Flying kites and slippery slides
03.07.2012 - 10.07.2012 35 °C
Leaving Ho Chi Minh on a sleeper bus for the 6 hours or so up to Mui Ne, it was the same type that we had in China, with rows of forward facing seats come beds. We had booked our bus ticket as an open ended ticket all the way to Hanoi, so we just booked a bus as we wanted. We drove along the coast prior to arriving in Mui Ne and my first thoughts were, I hope I can do some kiteboarding.
Tan and I had booked a hotel that we saw online at a good price which also had a roof top pool. A little bit of luxury is always welcome when it only costs a dollar or two more. Mateo and Tuli booked themselves into a guesthouse near the beach a few places down from us. We all met up on the beach after getting checked in and as I had read, there are lots of kiting places along the beach but there wasn’t a single kite out on the beach given it is not the right season, and the midday wind was pitiful. I spoke to an English bloke who ran one of the schools and he said that as it was offseason, the wind is very unreliable and without the wind we can’t do anything. The best thing he could do was take a contact number for me and if the conditions are good the following day he will let me know. Ever since seeing the kiteboarders in Mancora in Peru I wanted to learn while on this trip as it would be cheaper than doing it back in Perth, but given the prognosis, I basically resigned myself to missing out.
For the afternoon we hired our favourite form of transport and rode to the outskirts of the city where there were some sand dunes to see. Tanya and I were hoping it would be something like we saw at Ica in Peru. The ride out was really nice as the road stuck close to the coast. When we got out to the dunes, they were not quite as impressive as we hoped, and it looked like they were being mined with big pits dug into them. We did find a spot that was not impacted from the activities and waited for the sun to set, but there were some ominous clouds to the west which obscured any colour in the sky.
On the way back into town, we stopped at some basic looking food places that served fresh seafood. It turned out to be a great move, as the seafood was fresh, big, tasty and best of all, dirt cheap! Normally it’s pretty difficult to get completely full on seafood given it usually comes in small quantities, but Tuli, Mateo and I shared a huge spread of seafood including scallops, clams, mussels, squid, prawns and cuttlefish that set us back a mere $7.50 each. The same spread in Europe or Australia would have easily broke $25 each! The heavens opened just in time for our ride back to the hotel and by the time we get there we may have well swam back we were like drowned rats.
In the morning, I looked out the window of the hotel and there looked to be a bit of movement in the trees below, but I hadn’t heard anything from the kite school. Just as we were about to head out the door, a message came though that said it looks like we were on. Down at the beach, the bloke said that I must be the good luck charm as there hadn’t been any good wind for a week. I started off on the small learner kite that gets you used to flying the kite and holding it in position. The wind was not really strong but it was clean and cross onshore being perfect for learning. I went through the kite setup on the big kites and then got harnessed up to start flying the proper kites. I mastered the big kite on the beach which requires a balance between the power and steering to hold the kite in place with the gusting wind. Just as we went to get ready for moving into the water and body dragging, there was a noticeable drop in the wind and it changed direction as a big black storm cloud rolled over the horizon. That brought my afternoon of kiting to an end, but it certainly won’t be the last time as I will definitely finish off learning in Australia and add a kite and board to my shopping list for once I am employed again :-)
It was time for another BBQ seafood feast (except Tanya with her allergy to seafood) at a nice restaurant near our hotel and the following morning Tan and I enjoyed the benefits of having a pool in the hotel before we got our bus North to Nha Trang
Getting into Nha Trang in the early evening we found a local guesthouse for our few days in town. We booked a tour visiting the Islands off the coast for the morning and went out for our third seafood banquet in as many days. This time even including some really good oysters along with everything else.
We were picked up from our guesthouse in the morning and arriving at the crazy boat port we had a funny feeling that this island tour was not going to be like we expected. There were countless amounts of boats all being filled up with big tour groups. We sat on the front row of our boat as it filled up and then the boat cranked its music to maximum volume and our guide for the day started to do a bit of a strip show on the bow of the boat!
Boatloads of waiting tourists
Our guides slightly disturbing pre-trip show.
With a full complement of passengers we pulled out from the docks but over half of the boat were Vietnamese on their weekend vacations. We got the usual speak about what we were going to do and all that before we arrived at the first island. We went for a swim to start off with. The boat had snorkels and masks but they were pretty average and the coral was less than impressive. For the next three hours we sat in the same spot first having our lunch, then joining up with 3 other boats to make a floating bar followed by singing, dancing and partying. From what we can gather this is what the Vietnamese like to do on their excursions as everyone from all 3 boats were really getting into it and having a great time. We are always up for a good time, but we had paid to come and see some islands and so far we had seen jack!
