50 days away
10 km / 6 miles since last post
25,472 km / 15,828 miles total
Today's weather was a bit cloudy and cool - actually a refreshing change from the heat and humidity. We had a free day today until meeting everyone this evening for our overnight train to Ho Chi Minh City.
We'd had a nice lay in this morning and then met up with Michelle and Fran in the hotel lobby, and decided to grab some lunch. Thanh had booked us a couple of day rooms in the hotel so we had a place to dump our luggage and grab a shower if we needed.
We took a walk down to the beach and headed towards a cafe there. Just in front of the cafe was a woman who was selling shellfish she was cooking on a small barbecue. Fran was persuaded to get some, so her and Michelle decided to sit by the beach and go for the fresh crab, crayfish, sea snails and scallops. It looked quite good, but Stu can't eat shellfish so we both opted for the nearby cafe and got the authentic Vietnamese speciality of pizza and hamburger and chips!
After lunch Fran headed off on her own, and Michelle, Stu and I decided to head over to the Long Son Pagoda, a Buddhist temple a couple of kilometres away. We decided that taxi would be the easiest way to get there and found one parked up on the corner. After trying to establish how much he was going to charge us, we realised that he wasn't prepared to tell us but instead agreed to whatever we were saying. This all sounded a bit dodgy, so we walked a bit further along and found a more reliable taxi, which had it's charges printed on the side - and it was also one of the brands of taxis that Thanh had said was safe when we were in Hanoi. It was only ten minutes or so to get to the temple and cost just under �1 - bargain!
Once we arrived at the temple an official looking student came over and was asking the usual questions: where are you from? How long have you been in Vietnam? etc. It was then that I remember reading in our guide that sometimes when you arrive at the temple there may be people who come up to you, looking like they work there, who try and offer some useful information as you walk round the temple. Then when you have walked round they try and demand money off you for being your guide. I discreetly told Stu and Michelle about this and we politely told them we didn't need a guide, and walked away quickly.
We wandered up to the temple where you could see the area of worship and some golden Buddha statues. As we walked around an old guy there ushered us over to another area. Here took some incense and bowed towards the Buddha there. He then gave Stu a piece of incense and beckoned for him to do the same, which he did (to my and Michelle's amusement). The old guy then went up to Stu and kissed his head! I think he made some reference to Stu looking a bit like a monk because of his shaved head - it was so funny!
The old guy then took us outside and explained to us that he had lived here since his parents died, and as an orphan the monastery had taken him in. We were all a bit wary at first, after the warning of the 'guides' trying to extract money from you. However, he pointed us in the direction of the giant sleeping Buddha statue, and then said goodbye. I felt a bit bad for doubting that he was doing anything other than just trying to help - but in Vietnam you have to be on your guard.
Up some steps we came across the sleeping Buddha, a large white statue on it's side in a sleeping position. Stu and Michelle took a few pictures, and then we moved on and up some more steps to the giant seated white Buddha at the top. Not an old statue, it was cast in the 1960's, but still quite impressive. As we were walking around the structure some local children came over and appeared to try some Kung Fu moves on us. At first it was quite amusing, and then they continued to try and hit and kick us. I got a bit stern with them and told them to stop. Stu was being more polite - which is why I think they continued to kick him! It's funny that if some kids came up to us in the UK and did that we would have told them to get off straight away, but in a different country you act differently. Thankfully they got the message after a while.
We walked around the statue and took some more pictures, and there was also a bit of a view over the city too. Then we headed back down the steps and headed out the main gate.
We still had plenty of time left and thought about heading to some more temples which were over the other side of the city. We had a look at our map and they looked to be the same distance from our hotel to the Pagoda, but just in the opposite direction. As the taxi this morning was cheap enough we though taxi would be the best option for getting there, and found what we believed to be a reliable taxi just outside the Pagoda.
As the taxi was driving along, we soon realised that instead of taking us to the temples, he was heading back to the beach - basically the completely opposite direction! We said to the taxi driver that he was going the wrong way, and he made up some rubbish about there being a one-way street and that he couldn't drive there directly. It seemed pretty clear to us that he was literally taking us for a ride and trying to rip us off, so we just got him to stop by the beach and we got out there and paid him. We had been warned about the scams that people try to pull in Vietnam, and that is the first time it has happened to us, which isn't too bad. It's a good job that weren't too fussed about seeing those temples anyway! It was only because we had some spare time.
