Nha Trang

We arrive at the airport way too early and then our flight is delayed so we spend about half the day waiting, sitting, shuffling, waiting… When we finally get to the Ha Van hotel in Nha Trang, the staff are friendly and welcoming. I think this place is about $30/night and it is great. Free drink at the rooftop bar on arrival, simple but clean and open room, fridge, air con and balcony overlooking the street. Matty is trying to get himself organised but I throw on a bikini and veritably drag him out the door and down to the beach. I just need to be in the ocean. As we take off our clothes I run like a kid into the water. It’s like a big sandy washing machine and we come out with sand in all kinds of weird places that I won’t mention here.

We attempt to have a quiet night of dinner at Veranda restaurant. It is really cheap ($1-$10USD per main) so we take a chance on the Dalat wine… At a dollar a glass you don’t mind pushing it aside for a cocktail. The food is simple and nice but nothing amazing. I have a calamari salad which is basically seafood, tomato, cucumber and sweet chilli sauce. Matt has garlic bread which I try not to steal. The French influence in this part o Vietnam is really obvious- bakeries and patisseries everywhere! For mains I have mackerel in thick salty oyster sauce (slightly overlooked) and Matt has lamb chops on a polenta potato mash. He scoffs it down and we are ready to move on as soon as I am done. We go for a wonder around and end up at Oasis bar which is right next to our hotel. They specialise in bucket cocktails and shisha pipes. We order apple and mint shisha though I never smoke and the staff keep deciding Matt wants a rum and coke instead of a gin and tonic. I try a Long Island ice tea (old fashioned cocktail menu) but eventually settle on a kamikaze. The open garden of black tables and little puffs of shisha smoke add to the lounge vibe and our bill comes to 1.35million Dong, which is like $70 AUD.

The next morning we get up way too early for our dive. Rainbow Divers are picking us up at 7 so we only have half an hour to have a quick breakfast and grab a coffee on the way out. The morning is clear and bright as we head down to the harbour and board the large wooden boat which is steered masterfully out of the crowd of fishing and dive boats. A large group of tourists is separated into pairs. Some are doing their open water course and others are just snorkelling. We do two dives in total and though the visibility is quite low (5m), especially on the second dive, Anh, our guide, is really great at pointing out all the tropical marine life. We are lion fishes, egg cowries, clown fishes, jellyfish, pipefishes, amazing little Christmas tree worms and feather stars that remind me of Avatar as they snap back into their hard little shell in the coral. We break between dives for a snack and then head out for a second go. It is over way too soon but it was my first real dive since my course so I’m more than stoked! It is nice being on a boat again as we make the short trip back to port.

The afternoon we decide to spend shopping. Usually of the two of us I would say Matt is the shopaholic but today he isn’t finding anything as I hand over cash and fill up my little bag. We stop for street Pho on tiny plastic chairs which barely fit a child let alone a fully grown tall man… In the end we stop at the Sailing Club for a drink (finally real wine) and make a reservation for dinner later in the evening.

Before dinner we stop at a little tea house which we are disappointed to find has only local Saigon beer (not great) and non-alcoholic drinks. It is a beautiful and serene setting with water features and I enjoy a ginger tea with honey that my throat just loves but matty’s beer over ice drunk with a straw fails to impress so we go straight to dinner.

At the Sailing Club, I’m surprised to be a little cold in the evening breeze. The beach is covered in tables and chairs, bean bags and a bonfire which will be lit up later. The passionfruit mojitos are served with a slice of sugar cane which is the best tasting part- there is a weird flavour I can’t identify. For entrees we order rice paper rolls and the traditional seafood pancake. The pancake is amazing! For main we get the seafood platter for 2 which has a whole snapper, BBQ prawns, calamari, scallops and wedges. They serve 2 sauces with the entree and 2 with the main so we have to experiment a little to find out what goes on where. I switch to wine and Matt goes for beer after the cocktails failed. For dessert we order the chocolate banana spring rolls (thighs, forgive me) which is served with a scoop of decadent chocolate ice cream. I’m already planning the exercise and detox regime I’m going to have to do when I get back to Sydney…

After dinner I’m still cold so we move inside to a table right next to the dance floor. The dj probably hasn’t started yet so the music is erratic and odd. When he does begin a bit of a dance party evolves and some local boys start off the floor. We watch as it grows in the space of an hour and an older couple tear it up with the kind of confidence and limitless joy that comes only with age. Our bill comes to 2 million dong (just under a hundred dollars) which is all the money we brought out so we make our way back after our final drink. Overall Nha Trang is beautiful and relaxing with just the right amount of nightlife to keep a pair of young travellers busy.

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