We all had to get up and sing a song from our different countries, Mateo was a crowd pleaser.
The floating barman who was also the drummer in the band
We finally moved onto the second island where we got off the boat and paid our $1 entry fee for a crowded little strip of sandy beach. We escaped that pretty quickly to have a walk up the hill above the beach.
We soon moved on while all the local tourists were enjoying their parasailing which had a very dodgy looking takeoff procedure from the beach above all the people swimming. The final island had an aquarium that the Lonely Planet said was alright, so we went in to see. It was ok, but i think you see better coral and fish just by going snorkelling down in Thailand and Indonesia than in the tanks here. We were soon back on the boat heading to the docks at the end of the days excursion feeling like we had seen very little of the islands that we wanted to see and much more Vietnamese partying. Ohh well, it was pretty funny at times!
We got ready to go out for some dinner when we got back and Mateo and Tuli discovered that someone had stolen some money from their bags during the day. It was clearly the cleaner and she had been smart about it as she only took 1 million dong and $10US ($60 equivalent all up) obviously hoping that they wouldn’t realise the money was missing until a few days time once they left Nha Trang. We didn’t get much help from the hotel or police when we confronted them so left it for the time being.
That morning Valentina (who we spent time with in Cambodia and Laos) had arrived into town so we had organised that the 5 or us would go to the water and amusement park over at Vinpearl Island. The idea of a water park in Vietnam sounds like it might be a little lame, but I had some friends tell me that it was actually a good day out. The ticket was US$25 each but that included the cable car ride over to the island and everything except food. We got to the line for the cable car at around 10:30, just half an hour after opening time. There was a pretty long line which didn’t bode well for the rides over on the island but it moved quickly enough.
See the excitement in our faces for a day at a water park!!
It turned out to be a really fun day as we all enjoyed being able to be big kids again. The water slides were actually pretty impressive, and for all of the morning it was really quiet and we never had to wait in line for a slide. We really enjoyed one of the slides where we went down in a big tube that sat all 5 of us going pretty fast, flinging us high up on the walls of the big slide. We had a break at lunch and rested on the beach before having a final blast through the water park in the afternoon before it shut around 5pm.
The Tsunami Slide was also a favourite for the day with single, double and triple tubes allowed
After leaving the water park we dried off while waiting in line for the toboggan. Certainly a lot of the Vietnamese tourists preferred the dry rides over the water rides as we experienced the pushing and shoving of the Asian queuing system. The ride was really fun though once we got on it. We had a go on most of the other rides as it got dark then we called it a day and got the cable car back over to the mainland for dinner.
The following morning we hired some more motorbikes and headed about 50kms out of town to a waterfall. We had hired 3 bikes between the 5 of us, but given Valentina was riding a bike for the first time, the crowded city streets were not the ideal place to learn. A slight fall later and we returned one of the bikes and headed out to the waterfalls Asian style with 3 on one bike and 2 on the other. The drive took us on some nice stretch of road by the coast before getting onto the craziness of the highway.
Our rather inappropriate USA helmets
At the waterfall we walked up the rocks until we got to one of the many swimming spots in the river for a refreshing swim in the cool river water. We stayed there for a couple of hours swimming and exploring before heading back to the city. On the ride back we stopped in at a very small fishing village to try to find somewhere to eat. As it was not touristy at all we had to look pretty hard but finally found some traditional rice porridge bowls and roadside noodles.
An interesting climb up the river
Tuli’s meditation is so good that she can float on top of water
We had another good meal this time at a Japanese sushi place before a rather late night with beers, pool and dancing.
The girls mean business when they get their pool gloves on.
In the morning we had a problem checking out of the hotel regarding the stolen money and trying to overcharge us for our rooms on top of it all. We left and the guy at the hotel then told us that he was going to phone the bus company and get them to steal our laptops from the bus that night!!! Needless to say that we all left bad reviews for this hotel on trip advisor!! If you are in Nha Trang, do yourself a favour and don’t stay at Thien Thanh Blue Sky Hotel.
Daniel – In months of travel where you go between temples, ruins, cities and hikes it was really good to just be able to go and have fun at Vinpearl and not worry about having to get out and see another sight! A fun few days with our little group of 5 amigos. Oh and the seafood... A-MAZ-ING
Tanya – Mot, hai, ba, YO! Well we learned one thing that we will take away from the ‘island’ tour – just say ‘1, 2, 3, cheers’ in Vietnamese and the locals will 'love you long time’.