Thursday, 13 December 2012

Drinking in Hoi An & Swimming in Nha Trang

We'd bought tickets in Hue for the open sleeper bus which would take us all the way down the country to Ho Chi Minh City, with five stops on the way and cost about £25. It's a popular way for backpackers to travel, the buses are largely used by Westerners and are pretty comfortable, with individual lay-back seats. The bus from Hue to Hoi An arrived late in the afternoon, and once we'd checked into a new hotel for $4 each a night, we wandered off into the old town to find some food, and were joined by an Italian named Stefano. 

The open sleeper bus to Hoi An.
Hoi An is famous for its mix of old architecture, it used to serve as an important trading port and has been influenced by a number of cultures and civilisations. Today the main influence seems to be tourism, the gentle streets and quaint old buildings now largely cater for outsiders, selling a wide range of clothes, with good value tailors on every street and a load of restaurants to eat at. The main focus of the town seemed to be the Thu Bon River, which was beautifully lit by lanterns, and local people did their best to flog us bracelets or paintings or floating lanterns to set off down the river.

Shops line every street in the old town, and is a great place for cheap clothes.
Paper lanters float along the river in the centre of Hoi An.

The Thu Bon River.
After dinner we decided to go for a few drinks. We could hear the heavy beat of dance music blasting out from across the river, and promotion staff were handing out flyers for bars as we wandered in that direction. We shot a few frames of pool in a quiet bar before finding the town's hot spot. We opted for the bucket cocktails each and that's always the turning point in a night. We sat at the tables outside chatting to a mix of people, before the crowd started to die and we walked for ten minutes across town to a bar which stays open until the early hours, the Why Not Bar. The neighbourhood on the way was ghostly quiet, but we could hear the distant rabble of conversation as we approached, and as we turned the corner we saw a pool of patrons who had gathered on the pavement as if they had been vomited there by the doors of the bar. Drinks were strong and cheap, we danced on the pool table and chatted to various groups throughout the night. I didn't see it with my own eyes, by the talk of the crowd by the end of the night was the machete wielding man chasing some American around. No doubt he deserved it. We stayed until the last of the late night drinkers were stumbling about, and sang our way home through the quiet quaint streets, like the obnoxious Westerners we are.

Myself, a disinterested Alex, Italian Stefano who only made a brief appearance, and Lars.
Drunk, dancing on the pool table, and I have no idea who she is.
I woke up pretty hungover, and decided to have a quiet day and try and catch up with some editing and perhaps write a blog, which I never got around to. I had a little walk around town but did nothing of note. That evening we decided to have a quiet one, and I took my tripod along to dinner to try and capture the pretty lights and lanterns that adorn both sides of the river. The lanterns weren't switched on when we arrived, so we decided to have dinner and wait for them to shine. Halfway through dinner the town was plunged into a power cut, and even when electricity did come back, the lanterns were never lit. I managed to get a couple of photos, but I was disappointed it looked nothing like the night before, which had been a carnival of lights. We were just about to head back to the hotel for our promised early night, when we bumped into the American girls we had met on the trip in Hue. Of course we went for a drink, and lads being lads, we had the strong buckets of rum again, and as always this is the point of no return in an evening. I'd soon forgotten I'd been tired and a few hours later I was dancing on the pool table in the same bar we had been the night before. So much for good intentions. The night followed a similar pattern to the previous soiree, except there were no mentions of machetes. We walked home as the rats scurried along gutters and crawled through piles of pungent rubbish, and I didn't get my head on my pillow until 6am.

A Catholic church close to our hotel.

Down near the river, locals sell lanterns and the old Japanese bridge in red on the right.
Palms on the pavement, looking across to the other side of the river.
Boats and bicycles, all very quaint.
Alex and Lars, laughing at videos of animals on YouTube.
Myself, Alex, Lars, Liv and Abby.
The following day I didn't feel like doing too much once again, and had a second failed attempt at catching up with this blog. All I seemed to do in Hoi An was take a few photos and get pissed, but there didn't seem to be an awful lot to do other than explore the shops which hold little interest for me, but it was impossible not to be impressed by the town's charms. It would be a nice place to visit as a couple. That evening Alex and I took the night bus headed for Nha Trang. We were joined by Liv and Abby, the two American girls, and the four of us ended up on the back seat of the bus, a shared five bed berth, where we watched a movie on a laptop. Lars had to take a different bus, as he didn't have the same ticket we did, but we planned to meet up once we arrived at our destination. A few hours into the journey the final back seat berth was taken by a middle aged Vietnamese woman, and she spooned me all night as I failed to properly sleep on the incredibly bumpy back seat. A few times I was close to slipping into dreams, when we were tossed in the air and awoken with a thud of my arse on leather, as the bus went over another pothole.

