What a glorious morning to wake in Nha Trang! Not a cloud in the sky and the slight breeze from the sea made the already high temperatures more comfortable.
Though we’ve travelled around Vietnam quite a bit, this was our first time in Nha Trang itself and we looked forward to filling in a gap in our knowledge about the Champa people who featured prominently in the history of this area, which is why we chose the “Ancient Civilisations” tour for this morning.
It was another tendered port, so we watched as the boats were launched. Be careful with #8!
As we stood waiting for things to happen, life in the wide open bay went on. Ferries were crossing to the Vin Pearl Island, a five star resort and theme park just over the water.
Smaller, passenger ferries buzzed to and fro and we got our first glimpse of this very well developed Vietnamese beach resort which over the last twenty years has grown at an incredible rate.
Evidence of former traditional lifestyles remain on the edges, where fishermen live in simple homes in the same way as they always have.
But driving out along the seafront, the large part of central Nha Trang is now reminiscent of beach resorts the world over with wide open promenades and a broad, sandy beach.
We’d not gone very far when, stopped at traffic lights, we acquired a little friend. “Wanna buy Polo shirt?”
We love Vietnam! The colour, the life on the street and the vibrancy of the people provide a stark contrast to the quiet, controlled atmosphere of Brunei and we are so thrilled to be here.
Some things haven’t changed since we were last in the country!
And though NhaTrang appears to be developing fast, there are still signs of the old, traditional ways.
Outside our first stop, the Long Son Pagoda, this woman had set down her yoke full of cooking things and was taking a small break on her tiny red plastic stool.
The pagoda was interesting and rather attractive, though full of tourists including a large number of Russian visitors. We noted many signs in Vietnamese, English and Russian and the destination of direct flights to the airport here is an indication of where the main tourist business is to be found.
Inside the Buddhist temple was a colourful affair. Very photogenic and more vibrant than some we’ve seen recently.
There were three Buddhas here, each one in different style indicating the age of the figure.
Whilst the others climbed to the top of the hill (200 steps) to view the large white marble Buddha, I chose to mooch around and take some photos, spotting these Chinese characters made up in mosaic.
Each one different, I really liked the pattern and the carefree way they’d been assembled.
You know how it is, too, that once you start spotting things, it’s hard to stop taking more photos?
Until you come across another little distraction.
Or rather, another series of interesting things.
Good advice I think!
The others were staggering down the steps by now and it was time to move on. As I did, I got a photograph of the marble Buddha – surely better from here than from up beside it! (Or am I simply justifying my inertia today!?)
Actually, I woke with a cough this morning and am doing my best to rise above it and not allow it to stop me having fun.
Our next stop was right up my alley even if we’ve seen several similar places before. Nevertheless, a short stop where people are working with their hands is always fascinating to me and we hoped it wasn’t going to be one of those hard sell places.
Actually, the XQ Historical Village turned out to be interesting and proved popular with several of our group who purchased embroideries here. The work was of a high standard and shown off to best potential, though I have no idea of prices.
We perused the shop before leaving, though, and I thought these small jewellery pieces were an interesting and very saleable development of the techniques. Not my kind of thing at all, but attractive and wearable, I’d think.
As we waited to climb back onto the bus, I spotted a little something there in the boot. A small cage with a bird inside which seemed to be the driver’s pet. Having noticed it here, we continued to watch throughout the morning as at each stop, he opened the compartment, took the cage out and hung in on a nearby tree until it was time to go, when it was carefully returned to its place in the boot and closed up for the journey. What fun!
At this point, I’ll admit to getting grumpy. Our guide had told us that we’d be able to view the fishing village from the large bridge which crosses the river and I looked forward to getting some colourful photographs which would inspire me and add to my collection of “pictures to play with”. But though other groups were walking on the far side of the road and able to get a clear, uncluttered view of the village, our guide told us not to cross the road, but to stay on this side. We’d get another chance he said – but we couldn’t work out why we were walking over here if the whole point was the view the village!
Maybe I’m getting a little weary of being told what to do, of following instructions!?
Not only that, but we’d hardly seen any ancient civilisations yet, had we? But looking over onto the hillside we spotted what we thought was a Champa structure and hoped we’d be heading there next.
TaDah! Sure enough, the Po Nagar Tower, which had been built by the Champa people around a thousand years ago was our next stop.
I loved the ruined parts where additional pieces had been fixed. Our guide told us that there had been an attempt to clean the tower and restore it, but the restorations fell apart more quickly than the original structure, so now, it is merely tended to and only preventative work is done.
There were two or three small chapel like structures, each with a dark and gloomy interior that invited the curious to step inside.
But in order to do that, those with short sleeves and uncovered knees needed to wear a robe. I wasn’t feeling much like dressing up today, but my hero volunteered to step inside and take a few photos for me.
Now, of course, I rather wish I’d made the effort!
Had I been working, at this point I’d have questioned the title of the tour today and asked, did it really reflect the content? Ancient Civilisations? Because here we were at the market now. Not that we minded. Our guide had managed everything efficiently and we hadn’t been left hanging around anywhere for an unreasonable length of time. Most of the group were delighted with the content of the morning and so it appeared to have hit the spot with the majority – maybe it was just we who would have liked to have seen more/learned more along the way.
It’s also tricky when one is already familiar with a place. We knew what to expect on a Vietnamese street and though we still get a buzz from standing on the corner watching life go by, it’s not quite the same as experiencing it for the first time.
As we’ve discovered too, people like to shop! Though we bought a couple of packs of the sesame/peanut snack we’ve enjoyed here, we weren’t looking for copy handbags, pearls, souvenirs or anything else.
And although we could use some fish sauce at home, perhaps we don’t need it in quite such quantity!
Still, I can always amuse myself with my camera. Mary, do these shoes look familiar to you?
I love the colourful plastics!
And watching a motorcycle rider have his load secured before driving off is entertaining, too.
Watch out everyone, wide load coming through!
There was one thing I could use. I stepped inside the pharmacy and asked for cough medicine. Receiving a puzzled look, I coughed…aaaah, “syrup?” A short while later, I took a wary sip of the linctus – perfectly fine and tasting exactly like any other cough syrup I’ve tried. But it’s no Benylin, sadly.
The last stop of the morning was at the “Four Seasons”. That’s “A” Four Seasons rather than “The” Four Seasons of course.
Situated directly on the beach, you knew what I had to do, don’t you? (And yes, I was extremely careful with my camera!)
The sand was extraordinarily hot but the water cool and refreshing.
I could quite see why NhaTrang is such a popular all year round resort. Years ago, we stayed at DaNang, a little further north and visited China Beach which was deserted but for a single building site. I wondered what it’s like now? What it will be like in another twenty years time?
A refreshing coconut drink hit the spot and it was time to go back to the cool white ship. As we boarded our coach for the last time, our persistent T shirt salesman, who had followed us to every stop this morning on his moped, made a few last sales. Full marks for perseverance!
So much for Ancient Civilisations. When we chatted to friends over lunch later, we discovered that all the tours had included several common features, regardless of the title. Whilst the tourist industry in NhaTrang is developing fast, maybe there’s still a little way to go; a little confidence to develop in recognising the things which tourists/travellers are keen to see and to learn about.
It’s great to be in Vietnam again though!