The sleeper train arrived in Nha Trang at an obscene time in the morning, with a hearty chorus of high pitched music screaming from the speakers to alert us to our destination. No joke, the only words to the song were “Nha Trang, Nha Trang, Nha Traaaaaaang!”. Or maybe I was just too sleepy to register any other lyrics!
We dumped our bags at the hotel as we wouldn’t be able to check in until much later on in the day, and set out for the beach. At 5am, there were a fairly large group of people practicing Tai Chi on the beachfront which was really nice to see. As we continued our 30-day journey northwards through Vietnam, we noticed the weather getting cooler, so we decided a nice cup of coffee was in order. This place had a real coffee machine. With fresh milk. It was like a dream! As we sat there with our breakfast, we checked out the place we were due to visit for the morning – Thap Ba hot springs and mud baths. Good reviews on TripAdvisor and a pretty good article in a magazine we found lying around the coffee shop meant that we were all looking forward to a morning of relaxation after a slightly dodgy night’s sleep on the train.
We hopped into the minivan, but as usual, there wasn’t quite enough space for us all, so smaller people were asked to sit up front with the driver. And his cute chubby little kid! At first he was so shy, and wouldn’t sit on my lap, even though that was the only place for him! After rolling into the gear stick a couple of times, I picked him up and plonked him on one knee and of course we snapped a picture!
We spent time getting covered in mud, which was a little runnier than I thought it would have been, massaging into our hair, because apparently it’s great for pores and follicles, too! Then after drying out for a while in the sun like basking crocodiles, and washing the mud off, we submerged ourselves in the cool water of one of the mineral pools. There was a cute little area with a waterfall and some kind of water jet walls that shot water out at you. Heaven forbid if you were ticklish, because there were some interesting screams coming from that part of the park! We got some lunch and a few drinks there by the pool, I didn’t spot any of the advertised hot springs, but it was a great morning in any case!
Back at the hotel, we finally got to check in, and the shower was a really good one! Yes, it was still a wet room, not a shower curtain in sight, but the force of the water was definitely enough to wash the last bits of mud from my hair. That was after we managed to get in to the bathroom, which had a tendency to lock itself from the inside with no one in it! My roommate tried in vain to open the door from the outside, completely destroying my library card in the process (which would have expired by the time I get back to the UK anyway, so what the hell), so we asked reception to help us out. This lady turns up with a fairly dainty looking screwdriver, shoves it into the doorframe, but has no joy. This handyman dude turns up with a screwdriver that looked like it meant business, and a few minutes of thumping later – SUCCESS! He closed the door, bowed in a way that only SE Asians in the hospitality industry do, left us to it, but the door had only gone and got stuck again! The second time he opened it, we decided that we would only shut the door if one of us was actually IN the bathroom! Well, I guess we learned one thing from this experience… neither of us would be any good at robbing a bank.
That evening, we decided we were going to celebrate one of the guy’s birthdays. It was the first of three within our month of travelling together. His actual birthday was the 11th Jan, which was the following day, but we were due to head on up to Hoi An on the train overnight, so we saw in his birthday in true drunken style! We went to this beautiful looking restaurant with tons of lanterns lighting up the place, and it was literally down the road from the hotel.
Shame the service was terrible, the food wasn’t great, it was a little on the expensive side and it took us over an hour to pay the bill. We also had a lovely girl on the trip who has a severe allergy to seafood. She explicitly ordered a chicken dish, specified at least four times that there was to be no fish sauce and no seafood in it. The manager took our order, promised all would be fine, and you guessed it, the dish was full of fish sauce. Luckily, she didn’t have any as she could smell it a mile off, sent it back to the kitchen and waited a significant amount of time before another dish appeared. This dish was made of solely chicken bones. The vegetables that were in the original dish had disappeared and all that was on the plate was bits of chicken carcass. Don’t get me wrong, I’m of Indian heritage and we eat chicken off the bone all the time – it tastes better, it is more tender, yeah it can be a bit of a bother if you’re not used to it, and you have to get your hands dirty, but it’s good. This was not good: there was no meat on the bones and no taste, it was almost as if the bones had been used to give flavour to other dishes and these were literally the leftovers that you wouldn’t even give to your dog. Needless to say, the overall experience was quite frightful, made ever so slightly worse when one of the girls spotted a rat running along a wall. Bless her though, she kept it to herself until we were clear of that place!
The rest of the evening was pretty awesome though. We went to “Why Not?” bar, received a watered down flavoured vodka shot on arrival and proceeded to celebrate the night away, drinking buckets of cocktails, playing pool and foosball, and dancing until the early hours to an eclectic music taste ranging from late 90’s Oasis to current David Guetta and other European electro-dance and more. My roommate and I headed off, navigating the streets pretty well and finally locating our hotel which was gated almost shut as it was pretty late and tumbled into bed after a really great day.