Hello from Vietnam's premier beach resort, Nha Trang. I've had a fantastic couple of days here but we are about to leave on our second night train, bound for the quaint town of Hoi An. I am not looking forward to disembarking the train in Danang at 4.30am, and then having to get a one hour bus south to Hoi An, but thats the plan. Judging by our first overnight train from Saigon to here, the journey will be pretty comfortable - its just the early starts that kill. We all got 4 bed cabins, and they were equipped with TVs showing promotional videos, free water, air con (which was too cold) and bedsheets. It was a lot cushier than I'd expected - they even had a very clean western style toilet. The train was also smooth running and quiet, and I got a good night's sleep up until 4.45am when the wake up announcements began! At least when we arrived at the hotel at 6am we were able to go straight to bed for a few hours.
I was glad to escape Ho Chi Minh city. I spent my final afternoon there attempting to shop for some shorts, which turned into a very stressful experience. I was too tired after the homestay to deal with the harrassment from the market stall holders, and I soon lost patience with the people in western styles shops who followed you round whilst you browsed. Needless to say I returned without any shorts and in a bad mood. I found the people in Ho Chi Minh City pretty rude in general, though they are nicer out here in Nha Trang. Even the waitresses seemed to treat you badly in Saigon, and I twice had money snatched out of my hand (money I owed) which I found very rude. The Vietnamese really are ruthless money makers, and our Cambodian guide warned us to be careful.
The weather was disappointingly cloudy on our first day here, and an evening storm the previous night had dredged up all the silt and debris from the sea, turning it a dark brown colour and covering the beach in tree branches. It wasn't the appealing sight we'd seen on the broshures, but at least it was pretty clean in comparison to Sihanoukville. The town is vastly becoming overdevloped with a series of hotels and resorts under construction (our hotel being one of them!). A significant amount of the investors are Russian interestingly, and a lot of bars are Australian owned.
In the afternoon we visited a small temple overlooking the harbour, and then carried up into the hills to visit a spa. I had my first ever mud bath, which was a bit of fun, and we also got mineral hydrotherapy treatments in hot tubs and cold showers, as well as full body massages. I must say I find the whole spa thing (and mud baths in particular) a bit of gimmick, but for all that we paid just 10 pound and I had a very enjoyable and relaxed afternoon. I don't think its made the slightest difference to my skin though, but that wasn't why I went!
This morning the weather was much improved, with clear blue skies and temperatures of around 30C. We took advantage of this by taking a boat trip from Nha Trang port - a similar style trip to the one I took in Cambodia. Our first stop was a brilliantly quaint and authentic fishing village. It was totally unspoiled by tourism, which is unusual for the places I've been visiting, and I got some stunning photo's of the picturesque harbour. With the sky clear it unveiled all the beautiful lush mountains behind Nha Trang, and with the sea a lot bluer, it looked a lot more like paradise. The village was the highlight of the day for me. We were guided through it on a walking tour, and all the locals were happy to greet us. We watched some cockerills being trained to fight (the Vietnamese do this without adding knives to their backs like the Thais), and also met the village's oldest woman, who was 95. At the other end of our walk we were met by a bunch of women in coracle style boats who ferried us across the beautiful harbour to our boat. I had a go at rowing but unsurprisingly only succeeded in taking us in circles rather than forward!
After this we were taken to a snorkelling spot, where yet again the water was too murky to see anything. We did have a nice swim in the ocean though, and I had a lot of fun jumping off the top of our boat. It was at this spot we had lunch, where yet again I was subjected to having to use chopsticks. Chopsticks aren't used in Thailand, and aren't that widespread in Cambodia, but Vietnam is very Chinese influenced, so they are everywhere here. You won't be surprised to learn that I am totally useless with them. I cannot get the intricate grip right at all, and though I can pick up food in my own way, I look embarrassingly retarded when doing so. The Aussies and North Americans are all experts because they use them in Chinese restaurants at home, but you never see them in Britain! Our Vietnam guide seems to take us to places the locals eat, so it looks like I'll have to live with them, but I really do think they are a stone age invention! I can't believe that back in colonial times the knife and fork did not sweep across this nation like the invention of the wheel, but it seems the Vietnamese are happy to struggle picking up rice, and happy to have to stuff huge pieces of meat in their mouth because they can't chop it up! I look forward to Laos, where apparently the locals eat with their hands, and the tourists with a knife and fork!
We spent the afternoon on a rocky beach laying on deckchairs under umberrellas to keep out of the heat. Our boat had two masseurs on board, so I wasted some of the afternoon having another full body tiger balm massage, but the rest of the time I was pretty bored! We left for the short journey back at 3pm. It is now 4.50 and we're about to go and eat before our train. My 2 days here have been really enjoyable but I'm not sure there's much else to see, and so I look forward to Hoi An - our guide's favourite destination.