The only other things there are to do in Nha Trang is to either sit on the beach or go to a bar and drink. Neither seemed particularly appealing, so we decided to head back to the hotel. Stu had dropped in some clothes into the laundry yesterday, so we picked that up on the way back. Always nice to get some clean clothes back from the laundry!
Just as we arrived back at the hotel I got a call from Jo (who was in the same tour group as us in China). She was staying near the beach, only a few minutes walk from our hotel, so I decided to meet her for a drink. Stu wanted to work on his photos for the blog, and Michelle decided to head to the markets so I headed out to meet her by myself. On the way I bumped into Tegan and Tyson walking down the road. It was nice to see them again, and we had a bit of a brief catch up. It seemed that they were recovering from drinking with Jo last night. Tegan said that she had only just got up (it was now about 4pm) and was not feeling well at all. It seems we had a lucky escape last night! After a quick chat I headed off to meet Jo.
We met up at the Sailing Club by the beach. A nice, if a little expensive, bar by the beach. It was great to see Jo again and we had a great catch up on what had been happening since we said goodbye in Hong Kong a couple of weeks back.
I couldn't stay out too long as we were meeting everyone else for dinner later this evening. I wished Jo well for the rest of her time in Vietnam and onwards.
Back at the hotel I saw a few of the others in one of the day rooms we had, and grabbed a quick shower before heading downstairs to meet everyone else.
Just before we were all due to meet we found out that Pat and Andy had received some bad news from home. Pat's brother had been in an accident back in New Zealand and was in hospital seriously ill. I think we would have all understood if they wanted to spend the rest of the evening by themselves, but they both decided to join us all for dinner - with the exception of Louann and Natalie who opted for a restaurant further away by taxi where you can barbecue your own food. The rest of us just wanted something simpler and closer by.
The restaurant seemed to be ok, but my main course was a bit disappointing. I ordered shrimp cooked in garlic butter, but what turned up was shrimp in some stodgy cheese - not as nice as I had hoped. I decided to make up for things by ordering a great pudding of pancake with honey, chocolate sauce and ice cream. It certainly made up for things! I also think being out for the meal may have helped Pat and Andy take their minds off things, just for a few minutes anyway.
We headed back to the hotel after the food to pack up all our belongings, and then met downstairs to get our bus to take us to the train station. Tonight we would be getting our overnight train to Ho Chi Minh City.
Once arrived at the train station we found our train to be delayed by a few minutes. However, we were on the train and leaving Nha Trang by 10:45pm.
As it was a late departure, the plan was to just get on the train, get into bed and sleep as soon as possible. We were a bit apprehensive about getting on the train as our experience with the overnight trains in Vietnam so far has taught us that they can be a bit dirty. We were also aware that the train has already come a long way to get to Nha Trang and that the bed clothes may have already been used - urgh!
Michelle, Isobel, Stu and I walked into what was to be our sleeper and it was not pleasant. All the bed clothes has been used, as expected, and one of the duvets was in a ball on the floor. When we picked it up we realised it had been covering some sort of spillage on the floor. Very unimpressed we called Thanh over to help explain to one of the guards what had happened. We thought they might come in and give it a clean. Our expectations were a bit high. The guard came in, picked up the duvet and put it in the storage area above our beds, then used a broom to simply spread the spillage across the floor. I guess that it was his method of cleaning up! All this meant was that we now had no where to put our luggage, as there was a wet duvet in our storage area, and the floor was all wet! The only half decent thing was that the guard came round with clean sheets that we could put over our beds.
Isobel did not want to use the duvet anyway, so she let Stu have hers. I decided not to use mine either, and luckily had thought to bring my towel along, so used that as a cover instead. We all thought the best thing to do was to try and forget the state of our sleeper and just turn off the lights and go to sleep - if we could. Unfortunately we all had to sleep with our luggage at the end of our beds, as the storage area had now been taken up by a wet duvet, and the floor was wet so we couldn't put them under the bed either! Sweet dreams!