Sunday, July 26, 2009

Highlights Of Nha Trang

Watch more Nha Trang videos at

Let's break for the beach for a change of pace...

It's amazing that there are still people in the United States that believe Vietnam is a vast swampland, and that its inhabitants are waiting around the corners for Americans so they can shoot them. How do I know this? As the U.S. agent for Aurora Travel, I have had the pleasure to speak to countless numbers of people traveling to Vietnam who need help in either designing a tour, or are curious, and we talk about my experiences. The ones that have gone ahead with their plans were positively ecstatic about their visit. It's important to remember though, that aside from a vigorous city life, Vietnam also has a quieter, more languorous side to it, and it is evident in its seaside resorts which are located north of Saigon.

We only scratched the surface of this aspect of Vietnamese travel when we stopped in Nha Trang. We arrived there by train from Hue, and really did not know what we would find except for what I had read in the 'guide books'.  The photo at the top is taken at dusk, and what you're seeing is the South China Sea. There are treasures that await you here, especially if you scuba dive or snorkel. Unfortunately, I do neither...But I grew up in a culture that considered the seashore part of its everyday life. Thus, it is no wonder that no matter which corner of the globe I find myself in, the radar is always on for palm trees, balmy breezes, and white sands.

Let's start with our hotel...appropriately called the Green Hotel, the outside is a bit deceiving.  The color may not sit well with many people, and even myself, a lover of green, was a bit curious upon arriving. However, having arrived at night, the color is more subdued.

Getting to the hotel itself was an adventure. What should have been no more than a 5-minute ride from the station turned into an excursion with our driver, who stopped in front of a very formal-looking, deserted building. Caution: if you are not where you need to be, don’t get out of the taxi, as it may take forever to find another one, especially in a blind alley. Our taxi driver had expectedly gone through all of his “OK, OK, OKs”, which at this point meant zero, as the number of the building was not even the same as our hotel. Eventually, we did get to the right place!

yes, rattan, but with an Oriental flavor all its own; the room was cool
and made up for the very uncomfortable heat outside.

The heat and humidity were relentless, even at 11pm, and were alleviated by the delightful icy air blowing out of the overhead unit above the sliding glass doors of our room. This was luxurious indeed, and the first king-size bed I had seen on this trip before our return to Saigon. The room was appropriately furnished in rattan in traditional Vietnamese style; the parquet floors were spotless. We were recommended to this hotel by VietnamStay.Com,  and frankly, it was better than either one of us expected. I was already beginning to regret that we were here for only a day, but already we knew that this country had not seen the last of us, so there was some consolation on that end.

Twenty-four-hour room service is available here from the Jasmine Restaurant, where we had delicious food. We were on the fifth of seven floors, so we were able to enjoy an extended view that borrowed some pieces of the ocean. Direct dialing can be arranged from your room, where you can also enjoy satellite TV if you have the time. There is also an in-room minibar, electric water heater, and yes, a hair dryer, along with the extra toothbrushes and paste. All the amenities are wrapped in green!

The people at the reception desk are amongst the most courteous we encountered; they can arrange for any tours and book air and train tickets for you, should you require it. Safe deposit boxes are also made available.

The gift shop downstairs also has Internet stations, but I don’t recommend them, as the connection is slower than molasses.  For the tired and weary, massage, Jacuzzi, steam baths, and sauna are to be had right in the hotel. For the business-oriented traveler, they have a center downstairs as well that offers photocopy machines, secretarial and typing services, translation, and interpreters.
 if you look very closely, you can see through the glass one of the
diners in the huge Jasmine restaurant
In-house function hall and summit rooms make meetings possible on the premises. Taxis are usually available during the day, as they are parked directly across the street from the Green Hotel. Otherwise, the staff will make the call for you. I truly loved this place!

Now, for the beach goer, you have about 7 kilometers of coastal water for your pleasure. But the unexpected pleasures we found were even more delightful than the beach. Extraordinary examples of Cham culture awaited us and we also, inadvertently, saw a mass in progress in honor of the late Pope John Paul II. Ten percent or so of the Vietnamese population is catholic.

And the Art do it justice, I would have to show you every single piece of artwork shown there; but we did one better! We actually got to see the ladies laboring over these huge cloth stenciled patterns with their silk threads and needles. So little time, yet crammed with activity.

A fine example of Cham architecture, and the whole
story is forthcoming, so hang in there.