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Sunday, July 19, 2015

Good Morning Vietnam! Part 8: Nha Trang! BBQ, Beer, & Mud!

And now, back to Vietnam! :-)
As my few faithful readers know, we recently spent another glorious month in Vietnam, thanks to my winning a trip from Central Coast Vietnam. My previous posts have detailed the fabulous, delicious & adventurous fun we had in the Hoi An area, and in Hue. From Hue we took the Vietnam Railways train all the way down the coast to Nha Trang- a 12 hour train trip!(We're "railfans" so we Love that sort of thing!)
Modern Nha Trang!

We opted for a high-end "soft sleeper", with two berths in a four-berth a/c cabin- but although I did sleep for a few hours, and the bed was nice, with sheets, blanket, and pillow- we spent most of the trip in the Dining Car, watching the beautiful coastal scenery of Vietnam go by as we sipped coffee, drank beer, ate pho, and chatted with other tourists doing the same! We had the two upper berths in our cabin, which are not the easiest things to climb up into, as I forgot to request the two lower berths- MUST remember to do that next time! :-)  We truly love train travel- it enables you to actually enjoy the place where you are traveling WHILE you are traveling, and makes the "getting there" part of the fun!
Waitin' fer a train!
At the Hue Train Station

Dam, ready to ride!

Our train to Nha Trang...

On the way to Nha Trang...

Dining Car fun! Ice Coffee and Tiger Beer!

Elisse, happy in the Dining Car...

The great thing about taking the trains in Vietnam, is that you can sit in the Dining Car, enjoy coffee, beer, or a nice meal, and also enjoy the beauty of Vietnam, the villages and the rice paddies, the changing landscapes and seascapes... PLUS: You can walk around and stretch your legs, have a cig between the cars with your can of beer or cup of coffee, or take a snooze in your berth, stretched out on clean sheets, with a pillow and a blankie! You CANNOT do ANY that if you fly, or if you're on a bus!
You HAVE to enlarge and read this!

On the way to Nha Trang...

On the way to Nha Trang...

Arriving in Nha Trang!

We left Hue in the morning and got to Nha Trang in the evening, taking a taxi to our hotel, the 4-star Muong Thanh Nha Trang Hotel on the beach. The Nam Hai Resort concierges were gracious enough to help us book several hotels throughout Vietnam, and the 4-star hotels they selected for us were only $50 a night, and truly nice. While there are pleasant hotels around Vietnam as cheap as $9 a night, and many in the $24-$30 a night range, 4-star hotels have the things that often make travel more easy and pleasant: they're usually centrally located in good, safe areas, have English speaking desk staff, a/c, WiFi, great beds and crisp, clean bedding, nice pillows, elevators that work, hotel amenities, a bar, a tasty breakfast, and often a pool or a spa- in other words, all the "little things" that make travel that much more pleasant! And if you find you need a Really Good Concierge, to find out about great tours or fab restaurants, you can always pop into a 5-star hotel, like a Sheraton (5-stars are usually over $200 a night), and ask their concierge for help! And that's exactly what we did in Nha Trang! :-) Although this was Dan's 10th time in Vietnam, he hadn't been in Nha Trang since 1970, and BOY had it changed! When he was last in Nha Trang it was basically a sleepy little village- and it is Definitely not a sleepy little village any more!
Modern Nha Trang!
Nha Trang
Nha Trang Beachfront

We walked for miles along the beach down Tran Phu Street (sometimes referred to as the "Pacific Coast Highway" of Vietnam), but finally the heat got to us! So we hailed a cab to the Louisiane Brewhouse a really delightful & chic microbrewery on the beach, with a pool and a restaurant! We had sushi and beer samplers, and got a kick out of watching the Russian tourists, for whom Nha Trang is a major travel destination!

Louisiane Bewhouse, Nha Trang Beach

Dan with his Beer Sampler!

