After almost two weeks of backpacking through Northern Vietnam, the multiple pairs of shorts I had packed had barely left by bag. That all changed when we arrived in Nha Trang, Vietnam’s premiere beach town. It was “cold” by local standards, but still hot enough to lay on the beach, sip fresh coconut juice, and get a nasty sunburn (at least in Emily’s case).
Our two days in Nha Trang were dedicated to rest and relaxation. We rented bikes and checked out the Cham Ruins of Po Nagar and the large market. Biking in Nha Trang was easy. Most of the streets had light traffic and the cars and motorbikes are good at giving cyclists a wide berth.
The Cham ruins were an interesting diversion. Compared to some of the other ruins in Vietnam, they’re in remarkably good shape and easy to get to.
We spent most of our second day at the Thap Ba Hot Spring Mudbaths. It was fun splashing the mud on ourselves, but it was surprisingly cold. The rest of the pools were hot, which was enjoyable in December but I can’t imagine they’d be that popular in July. I guess the cold mud would be more popular then.
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Hoi An is a tourist paradise – a compact city centre with well-preserved historic buildings, great restaurants, twisting alleys, and no cars (a blissful change from Vietnam’s other cities). The only downside is its overrun with tourists. The lack of cars and abundance of tourists made it often feel like you were in a sterilized version of the real Vietnam, but I still loved it.
We only spent two days in the city, and I wish we would have spent a few more. We saw most of the sights in the city, took a vegetarian cooking class, road bikes through the countryside, but we never got to the nearby ruins of Mỹ Sơn or took advantage of the hundreds of tailors in the city.
Hoi An has a great market and lots of yummy street food. We found an amazing vegetarian restaurant, hidden in a tiny alleyway, that served plates of amazing food for $1. It was so good we back for a second meal. We couldn’t believe how tasty and cheap it was.
We splurged in Hoi An and stayed at a resort along the river, it was our Christmas present to ourselves, even if it didn’t feel like Christmas. It was too cold to take advantage of the pool, but the breakfast buffet was impressive.
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Hue was the former imperial capital of Vietnam, between 1802 and 1945 when the Nguyen Empire controlled the country. We were in Hue during the rainy season, and boy did it rain. It made wandering around the outdoor sights difficult to enjoy, but we did our best.
Hue has only a few interesting sights – the Citadel (the former home of the Emperor) and the pagodas and royal tombs in the countryside. The Citadel dominates the centre of the city, but it is bombed out shell of its former glory. Inside its massive walls there aren’t many buildings left standing. Most were destroyed in the wars with the French and Americans. What’s left gives a glimpse of how spectacular this area used to look.
We took a boat tour down the Perfume River to see the pagodas and tombs located just outside of Hue. The guide book said biking between the sites makes for a fun day, but not in the incessant rain we had.
First stop, the Thien Mu Pagoda.
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The Vietnamese transport everything by bicycle or motorbikes.