Travel Notes 3


Follows is my third report on my tavels. I am enjoying my trip so
much, that sometimes I don't make the time to sit down and update
this. BTW I can recount my trip in the best story telling English, but
it will never fully capture what I am feeling just being here. Photos
only tell part of the story too.

I have decided this time to split the story into sections, in order to
make the reading a little easier. This way you don't have to feel like
you need to read the story in one shot.

** Nha Trang **

I must have spent around 6 days in Nha Trang, though I will have to
check my diary to be sure. I spent a couple of days on the beach and
then signed myself up for the "PADI Open water Diver" course, since I
while I have scuba dived before, I never got certified. I managed to
get my certificate and then went and did an extra two dives, just for
luck. I went diving with a company by the name of "Octopus Diving",
which had the advantage of not trying to cram too many people on a

There are a few other scuba diving companies in Nha Trang, including
"Raindow Divers" and "Coco Diving".

The corals in Nha Trang are worth seeing, though there is probably
better visibility during the middle of the year. Although the corals
in the area have been affected by dynamite fishing, there is now a
marine reserve which provides a good range of corals to see.

Nha Trang is most certainly a tourist center, with hotels appearing
along the coast and western priced resorts as well. There are also
restaurants and bars appealing to a western crowd. If you look
carefully and are willing to ignore the appearance of the place, then
you can find yourself a local restaurant where they charge much less.
Consider an average meal being 40000d to 80000d (15700d to a dollar)
and a Pho in a local restaurant costing around 10000 to 15000.

Still using my open bus ticket, I caught the bus in the evening, on
the same day of my last dive, leaving at around 20:00. This bus was a
nine hour bus trip to Hoi An. The bus stopped a few times, including
one for dinner (never included). Being dark, there wasn't really
anything to look at, so I just did my best to get some sleep.

** Hoi An **

I woke up before the bus got to Hoi An, so I got the chance to see the
morning mist over the rice fields and the red sun rising in the
distance. It was nice to see, but I was not really in the best
situation to capture the moment, with my camera.
I arrived in Hoi at around 6:30. We first stopped off at a hotel,
which the tour company gets a commission from, though because of its
locality a few of us opted to wait until we got to the Sinh Cafe
office in town.

I left my bags at the tour office and went off to look for a guest
house, that would fit my budget. I checked out a couple and then
decided that it was too early to be able to see what the rooms were
like. Coming back to the office I bumped into a couple of people that
I had first met in Saigon, so we decided to have breakfast together.
They were heading out to My Son, to see the ruins there. After
breakfast I checked into the same hotel, which was next door to the
tour office and signed myself up for the same tour.

The bus trip to My Son was around an hour. Most of it was along fairly
good roads, though the near we got to the site, the worse the road
got. Part of the reason was because they were in the process of
upgrading the roads and bridges, so we were travelling along what were
either temporary roads, or old roads.

After having visited Angkor, My Son looked a bit pale in comparison.
On the other hand if you get into the habit of comparing one site to
another, then you will probably be in for disappointment. According to
the Elephant Guide:

"The great Champa city of My Son was an important religious and
intellectual centre during the Champa era. The ruins have recently
been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site."

It should be noted that if you visit the site, it is well worth having
read up before hand, since there is little to nothing explaining to
you what the place is about. Also like many great places in Vietnam,
it was damaged by the Americain bombs during the Vietnamese-Americain

While in Hoi An I also took advantage to visit the old town, by some
cheap tailor made clothes and visit the area around town.

** Hue **

After Hoi An I took the bus to Hu. I arrived at around 3 o'clock in
the afternoon, since the bus stopped a few times. One of the stops was
at a pass over the mountain. On one side you could the sea and on the
other a valley filled with clouds.

Hue is a small city, with the main tourist attraction being the
citadel, with the Imperial Palace within. The next day I took moto
with a guide (the restaurant owner of one of the restaurants had this
as a second service), who took me around to see some sites around the
outside of the city. The sites include an imperial tomb, a couple of
pagodas, an royal tiger fighting arena. We also managed to squeeze in
the Imperial Palace in, just before catching my bus.

The Imperial Palace was damaged by more of the American bombs during the war.

- Hanoi

The bus to Hanoi was around twelve hours long, leaving at around 17:00
and arriving at 5am the next day. I arrived while still asleep and not
knowing where I was. After waiting a while at the hotel, at which we
were dropped, I made my way to a guest house which I had been given
the address of.

That day I visited some of Hanoi, went to see the temple on the lake
and see the 'Hanoi Water Puppet' show.

- Halong Beach

The next day I took a two day tour of Halong Bay. The bus to Halong
was three hours. When we got to Halong city we got off the bus, and
then were rather confused about what was meant to be happening next.
Eventually everything sorted itself out and we got on the boat.

The boat was a junk was built specially for taking tourists around the
bay. We at a small lunch and then the boat got off, under a thick
layer of white cloud. The visibility got less as the journey went on,
but there was enough to see the rock formations in the distance in
gradients of white to black.

The first stop of the trip was a large an easily accessible cave. It
was fitted out with coloured lighting and a concrete path to walk

The next stop was a small floating fish farm, where prawns, squid,
crab and fish were being farmed.

Next we made a brief stop to get out some kayaks. At this point the
weather had dropped from what must have been 25C in Hanoi, to what
felt like 15C. This being said, this put a few people off. In the end
we were just four who decided to go out in the two two-person kayaks.
The water was in fact warm to the touch, so was easily swimmable. This
was not really an option for me as I had left the bulk of my stuff in
my ruck-sack, which I had left in safe keeping at the guest house
where I was staying.

That night I stayed on on Cat Ba island in guest house, which was
included in the package. The alternative package had been to stay on
the boat, but based on what some other people had told me, I decided
the hotel was the better bet. The people who had stayed on the boat
were happy with the accomadations, though their hot water was not

** Halong Bay & back to Hanoi **

The next day was the trip back along Halong Bay and then the bus back to Hanoi.

In my last two days in Hanoi I made sure to stock up on some DVDs and
CDs, since the price was too good to miss. I also made a visit of the
Ethnology museum, which had a few traditional houses from around
Vietnam. Inside it had an exposition on the different tribes from
around Vietnam and how they lived.

Next time: Laos

Useful links:

- Elephant Guide on Hoi An:
- Water Puppets: