Our plan, after Saigon, was to travel up the coast of Vietnam, using an open bus ticket that would allow us to hop on and off the buses which go up and down the coast every day. After a bit of research into the reliability of different bus companies, and a bit of a reality check in terms of our schedule (9 days to travel over 1600 kms), we revised this plan a little. We decided to stop at only three places along the way – Nha Trang, Hoi An, and Hue – and spend at least 2 days in each place. We also elected to take a sleeping bus for three legs of the journey, which meant that it would travel at night while we (tried to) sleep. While this meant that we would miss seeing the countryside and coastline on the way, it did mean maximum time in each place (and of course we saved on three nights accommodation).
We left Saigon at 8.30pm and arrived in Nha Trang at 7.30am the next day. The bus was a real experience in itself – the ‘seats’ are almost fully reclined and extended so that you can only lie down. Colin had requested a seat with extra leg room, which meant that his feet hung off the bed into the aisle.
Our two seats were part of a group of five crammed into the back of the bus, so you really have to hope that your neighbour doesn’t snore, or fart, or kick in their sleep (lucky for me, Colin was my only neighbour, and I trained him out of his worst nocturnal habits years ago). Nonetheless, it was hardly a comfortable ride. You can’t sit up because there is another row of beds directly above you…when I first hopped on the bus I felt a bit claustrophobic for a few seconds, but the novelty of situation soon took care of that!
Once on the move, we watched a movie on the laptop (sharing a single set of earphones) then made ourselves as comfortable as possible for the night. Sleep was very broken as the roads are quite rough in places and you get tossed around a bit. I woke up early to see the most incredible red sunrise, dozed some more, and then all of a sudden we had arrived in beautiful, sunny, hot Nha Trang. We sought out a cafe pronto, for lots of coffee and eggs, then found our hotel, dropped off our bags and hit the beach.
Unfortunately I had managed to develop a bad cold overnight, but I didn’t want this to spoil our first of two days at the beach, so I took some cold and flu tablets – the real ones that you can no longer buy in New Zealand. These sorted me out pretty well, and we spent the next few hours swimming and lazing in deck chairs under a beach umbrella that we rented for 70,000 dong ($3.50 NZ for the whole day). Nha Trang itself is quite developed – a bit like an oversized Orewa, but despite this, the beach itself is beautiful – white sand, palm trees, clear water, islands in the bay…hawkers walk up and down the beach selling fresh mangos and pineapple and fresh seafood. These women were selling fresh (live) lobster and crab which they cook in the pot of water they carry with them (heated by coals in the tray underneath).
The “woe” came later that afternoon when I realised that I had managed to get the worst sunburn I have had in years! I knew that a little sunlight was getting through the beach umbrella, but I totally underestimated the ferocity of the rays. Falling asleep on my deck chair didn’t help either, and I got singed all down my back, legs and stomach. Once the cold and flu tablets wore off, I spent the afternoon at the hotel dousing myself with lotion and feeling a bit sorry for myself – sick and sunburnt in paradise – not fair!