Sushi & a beer sampler! :-)

 We took a cyclo back to the hotel and took silly selfies!
Nha Trang Cyclo Selfie!
Cyclo selfie!
One morning we went to the Po Nagar Tower, an ancient Cham temple tower dating from ca. 781, which is literally now in downtown Nha Trang! The Cham are the ancient people of central and south Vietnam, dating back to the 7th century; in 1832 they were conquered and annexed by Vietnam. The Cham people of modern Vietnam and Cambodia are the survivors of this former kingdom, and they speak Chamic languages, as opposed to (and now in addition to) Vietnamese. The Vietnamese we know who are of Cham heritage are Extremely proud of their ancient lineage, as well they should be. We saw a troupe of graceful dancers performing there, with musicians, and explored the museum, the Hindu statues, and the shrines. The towers have been restored, and the restoration was done very well, so that you can tell what is old and original, and where the restoration starts...

Dancers at the Po Nagar Tower

In the museum
The Po Nagar Champa Tower
Pilgrims can borrow robes...

Nha Trang, from the Po Nagar Tower

Po Nagar Tower, at night

We came back at night to photograph it lit up in the darkness, surrounded by the neon of modern Nha Trang...
Around the corner from the Po Nagar Tower...

It was HOT in Nha Trang- real beach weather! And the beach is Gorgeous! But Dan isn't a "beach guy", so we walked and wandered, and periodically cooled off with Vietnamese ice coffee in the cute and chic 'n trendy cafes along the seaside. On a "mission" to get a charger for our Nexus, we wound up in one of Nha Trang's fancy-shmancy shopping centers, literally a Nha Trang Bloomingdales, full of every fancy designer name you can imagine, and bought one for $10- and got back to the hotel and discovered it was a non-working dud. LOL

Nha Trang's Bloomies!

We had an excellent dinner in Nha Trang at  Lac Canh  (44 Nguyen Binh Kiem- cash only!), which we'd seen written up in the National Geographic Traveler guide book (and online) as a not-to-miss place that's been a Nha Trang foodie destination since 1975! Lac Canh’s barbecued beef, marinated in a secret family recipe of honey and over 10 spices, is now actually protected by Vietnam's National Office of Intellectual Property, and it's listed on the "best of Vietnam" website  as one of the top 5 specialties of Nha Trang!
An informal, outdoor patio restaurant, bustling with locals and a few "in the know" tourists, the fun of Lac Canh is that you grill your own food- meats, seafood, veggies- on a small charcoal brazier at your table! Their "secret spice" marinated meats and seafood were SO good that we ordered more and more, so we could try things- like eel- that we'd always wanted to taste! We had a nice, cold bottle of Dalat white wine with our dinner, which they put in a wine-cooler by our table, too! Highly recommended!

We popped into the Nha Trang Sheraton to ask their VERY nice concierge about tours for our last day in Nha Trang, and the most interesting choices were snorkeling or the famous Nha Trang mud baths and hot springs! (There was a Great sounding night squid fishing tour we really wanted to do, but we needed 5 people to do it, and we were only two! Next time!) While I love snorkeling, and the islands off Nha Trang are THE place to it, it's not Dan's favorite thing to do... so since I love mud spas, too, (and have previously managed to get Dan into the mud in both Israel at the Dead Sea, and the mud volcano in Cartagena, Columbia), we opted to spend a rather luxurious day at the i-resort Nha Trang. We had a car and driver to take us round trip, and a private little villa, with our very own mud bath! The mud bath was Delicious- like chocolate soup!- and it immediately stopped all the skin irritations (I have Psoriasis) that I'd been experiencing! You actually float in the mud- but it isn't salty like the Dead Sea, and I have no idea what creates that kind of buoyancy! I loved it so much that before we left I bought two jars of the mud powder to take home- and I've been using it ever since! After our mud bath and showers, we had our massages, and enjoyed our private hot spring pools and the waterfall overlooking the mountains- the view was truly enchanting. We had lunch on the patio of our little villa, and I laid out by the pool for a bit... and all too soon it was time to leave...

Floating in the mud- like the Dead Sea!

Our private pool!

The view from our waterfall!

Lunch on our balcony...

Our last evening in Nha Trang we wound up back at the Louisiane Brewhouse, had G&Ts and chili crabs! (I couldn't leave the coast without enjoying chili crabs!) We sat by the pool, enjoying the live music- in English and Russian! :-)

Chili Crabs!

Nha Trang at dusk...

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