Friday, September 12, 2014

Nha Trang, Vietnam

Nha Trang was our second destination in Vietnam, after Saigon. We didn't know much about this destination before arriving, only that it was a popular beach town. Since I'm such a beach-lover, I was pretty excited to get here and taste that salty ocean on my lips. 

While Nha Trang does have some beautiful coastline, we were a little disappointed by the over-development all along the beach. The entire beach was really crowded with lots of construction going on, giant blow-up toys in the water, loud kids running around, and locals selling tours or asking you to pay to rent an umbrella. 

An interesting thing about this town and part of why it has been so developed over the years is that it is really popular with Russian tourists! At first, it seemed like a really odd connection to me, but then Bradford reminded me of the shared communist history. We learned that in 1979, the Russian Navy began using a port in Nha Trang and it became their biggest Naval base outside of Russian territory. Since then, Russians have felt more and more comfortable traveling to Vietnam and some have even settled there. Now, the locals have learned to cater specifically to the Russians--most of the restaurants we visited had their menus in three languages: Vietnamese, English, and Russian. There are tons of signs in Russian and there are loads of Russians just walking around and enjoying themselves! A couple times, we even got mistaken for being Russian and a local Vietnamese person would try to sell us on a tour or a restaurant and begin speaking to us entirely in Russian!

Overall, Nha Trang was an interesting town with some cool Cham-era ruins and a beautiful stretch of coastline along the highway outside the city (not to mention a pretty legit and cheap Mexican restaurant run by an Arizona native), but the thing I was most excited for (the beach) was a pretty big letdown being so crowded and overdeveloped. We did enjoy a pretty awesome day when we rented a scooter and drove up to the Ba Ho waterfalls. While the waterfalls themselves weren't nearly as high and flowing as the pictures we had seen online, the drive itself was worth it, with stunning views of the Vietnam coastline all along the way. 

Here are some photos we took while exploring the town, some less crowded areas of the beach, Cham ruins, and during our scooter ride to Ba Ho waterfalls. 

Everywhere in Southeast Asia, there are fruit shakes available. This shop had a mango, banana, passionfruit combo that was one of our favorites yet. 

{Trying on conical hats inside a convenience store}

We walked down the beach about a mile and found a nicer resort with a private beach that was much quieter and peaceful than the majority of Nha Trang. 

On our walk down the beach, we found some local kids having a blast running off this jetty and jumping into the water. It reminded me of good ole classic summer fun. 

On the day we rented a scooter, our first stop was to visit Long Son Pagoda, which includes a giant seated Buddha. Pretty impressive. (But the longer I'm here, the more I realize that these kinds of really impressive statues and structures are EVERYWHERE!)

{Loved this view from the top of Long Son Pagoda}

Our next stop on the scooters was Po Nagar Cham towers. These temples are built in the same style and during the same time period as the Angkor Wat temples, so they're a really worthwhile sight if you haven't been to Angkor Wat. 

{This picture was snapped from the top of Po Nagar and you can really see the fishing influence of Nha Trang. Check out all those fishing boats in between the two bridges!}

After Po Nagar, we enjoyed the most beautiful scooter ride of the trip. Growing up in Southern California, I have so many great memories of driving along the coast with friends in the car, windows rolled down, wind blowing in my hair. Never did I think I'd recreate that feeling on a motorbike in Vietnam with my husband but I did and it was wonderful!

{More gorgeous scenery from our scooter ride}

{Hiking up some fairly steep trails to Ba Ho waterfalls. Of course, it started raining when we got to the top, making our descent a little more slippery than I would have preferred but we made it safely down.}

{We were able to cool down and go swimming for a bit which was really fun, as long as you don't mind little fishies nibbling at your feet!}

{To cap off our adventurous day, we got a flat tire riding on some rocky roads. Luckily, this nice family helped us out and fixed it for a small fee.}

Next it was off to Hoi An, which ended up being our favorite stop in all of Vietnam. 

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