Nha Trang

Trip Start Mar 31, 2010
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Trip End Mar 31, 2011


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Flag of Vietnam  ,
Tuesday, July 27, 2010

We took the 7 hour train journey from Saigon to Nha Trang, a moderately large town on the beach heading north.  The train journey was unimaginably appalling.  The train itself was perfectly comfortable but as soon as we set off, things started to go wrong.  Noisy announcements started to be made over the speakers and carried on non-stop for half an hour.  As soon as they finished, TV screens came on the carriage.  By this time, the carriage was full, and people had come into the aisle and set down small plastic chairs two-abreast.  The TV was turned up to max volume and played a series of Vietnamese musicals, including an hour of what was apparently a children's talent show.  There was a child with a video game which made a loud beeping noise like a mobile phone which started to go off periodically and continued through the journey.  On the occasions it stopped, the old chap behind us fell asleep and had a good solid snore, when he woke up he tucked into an endless stash of famously smelly durian.  Seeking refuge in the buffet car, we found that the car was of an older design which let through a lot of rail and wind noise, necessitating the staff to turn the inevitable portable stereo up to nightclub volume; in turn necessitating the staff to have to actually yell at eachother to be heard.
Anyway, enough complaining, we'll try the bus next time and you can hear about how dismal that is in the next installment. 
Nha Trang itself has a large excellent beach and a busy town behind it with a tourist area that manages not to feel too touristy because there are lots of Vietnamese people here on holiday too, which is very nice to see.  They like to go to the beach in the early morning, when you can also see the locals exercising, and in the late afternoon.  In the middle of the day there are mostly Westerners - including a lot of Russians - getting thoroughly sunburnt.  Lying on the beach, you are approached on average every 5 minutes by someone selling paintings, books, food, massages etc.  If you wanted to sit absolutely motionless all day, people will even come round to show you the fish they've caught and then cook it for you on an impromptu barbeque.  We find it hard to keep telling people that we don't want anything because they all look to sweet and good-natured.
The food in the restaurants is excellent and the prices scarcely believable - we've yet to exceed 5 pounds for dinner; a bottle of beer is 40p.  Although we haven't been desperate to relax and lie on the beach, we've really wanted to spend some time here because the people and the atmosphere are so nice.
We hired a scooter and toured around a bit, but it is a very big country and we didn't get far on a map despite riding for a couple of hours each way.  The road runs along near the coast parallel to the railway with agriculture on either side, and then a chain of green hills inland.  Out to sea are lots of small islands.  It all makes for lovely scenery, which you admire at your peril because the roads are even worse out of the city.  Trucks, coaches, cars, motorbikes and bicycles all make their way in as haphazard a fashion as pedestrians in Piccadilly, just wandering off wherever they like when they feel like it, so everyone has to proceed with extreme caution at ridiculously slow speeds because there is no convention for what other people will do.  The image of scooter riders behaving like pedestrians is enhanced when we see people riding them around the tiny aisles between stalls in the covered market, which is one of the best we've seen and felt all the more animated for people working on things in the market like de-husking coconuts and cooking strips of meat with a blow-torch like device.
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