Thursday, April 14, 2016

The one where Kat comes to visit and we go to the beach.

My BB (best buddy, bosom buddy, something along those lines) Kat came to visit me in October 2012. Before you get all Judgy McJudgerson, you should realise that at least I’m writing this BEFORE the FOUR YEAR MARK! Crazy how time flies and how much I procrastinate with doing the things I really want to do. Not my job…obviously. Kat had never been out of the country before and has now visited three countries in four years, for which I’m immensely proud of her. Leading up to her first trip though, there were a ton of emails back and forth all full of questions like “will there be signs in English?”, “do I need a visa?”, “how do I hail a taxi?” “is that safe?” (in regards to a seafood buffet I wanted to take her to), which are all perfectly legit questions, but I never think about things like that. I mean, I do, but I do all the research on my own and never think to ask others about it so it was a particularly stressful time for both of us because I kept taking on her stress about visiting. Once she arrived it was easy peasy time. Well, for her. I got sick…of course. More about that later.

Kat arrived on a Friday and I decided to keep my evening classes because I was losing an entire weekend which sucked because of my low hours, but was also amazing because having a free weekend felt so darn good at the time. It didn’t affect me that much though because she arrived late Friday evening and by the time I picked her up from the airport and we got back to my apartment it was pretty late and we had an early morning train to catch. We had enough time for a late night snack, some minor BB catching up time, shower (for her since she’d been traveling for close to 19 hours) and sleep. We were up pretty early on Saturday to catch our train up to Nha Trang. It was my first time on the train so that was pretty exciting. We got a soft seat in air con (just a regular chair in air conditioning) which I can’t remember why because it was about a 7-hour trip and the soft sleeper wasn’t that much more expensive. It was a good trip though. Make sure to buy your tickets in advance since reservations are required. I went to the train station about a week prior to buy the tickets, but you can also buy through most travel agencies on Bui Vien. I didn’t see the point since you have to pay an extra fee, but it does make life easier for lazy travellers. Ga Saigon is located at 1 Nguyen Thong, 9th Ward, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City. If you need more information on train travel ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD, check out Seat 61, which is absolutely one of the best websites ever. For more information on train travel in Vietnam, you could also use the Vietnam Railways website.

Kat and I caught the 6:00 a.m. train and got into Nha Trang around 1:00 p.m. We got a taxi to our hotel, the Golden Sea Hotel Nha Trang, which I don’t remember very well, but I have over good memories of it. We had an oceanfront view, as in a view of the actual ocean. I only got to see it for a little bit before I promptly got sick. It was probably motion sickness because after a few hours of rest and lots of water I was back to normal. The beach in Nha Trang (to me) wasn’t particularly nice (as nice as Cambodia and Thailand for sure) and I took a personal exception to it because a wave *literally* knocked me on my face, which caused endless amounts of laughter on Kat’s part. ::I’m still shaking my fist at you, Katherine:

The seafood in Nha Trang is generally delicious. We found a restaurant, Truc Linh 2, not too far from the hotel for dinner that was not. Avoid it all costs even if Lonely Planet touts it in their guidebooks.  The pictures of our food look good, but it did not taste good and that’s all I have to say on that matter.

The next day we rented a motorbike and drove around town to see some of the sights. I successfully managed to not kill us and find Long Son Pagoda (Chùa Long Sơn) (success!!), which is a Buddhist temple with a beautiful and huge statue of…you guessed it…Buddha! It’s really peaceful and definitely worth a visit. We also managed to successfully find Po Nagar Towers (Thap Ba) which I can’t say enough good things about. It’s an old Cham temple (but apparently is still used by visitors) and the architecture is so different from Buddhist temples you find in Vietnam. I think I prefer the Cham style, I have no words, but lots of pictures so hopefully you’ll be able to see why. It’s situated at the top of a hill overlooking the water and there weren’t that many visitors when we were there in October so it was quiet and exuded the sense of peace you usually only find in temples.

We didn’t try to see much more because Kat was still feeling jetlagged and I was still getting over my sudden sickness from the day before and it was pretty hot to be driving around, in the sun mind you, so we called it quits in the early afternoon. Plus, we had a bus to catch to Da Lat, which I thought would be a great place to visit for several reasons. I’d never been, Kat wanted to see as much of Vietnam as possible so I thought seeing the beach, a big city and the mountains would count as “as much as possible” and it was chilly in the mountains in October and I was really missing the cold. So off to Da Lat we went. More in the next post…

Sunday, April 10, 2016

More from Phu Quoc

Thanks to Facebook memories, I found this review I wrote to my friend Alee after Helen's and my stay in Phu Quoc and I thought I ought to share it.

"I stayed at the Coco Palm Resort in Phu Quoc just last week and it was great. It's a bit further away from town, but you'll get all the rest and relaxation you want. They treat you like family there. Plus, you'll get your own private beach. It's right on Ong Ang Beach which is so much nicer than Long Beach where the majority of hotels are. Sao Beach is amazing, beautiful, perfect but on the other side of the island. If you stay at Coco Palm, especially due to your mom's injury, be prepared to stay there the entire time unless you take a taxi for 175,000 VND back to town. I'd wholly recommend staying there, though."

Granted, this happened four years ago and who knows what it's like now, but it was fantastic back then!

This also reminded me of the funniest story. Helen and I shared a room while there because that always makes financial sense. It was late at night and I can't remember whether we had fallen asleep or were woken from sleep by this scuttling noise. The rooms all had tiled floors, as should all good beach hotels, so we could here the definite sound of a "click click click" on the floor. It scared the bejesus out of us. I mean, we were terrified. We're two pretty smart people and we should have realised that it was probably a crab or something, but nope. We immediately think man-eating spider or a snake that developed claws. I know, we're weirdos. We're up-on-the-bed-flailing-around-trying-to-make-a-run-for-it-but-we-can't-reach-the-door-and-what-will-we-do-outside-in-our-nightgowns-weirdos. Anyway, I recently remembered that and I can't stop laughing about it.