trang and I love it very much. All my best wishes

Posted by: maria vittoria at January 23, 2007 11:28 AM