Monday, May 25, 2009

From Da Lat to Hoi An

Hoi An Ancient Town is an exceptionally well-preserved example of a South-East Asian trading port dating from the 15th to the 19th century. In 1999, the old town of Hoi An was declared a World Heritage by UNESSCO. The section of road leading from Da Lat to N1 was winding and down hill, from 1,450 meters to zero. For 3 hours of daylight, we could only reach Nha Trang.

We decided to wash the car before leaving Da Lat. This carwash not only was an OMO (one man operation) but also he wash car with one hand. His left arm was fracture from a fall. Needless to say, it was not much of a show for us. The washing was similar to Singapore standard, wash and wipe dry, not even vaccume the interior.

We climbed even higher to 1,550 meters after leaving Da Lat. We got a good view of the valleys which were used extensively for vege, friuts and flower farming. With its cool climate the whole year over, Da Lat is the area that supplies temperate agriculture products for all over Vietnam, for example, cabbage and cauliflower.

We were traveling eastward on the ridge of the mountains for about 30 km. The scenery was different. We saw rolling hills, farms and planes. This mountain looks like miniture version of Mt. Fuji. The slope of the mountain wasn't as symmetrical as Mt. Fuji, but it was beautiful. There was this drink stall appeared strategically at a point that was overlooking the valley. Many travellers stopped here for a drink and enjoyed the view. After we got down the hill, we saw this cow family was taking their evening stroll. We were the intruder. So, we stopped and waited for them. They decided to walk along the road for 30 meters before moving to the right.

Traveling time to Nha Trang took longer than expected. By the time we were near to Nha Trang, the sun was almost set and it was raining. We missed the opportunity to take sunset behind the mountains and the beautiful shoreline.

The city of Nha Trang is becoming more popular with the tourists in recent years. Nha Trang still retains its small town atmosphere and unspoiled. This resort town is well known for its miles of beach and the friendliness of its people. The city is flanked by nearly ten kilometers of prime beach where the water is warm year round. Just off Nha Trang is an Island called Vinpearl which is reached by a cable car that goes across the sea. The Island has a waterpark, rides, a sealife centre and Resort & Spa. If you look hard enough, you can see it from this picture.

With the help of our Miss G (GPS), we found Asia Paradise Hotel near the beach. The receptionist at the hotel was firmed on their room rate of USD60. We didn't want to waste time looking for another hotel. So, one down for not getting a discount. I took a picture with her after we had checked in.

We went across the hotel to Truc Linh 1 restaurant for our one bear and then followed with BBQ Squid, Steam Fish and Vietnamese spring rolls. They were good.

Next morning, we took a walk to the beach and took picture. It was a nice beach. At 7 am, there were many locals enjoying the beach. Thuan told us his experience of a mud bath and Nha Trang is the place to have it. Since we haven't done it before, we decided to go for it.

On the way to the mud bath, Neo Chian spotted a Champ tower in a distance and we detoured to find out more. It was Po Nagar, a 8th century Cham Towers. On top of the stairs, there were 22 pilars. According to the guide, these were used to support a roof structure which had since collasped. After the pillars, there was another stair leading up to the tower, an important place of worship for the Cham people. This Cham family was preparing for their worship at the temple.

We went to Nha Trang Thap Pa Hot Spring Center for our mud bath. At the ticketing counter, Thuan asked me if we wanted a private or public bath. Do we want to have a private bath? Of course not. Also, we would like to see how everyone else did it. So, we bought the "public" ticket. This place is not tourist friendly. Information and instructions in English were limited. We didn't
know where to start. Finally, we figured out we had to take a mineral spray to clean our body. Then we went to the hot spring pools area. After showing the ticket, the attendent pointed at a pool which was already occupied by a guy with tattoo. We double checked with the attendent, was it a mistake? There were other empty pool. No, he pointed at the pool again. Well, we got into the hot spring pool which was about 2 meters in diameter. We sat inside as if we were buddy to him! Neo Chian had to be carefully in moving himself. A stretch with his arm would have physical contact with the tattoo man. We sat in the hot spring pool for a good 10 minutes. Neo Chian asked a European lady in the next pool if she knew what would be the next step. To our surprise, she said next step? This is the last step! We got out of the pool and asked another attendent, she pointed to another area. We went over and presented the ticket. Again, he pointed at a mud pool already had 5 guys in there! What to do? Get in lor. Then we understood the meaning of "private" or "public". Private means that you have the pool to you and public means you share. We didn't not bring our camera for the fear of dropping it into mud pool. This picture was taken by the on-site photographer at 100,000 Dongs. With the entrance fee of 100,100 Dongs, we spent 300,000 Dongs in total. It was a nice experience. However, it would be better if clear instructions were really avaliable. The irony was, after we washed up, we saw the board showing steps of taking a mud bath:
1. After get changing cloth, tourists are instructed to clean themselves with warm mineral water. 2. The above step is followed by the main step: mud-bath, massaging the face/hair with mud, and flush your body.
3. Sun-bath is the 3rd step after 15-minute mud-bath. This step is to allow minerals present in mud to penetrate onto the skin.
4. As soon as sun-bath has completed, tourists are instructed to flush their bodies with fresh water to get rid of mud, then have their bodies soaked in a hot mineral water pool.
We did step 1 to 4 to 2 to 4. Never knew that there was a step 3.

We decided to eat just outside Thap Pa Hot Spring before leaving Nha Trang. This was typical Vietnamese restaurant. You could take a nap in this hammock before your meal. By now, we knew we couldn't make it to Hoi An. So we decided to go for Quy Nhon, which was just over 100 km, for a night before we headed for Hoi An.
We reached Quy Nhon almost dark. We checked into Hoang Yen Hotel for a night.

Quy Nhon is a pretty seaside town. View from our hotel room.

We left early from Quy Nhon. This was a ordinary drive to Hoi An. We arrived around 4 pm. With the help of Lonely Planet, we found Ah Phu Hotel. With a bit of negotiating, we got a twin room for USD40, USD5 off from their offered price.

You could see Singapore flat was hanged at their receiption counter. That made us felt welcome.

It was sunset time again.

1 comment:

  1. Sunny

    must say u have done very well for your blogging, as good as neo chian or better:-) Very colourful and interesting photos - i like the flower gardens and the bike scene...keep it up, more beers and enjoy with safety and fun in mind