Unlike the Cambodia to Thailand border, we hadn’t heard any bad reports about crossing the Cambodia to Vietnam border. The border was super smooth, aided by the fact that our bus attendant bribed the border officials (placed bills in each passport) to ensure his bus passengers got priority. Great for us, but not so good for all the locals and independent travelers already waiting in line ahead of us.
Ho Chi Minh City (formally Saigon) is a clean modern city with wide avenues, which served as an in introduction to the sad and disgusting sex tourism that SEA is famous for. Thankfully the delicious Vietnamese food (Amanda had been dreaming about the food for several months) overshadowed all the creepy white men searching for young local girls.
The number of motorbikes in the city (4 million for 9 million citizens) was overwhelming, but the traffic didn’t compare to Manila or even LA. At least riding a motorbike is a more efficient (we saw was a family of 5 on one scooter) form of transportation versus everyone driving by themselves in their new SUV (although walking or public transportation is always the best option).
After two days of exploring the Cu Chi Tunnels, the ‘American’ War museum and enjoying as much Pho and Che as we could eat, we were off to explore the beaches of Vietnam.
The Worst Beach Ever
We had high hopes for Mui Ne after the unexpected pleasantness of the beaches in Cambodia, however our hopes quickly disappeared as we tried to find a way to access the beach. What was once a long palm covered sandy beach (at least that’s what the Lonely Planet said) is now not much more than a big pile of cement.
Sadly, this was the worst beach I had visited (tied with the west end of Galveston, Texas – due to the seawall they built after the 1900 storm), and should be the poster child of how terrible and destructive sea walls are to preserving beautiful beaches. Once we found an access point to the water (only a small dirty alleyway every mile) there was NO beach to speak of! Each private hotel had constructed their own cement barrier all the way to the water which ensured any sand that was left had washed away years ago.
The only redeeming quality of Mui Ne was the scenic motorbike ride to the beaches in the north to watch the local fishermen ride around in round boats and finding one of the best bowls of pho of the trip.
SE Asia’s Sochi or Puerto Vallarta?
“Are we in Sochi?” I asked Amanda. The Olympics were going on, but we were definitely still in Vietnam.
I dub Nha Trang the Puerto Vallarta of Asia. A wide sandy beach, facing a deep water bay, surrounded by green covered mountains, with a healthy number of high-rise resorts packed with not American, but Russian tourists. Although very touristy, we were happy to be at a beach that actually had sand and the body surfing waves were an added bonus.
It was instantly clear that English speaking tourists were a minority in Nha Trang. We take for granted that English is almost always the dominant travel language wherever we go so we had to get accustomed to being spoken to in Russian. All the menus and restaurant advertisements were in Russian. Even the street food ladies were fluent in Russian.
I know stereotypes are not PC these days, however I couldn’t help myself laugh a little at all the very pale, barrel-chested Russian men, with shaved heads, only sporting tiny speedos running around the beach (no speedo pictures included).