Nha Trang to Hoi An, Vietnam

Nha Trang, Vietnam
We took a sleeper train from Ho Chi Min City to Nha Trang. The train was a nice one that shared a cabin with 4 beds, a TV, a writing table, comfy sheets, and AC. We were told the train arrived at 5:30 so AJ woke us up at 5, but we didn't end up getting off the train until 7. We walked around the beach at Nha Trang while we were waiting for our rooms to be ready for check-in. Carry, Kim, Haeirshem, Lyn, and myself got breakfast on the beach as well. On the beach Kim and Lyn get beach chairs while I continued to walk down the coast. I made friends with a local man names Bhac. We talked about life and he asked me for a drink. He teaches Vietnamese to English speaking students (which explained his relatively good English). He said the beer was too much on the beachfront and that we should go to a local mart farther from the shore. I comply and follow him. When we get to the store/kiosk, I buy one for myself but see that he has not selected a beer, so I buy him one. I begin to feel he has used me for the free beer. We continue to walk when we get to a fenced in white shack. Chained to the door is a dog. Bhac says this is his house and invites me inside. He says it's too hot and he wants to wash off and relax. I say I am content with staying here (which is outside of the gated area). He insists and I claim that I don't have the sun where I am from and he says "may [he will] visit [me] along the beach later" and I say OK. I walk back to Kim and Lyn (rather briskly at this point). We sun bathe and I teach Kim how to play draw poker and then Texas Hold'em.

At night I choose to walk around and find a 'local' place to eat. Many of the others choose not to come along. I find a place that served; Ostrich Heart, Pig and Chicken Feet, Pork Kidney, Liver, Stomach, Gecko Soup, Snake Head, Snake Blood, and the list goes on and on. I order Pork Stomach and some seafood soup. The others order chicken, soup, fish, and noodles. My food comes in 5 minutes while the Lyn's chicken comes in a little shy of 90 minutes. In all fairness we can confess to its freshness...we saw the chicken (still alive) taken back to the kitchen and it takes a while to kill a bird, then drain it of its blood and remove its entrails. I ordered water and it never came so then I ordered a beer but that never came as well. It's touch when no one speaks English in the place...it was not frequently visited by tourists. We got our bill and it was a little over half a million dong. Lyn's 120,000 Dong meal had been raised to 250,000 dong since it was "the holidays". We argued since this was not on the menu, but the man persisted. Everyone in Vietnam is trying to rip you off, but I will not talk about this since it's a communist country and I am using a public computer and don't want "free room and board" for the next 10 years of my life.

Early the next morning, at 7 sharp, I took a yoga class with Kim and Lyn from one of older girls on the trip as she is a yoga instructor. It was good, but tough to wake up since we were up late drinking the night before. Near 8:45 we took a day trip on a boat. We visit 4 Vietnamese islands on the boat, which probably had between 100 and 200 people on it. It was crazy trying to get out of the dock since there must have been 50 other boats either coming or going. There was no sense of semblance. Aboard the boat we were served a nice large lunch, family style, with filo dough stuffed with rice mushrooms and other goodies, shrimp, rice, noodles, beef stew, soup, bread, and various other meat and fish dished. At one island some went snorkeling or scuba diving and at another some went to a beach or an aquarium. At one of the islands we jumped off the boat and ate fruit and took shots of liquor in the ocean. The locals played western classics using instruments made from salvaged pots (plastic and metal).

We got back with a little bit of time, but had already checked out of our rooms, so I showered in the pool house and got dressed in my PJs for the over night train. I was wearing my Foster's PJ bottoms and everyone teased me. I guess no one wears PJ bottoms outside of the US. This train was MUCH worse that first one. There were cigarette buts in the storage bin above the beds to store our stuff. No TV, cheap florescent lighting, and the AC barely worked. We arrived in Da Nang at 5:30 and took a short bus to the city of Hoi An.


Hoi An, Vietnam
We could not check in right away so we ate some breakfast and went for a 2 hour walk around the city.
The city is wonderful and a sharp contrast can be made from the rest of Vietnam. The city is much cleaner and the people are too. They don't spit on the street everywhere and they smile much more. We walked to some of the famous tourist attractions and strolled in some of the local markets. AJ had remembered that I wanted to buy a suit so he took us to a place that he has had good experiences with. They will keep on altering the clothes until the client is happy. I bought a cashmere-silk suit and shirt for $138. The average wool suit without a custom designed shirt was ~$100 USD. They can make ANYTHING you want. They have countless European and American magazines that we can flip through and pick out what we want. Haeirshem bought 2 suits and a pair of pants that zip off into shorts. The pants were made from amazingly soft material that dries quickly when wet and he was able to choose embroidery, pocket size, etc. Basically anything you want they can do. They had absolutely no clothing inside the store other than 4 or 5 demos. All they had were lengths of fabric and endless possibilities. I think I am going to buy a North Face back back or a North Face luggage for about 7 or 8 dollars. They are knock offs, but the tailoring in Vietnam beats the cheap brands in American.

I believe I am taking a tour tomorrow somewhere 50km outside of the city and may take a Vietnamese cooking course tonight, but nothing is set...that's the wonders of backpacking.

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Ho Chi Min City (Saigon), Vietnam

Ho Chi Min City, Vietnam
After arriving in Ho Chi Min City I walked around a bit, but it was just too hot. It was rather quiet since it everybody was celebrating Tet, also known as the Chinese New Years. People get 3 days off work and everything closes, less of course the touristy areas, bars, restaurants, etc. We met up with the new people on our group and they are quite different than all the others. There are 4 in total, 1 is a guy Canadian ER Resident, 2 are sisters from Jersey and about 65 yrs old, and the last is a woman from Boston who is teaching English in Cambodia.

At dinner I had fried tofu with lemongrass and chili (holy shit it was hot), also I had 2 beers and 2 shots of tequila (as did many others). Afterward all the younger travelers and our guide, AJ, took a walk and reserved a room for karaoke. We only sang American music tunes. Most people chose slow music but I choose Brick House by the Commodores and Billie Jean by Michael Jackson. I don't ever sing and I managed to prove that to the other, how unfortunate for them.

During our way back a couple of us stopped to get a Vietnamese Sub from a street vendor. These are known as Bánh mì and cost 10,000 Dong (which is about $0.60).

We said our goodbyes to those leaving the trip and then went to sleep. This morning we took a private tour bus to see the Cu Chi Tunnels. These were a network of elaborate tunnels the Vietcong used during the Vietnam War.

We leave for Nha Trang around 20:00 tonight and spend the night on the train. We are set to arrive in Nha Trang in the early morning. I just read that it's one of the most beautiful bays in the world. They also have a delicacy their known as bird's nest soup. This is something that I just have to try. Tomorrow should be a nice day of relaxation on the beach.

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