After almost a week in Saigon I was ready to see some more of Vietnam. An expat living in Phnom Penh who had previously lived in Vietnam told me that Nha Trang was a very nice city and he thought that I would enjoy a visit there so I headed up to Nha Trang the next morning on the Sinh Travel tourist bus. Like I mentioned in part one, Sinh Travel has a large fleet of new, very large buses with the normal amenities of AC, etc. and I had a very enjoyable ride to Nha Trang. The trip took eight hours and cost $8. The scenery along the trip was fantastic and I thoroughly enjoyed the trip. Vietnam is a beautiful country with some fantastic beaches and mountains as well as the standard SE Asia fare of many, many rice fields.
We arrived in Nha Trang around 5PM and I caught a moto over to a hotel that had been recommended to me by another traveler. Upon arriving at the hotel I found out that the rooms didnt have TV, thats cruel and unusual punishment in my book, so we headed off to a hotel that the moto driver recommended. Big mistake, in Vietnam be sure and stay where someone else has had experience or you could end up like me and get ripped off. I take two bags, one large one for my clothes, etc. and a small one that I keep with me all of the time that I keep my passport and my money in. On this trip I had put my digital camera in my large bag to keep from having to lug it around with me all day and when I checked into the second hotel, when they brought me my bag, the digital camera had been appropriated J. The man at the reception insisted that he would have someone bring up my large bag and now I see why. The good news is that the camera was two years old and I needed to upgrade anyway but still it irritated the shit out of me and I almost headed back to Saigon the next day, boy am I glad that I didnt.
The next day very early I checked out of my rip-off hotel, the Hoi Anh, right in front of the Rainbow Hotel and went to a hotel on the beach, the Hoan Hai, after getting an assurance from the front desk that bringing back guests wouldnt be a problem. The beach is very nice in Nha Trang, the sand isnt a blinding white like it is further down the coast at Ca Na or Mui Ne but the water is very clear and the mountains surrounding the town and the beach make for a very spectacular view. Every day I would lie out by the beach for a couple of hours and it was almost deserted most days except for the weekends. Also the vendors would bring all kinds of seafood, lobster, crab, and shrimp, and cook it right on the beach for you and the price was very reasonable. I think that the price was around $3 per kilo for most items.My second night in Nha Trang I set out to find a companion for the evening with the names of a couple of bars that were supposed to have a ready supply, the Nha Trang Sailing Club and the Rainbow Bar. After hanging out in both bars until 1AM without seeing a single working girl, I decided that I had been given a bum steer and headed back to the hotel. I later found out that working girls arent allowed in either bar so be careful of some information that you see; it might not always be up-to-date. I had plenty of time left in country so I headed back to the hotel empty-handed again thinking that maybe the third time would be the charm.
I knew that there were some play-for-pay venues around Nha Trang since several moto and cyclo drivers had asked if I wanted a lady for the evening. Normally I hate having someone guide me around but in this case I thought that the circumstances called for drastic action so I enlisted the help of a moto driver for my third night. First we went to Crazy Kims bar, the only bar in town that I found any working girls in, but nothing in there appealed to me. After that Foo, the moto driver, set off to bring me a few more girls to see what I thought about them. I looked at another four but they were all a little below my usual standards so I passed on all of them. It didnt help that there were a couple of backpacker chicks at the next table watching the whole scenario and that added to the uncomfortable feeling I was getting throughout the whole episode. Three strikes and youre out and I headed back to the hotel empty-handed again.The next day while I was having breakfast at Truc Linh restaurant right down from Sinh Café, Foo came up to me and said that he wanted one more chance to redeem himself and promised that we would have better luck that night so I agreed to give him one more chance. That evening we went to a karaoke bar that only had two girls working in it and neither one was much of a looker so I told Foo that I had had enough, I was going back to the hotel. The lady owner of the karaoke came over and said that she had a couple more girls that I might be interested in meeting so I agreed to stay and meet one more girl. She left on her motorbike and came back in about thirty minutes with a very attractive, twenty-two year old Vietnamese beauty. She was extremely nice and pleasant but unfortunately didnt speak one word of English, not even What you name J After agreeing on a price of $20 LT we headed back to the hotel.
Upon arriving at the hotel I was informed that I couldnt bring girls back to the hotel after 9PM, this after having been told that it was OK when I checked in. After arguing a few minutes to no avail, we headed off to find a ST hotel to accommodate us. We much have gone to half a dozen seedy hotels looking for one that would let us use their facilities and we finally found one for $5. It wasnt much but after all I had been through the last few days trying to find Miss Right, I was glad to settle for almost anything. My LT turned into a ST since I wasnt able to stay at my hotel but the girl was very agreeable to $15, some of which probably included a commission for Foo, the moto driver and the mamasan of the karaoke bar.
