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8 Days in Vietnam, November 2002


We took the afternoon flight to Nha Trang.

It takes about an hour in a small turbo-prop airplane. Walking off the airplane on the airfield on arrival to a small and fifties-style airport building, it's lovely to see many parts of Vietnam like this still retain the past in working order.

We checked in at the 2-3* Vien Dong hotel. A medium size hotel with 103 rooms runs and decorated in Vietnamese style. It has a perfect location of 100m from the beach and 5 minutes from the airport & railway station, close to historical landscape sites & centre of the city. The hotel has two very good outdoor swimming pools and tennis courts. The restaurant is situated by the side of the pools surrounded by lovely tropical plants in pots. The local culture-show of music, song and dance are highly entertaining at the evening dinner. The long stretch of white sandy beach along the South China Sea at Nha Trang is simply wonderful. Although there are a few restaurants, bars and hotels situated along the beachfront the natural beauty remains unspoiled by the still low-key commercialisation. The best place to have a drink is the sailing club terrace with seats and tables right at the beachfront, though the price is more expensive.

There are daily boat trips to groups of islands such as Tam island, Mot island, Mun island and Mieu island for snorkelling and diving. These trips can be booked at your hotel or by the waterfront. Other attractions in the areas include Nui Cathedral, War Memorial, Dam Market and numerous Pagodas.

Another one-hour flight takes you to Danang. The scenery outside your window is fantastic as the flight is approaching and descending into Danang. You can see the long curving white coastline of Danang bay on the edge of the South China Sea on one side and the green paddy fields lined up in squares with mountains in the background on the other side. Danang is the third largest city in Vietnam after HCM & Hanoi.

The 2-3* Bamboo Green hotel is another clean and comfortable Vietnamese run hotel with 150 rooms. This is probably the best hotel in town. It is within a short distance (10 minutes walk) to the Han River that lies between Danang city and the Son Peninsula.

The Cham Museum is a must-see visit in Danang. The museum itself is an impressive historic yellow building in a lovely garden of trees. The exhibition contains a display of terracotta and sandstone figures of the Cham people that ruled Southern Vietnam for a thousand years. There are four rooms exhibiting all the sculptures. It is worth lingering in the courtyard for a rest under the frangipani trees.

The famous China Beach where US troops enjoyed 'R&R' is an attractive long white sandy bay. I saw a few tourists and few locals running along the shore exercising. It is so lovely to see a stretch of empty white sandy beach by the ocean and it is easy to imagine the American solders taking a break from the war on China Beach in the past.

Lunch in Kim Po Chinese restaurant in Danang town was memorable. The restaurant is built and decorated in traditional Chinese style. The food was excellent particularly the steamed fish and the rice paper wrapped meat. They were fresh and tasty. The service was very attentive and the atmosphere was good among the guests in the restaurant.

Other attractions in Danang are the Marble Mountains, Monkey Mountain, several churches and pagodas. Further away, a 2 hours drive by car/minibus, is the compact riverside town of Hoi An. This ancient town is full of old Chinese traditional houses and temples in the old quarter along narrow streets. The Chinese came to Hoi An before moving down South to Cholon in later years. Many of the old homes are built with wood, beams, carved doors with airy open rooms and courtyards. Some of the houses have been restored and turned into historical showpieces. Others are now attractive restaurants and shops but the old quarter still retains the old Chinese feel about it. As night falls Chinese red lanterns line up in the shop fronts and the streets, and you seem to travel back in time to centuries ago.

We took our evening meal in yet another old Chinese-style restaurant called Pho Hoi. This time the Vietnamese style pot-cooked Catfish was outstandingly good. The simple dish of stir-fried green beans was also exceptionally good and I have never tasted it like that before. The simple taste of this dish still lingers in my memory.

Next day we drove three hours from Danang to Hue.

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The Vien Dong Hotel has 2 pools!
The Vien Dong Hotel has 2 pools!
Nha Trang Beach
Nha Trang Beach
The River at DaNang
The River at DaNang
Cham Sculpture Museum, DaNang
Cham Sculpture Museum, DaNang
Marble Mountains
Marble Mountains