In the morning we managed to be reunited with Lars after messaging on the internet, and we shared a room between the three of us once again. We slept for a bit of the morning, having had almost zero sleep on the bus, and after taking some lunch on the beach front met up with the girls who were already on the sand. I'm not one for sunbathing, so I spent a lot of my time swimming in the huge waves which were breaking on the shore. It was fun diving through the huge breakers, and attempting to body surf on the crashing waves as they rushed upon the shore. Quite a few times I was swept under and flipped around in multiple summersaults under the water, as a cavalry of white horses crashed down over my head and dragged me in the swirling currents.

Nha Trang beach.
Alex in a breaking wave.
Lars gets swallowed by the South China Sea.
Body surfing.
Lars 'Hassel' Hoffmann.
Alex, Lars, Abby and Liv.
Wooh! Waves!
Diving under a charging cavalry of white horses.
Attempting to body surf, and often getting rolled around under the waves.
After the beach the five of us hung out on our large balcony, drinking beers and vodkas, and playing card games. Once the drinks were dry we headed out to a nice Italian restaurant for dinner in the centre of town. With food and wine in our bellies, we wandered down the street and settled into a bar with a good dance floor for the rest of the night. It was a fun evening, sponsored largely by rum and jager, and we threw ourselves around to pumping chart music until we could sweat no more. It was another late night, and we staggered back to our hotel for a deep sleep once all the parties had died. Abby and Liv were leaving early that morning for Dalat, and I didn't envy their journey ahead.

Sunset from our balcony on the eighth floor.
Heading out for the night, I opted to go dressed in disguise.
A disgusting, sweaty mess, sometime in the early hours.
Nha Trang at night.
After we emerged from our slumber, we wanted to head to the water park located on one of the islands just off-shore. We found out for some reason it was shut, which was probably a good thing as it looked expensive, and so spent the day on the beach, and I returned to play in the crashing waves once more. That evening was a much quieter affair, a gentle dinner, and then Lars had to leave on the bus for his next destination. His visa was fast expiring so had to rush ahead, and Alex and I opted to stay behind for another day in Nha Trang.

For our final day in the city, we chose to do a $15 boat tour out to the islands a few kilometres away. We'd hoped to meet some other backpackers but our boat was full of Vietnamese, who were nice enough but we didn't make any friends. For our first stop we visited a fairly naff aquarium on one of the islands; they did have a few turtles and sharks, but the tanks were far too small. Next we stopped by a snorkelling spot in some turquoise water, and equipped with the most vintage masks and snorkels, were able to see some of the coral and pleasant fish who reside below the surface. The only trouble was, there must have been eight boats all following exactly the same route, so the sea soon became a lido and it lost quite a lot of its appeal. We seemed to be on the boat with all the locals, and all the other boats were filled with Russians and Europeans, mostly Brits. We made a number of stops during the day, the others were not really any good for snorkelling, so I swam a little and got sunburnt. There were too many people for my liking. The small beaches were pretty crowded and tipsy Brits pratted about in the shallows. We had lunch on the boat, and some odd, out of the blue happy hour, where we were given a free shot, the staff on the boat provided entertainment via a guitar and a drum kit, and two of the guys dressed in drag and sang some songs. I had to dance on the table with the trannys, and although I was sober, I didn't give too much of a shit, as no one bar Alex knew me. After the trip we had another quiet evening, as we'd be getting up early the next day to move on to Dalat.

Passing fishing villages on the way to the islands.
Russians and Brits swamp the sea.
Alex relaxing in the shade.
Too many boats followed the same route.
More fishing villages on the way back.


  1. Nice photos, are those taken by NIkon?
    Nhatrang is very beautiful, awsome

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