Afterwards I didnt have any problem finding the babes, I just took a moto over to the karaoke bar and picked out a companion. This was my first experience at listening to karaoke music and I cant for the life of me see why the Asians like it so much. The girls doing the singing like to turn the volume way up and add a little reverb but to me it had the same effect as someone dragging their fingernails along a blackboard. Ah, the things we go through looking for Miss Right :-)After a few days in Nha Trang I found a massage parlor that gave a great massage. The name of it was Nhu Tan and they gave a really fantastic massage. All of the massage girls were great looking babes, around 18-20 years old, and really knew what they were doing. The price of an hours massage was 70,000 dong ($5) and I usually gave the girls a 30,000 dong ($2) tip that they seemed very appreciative of. Unfortunately no hanky-panky was allowed at the massage parlor although I got the impression that most of the girls would have been more than willing but the management had very strict rules. The massage parlor is in back of a karaoke bar, which also had a few lookers from time to time, and if I had found this place earlier, I wouldnt have needed a moto driver to help me locate locations where the working girls congregated.The things that I enjoyed the most about Nha Trang were the weather and the beaches. After living in Pattaya and Phnom Penh where the only weather is hot and hotter, eighty-degree days and seventy-degree nights were very welcome changes. Also I think that the babes are prettier in Nha Trang than the ones that I saw in Saigon and one of my favorite things to do was go to the 58 Banana Split shop in the middle of town and watch the babes go by. All of the Internet cafes that werent in the middle of the tourist area were full of Vietnamese babes and some of them seemed like they would have liked to meet a tourist but I stuck to the working girls so I cant say too much about them.
The two things that I missed the most in Nha Trang were English TV and the lack of a large expat population with its easy availability of English-speaking guys to hang out with. I dont guess that it hurt me to not be able to see the Dolphins get knocked out of the playoffs in the first round but I still would have liked to have been able to have seen it myself. Along the end of my stay I did meet a couple of expats in the gym and it was nice to talk to some native English speakers for a change. Although Nha Trang is probably Vietnams number one beach resort you sure wouldnt know it from the number of tourists in town. Except for the weekends, the beaches were almost deserted most of the time and it made lying out by the beach much more enjoyable.
Nha Trang is one of my favorite towns out of all the ones that I have visited in SE Asia and I will probably return for a couple of weeks my next visa run. The fantastic beaches and crystal clear water as well as the weather made for a combination that was hard to beat. Of course, Im the quintessential beach bum so you have to take all of that into consideration when reading my reports. Here are a few of my Nha Trang favorites.
Favorite Hotel Truc Linh - This hotel wasnt right on the beach like the others but it was the only one that I could find that would let me bring the babes back. It is very close to the Truc Linh Café that is right across from Sinh Café, one of the most popular budget-traveler hangouts. It is a six-story pink hotel right next to the Honda dealership. $10 for a nice view with AC, TV, HW, etc. but I did miss being right on the beach and having my own personal balcony. Thanh Thanh was a very nice hotel right on the beach that I enjoyed staying in but unfortunately they gave me problems bringing back girls to the room.
Favorite Budget Restaurant A tie between the Truc Linh and the Red Star. My favorite upscale restaurant was the Nha Trang Sailing Club. At the budget restaurants most meals were under $2 including beverage and at the Sailing Club most entrees were in the $5-7 range.
Favorite Babe-Watching Restaurant Fifty-Eight Banana Split - Besides having great deserts as the name implies, this restaurant has excellent entrees also. One of my favorites was the stir-fried shrimp and vegetable plate and the banana crepes would absolutely melt in your mouth.
Best way to get around I rented a motorbike for $3 per day, Nha Trang is a small town with little traffic most of the time so it is fairly easy to get around on a rented bike. Motos and cyclos were also available and I usually paid 5,000 dong (33 cents) for transportation to most of the destinations around town.
Favorite Internet Café The one that is part of the Dong Phuong Hotel.
Favorite Massage Parlor Nhu Tan Massage On Quang Trung on the left after the monument to the soldiers who fought in the Vietnam War. No extras but great massages by some real Vietnamese cuties. Price of the massage was 70,000 Dong ($4.50US) and I usually gave a 30,000 Dong ($2US) tip but you get a really good massage here, maybe even better than Thailand J The massage parlor is right behind a karaoke place that has some very nice girls. Go in the late afternoon or early evening for a selection of girls to take back to your hotel.
Favorite tourist things to do I guess the most popular is a boat ride that lasts all day and includes visits at four different islands for $6, dont forget the sunscreen. Scuba diving is also popular with basic two-tank dives going for $40 all-inclusive. There must have been at least a dozen scuba operators in town. Windsurfing is also popular; if we had that kind of wind in Pattaya I would never have stopped windsurfing.
I guess that about covers it, if Nha Trang had the easy availability of female companionship of Phnom Penh it would probably be one of my favorite destinations for sure. As it is, great fresh seafood, excellent beaches with crystal-clear water, and a very interesting culture still put it way up there on the list.
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