A Travellerspoint blog

June 2008

On The Road to 'Paradise'

My motorbike trip north to see the Paradise Resort

semi-overcast 87 °F

My friends wanted to just laze away the day, so I decided to rent a motorbike and go see the beaches north of NT. Huong at the front desk got me a bike for 40,000VND, plus 30,000VND for petrol. I also wanted a better helmet with a face shield. I was quoted 10,000VND extra and agreed. It was raining on/off that day and I did not want rain hitting me in the face at speed. I got my windbreaker, backpack with my camera, VN guide book, water and took off. There is a new road that is being built that follows the ocean as you leave NT. Still under construction and not many using it. That was a good choice as you do not want to be out with the trucks and buses if you don't have to. I stopped at the section that is still dirt and took some photos. Off again, it stopped raining and the sun came out. I left my windbreaker on, just to cut down on the sun exposure to my arms. However, I did make a foolish mistake. I had on shorts and the tops of my legs got a dandy sunburn. When riding a motorbike for hours, wear long pants even if it is hot outside. You can always change into your shorts/bathing suit once you get to your destination. My bad.

I stopped many times just to get in the shade, rest my bum and drink some water. The new road ties into Highway 1 north and you cannot get too far off track. The directions call for you to turn right after the Hyundai Shipyards and head east. It is not very easy to find Doc Let beach after that turn, but I just kept blundering along and finally did see a handmade sign that said; 'Paradise Beach Resort'. Good enough for me. It is dirt/sand from this sign on and I was not sure it was going the right way. They could use a few more signs after you get off the paved road. But, it was a nice sunny day and I was enjoying just riding along. I finally did see what looked like the entrance to a resort and pulled into the shade. I saw a jeep with Paradise Resort stenciled on the side and figured I was at the right place. A young lad saw me pull up and ran off to get someone. It turned out to be the owner. A 81 yr old man from Croatia who has built the Paradise Resort. The 5 yr old lad turned out to be his son. He was quite proud to tell me he had a one son in his 50s and one that was 5. I congratulated him on his prowess and we discussed the wonders of Viagra. I also made a wild guess that he had married a much younger VN lady when he moved here. True, he admitted and then informed me that his wife is expecting! With is stud credentials assured, he ask me where I was from. When Las Vegas was the answer, he got excitied again. He had been there many years ago and wanted to tell me his experiences while gambling in Vegas. This happens quite often when I travel. All know of Las Vegas and many have been there or would like to visit. He invited me to use the facilites and have lunch with the guests. I had time for a swim and read a bit before lunch was served. It really is a nice stretch of beach. Perfect sand and warm, clear water for swimming or snorkelling. They do offer kayaks and have a boat for fishing and short excursions. But what Paradise Resort is really selling is peace and quiet. Most guests go there to decompress from the fast lane and enjoy the solitude. I shared a table with a nice family from Melbourne Australia. They wanted to know about my trip, Las Vegas and our election. Not a big surprise, they did not like our current president. Mr. Bush has angered most foreigners I met while in SEA. We had a lively discussion and a very good lunch. Plenty to eat even for a veggie like me. Well worth the $4. I said goodbye to my table companions and had another dip in the ocean, therapy for my injured toenail. A bit more reading and it was time to head back to NT. It is about 2 hours on a moto, plus stops to get out of the sun or give your bum a break. I took some photos, mounted up and headed back to NT. Decided to stay on Highway 1 all the way. It is shorter than the detour for the new road. Once back in NT, I decided to go see Bao Dai's villas down by the docks. I have been to NT four times before but never went over to the villas. You pay your entrance fee and leave your bike at the booth. It is a pretty steep climb to the villas and not sure I would recommend going. Hard to photograph and you can only enter one building. Nice view of the bay, but hardly worth the effort IMO.

I had enough sun so I headed for my hotel. I turned in the bike to the guy who lives right behind Nice Hotel. He has a bike rental sign, so you can't miss him. I was not charged for the better helmet as a different man checked me in. They do look for damage to the bike and you will have to pay if you get in a wreck or damage the bike. I don't recommend renting a motorbike in SEA unless you are an experienced rider. Yes they are fun, but the downside is significant. You are riding illegally, as we don't have a VN drivers license. If you fall off, you are going to be hurting and perhaps get to sample the local hospital. The real downside is if you get in an accident or the bike is stolen. Your happy holiday in VN just came to an end. You will be dealing with hospitals and the police if you get in an accident or have to replace the stolen bike. Really consider the pros and cons before renting a motorbike while in Asia. A word to the wise.

All in all, I had a pretty good day. Yes, I got sunburned and had a sore bum, but I can live with those problems when compared to the joy of a spending a day sightseeing in VN.

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Posted by vegasmike6 00:32 Archived in Vietnam Tagged tourist_sites Comments (1)

Nha Trang Bay Tour

sunny 87 °F

We signed up for the bay tour before I injured my toe, Hanh's Green Hat Boat Tour, 100,000VND for the day. I was going even if I had to limp and wear my tennis shoes. I did not want to get my toe wet that day, or stepped on. Many other operators besides Green Hat to pick from, all run the same tour, same price as well. They all pick you up from your hotel around 8:00am and take you to the docks. Then you run the usual gauntlet of vendors selling: hats, water, snacks, cigarettes, etc. We did buy straw hats for 5,000VND. Very cheap way to avoid too much sun on your head/face. If you are hair challenged as I am, you need to wear something on your head all the time you are in the sun. I brought a baseball cap, but this straw hat provided more protection. Your lunch is included, but you will be charged for drinks on the boat. A bottle of cold water is not a bad purchase at the docks. Or bring one with you on the van. Both will be cheaper than what they charge on your tour.

Once we fight off the vendors, everyone gets on their assigned boat. Just follow your guide or fellow passengers. It is a bit of a rugby scrum at the dock, coming and going. Dozens of boats all load and unload at roughly the same time. Keep your guide in sight. On the boat and off we go. These bay tours can have the feel of a cattle boat. They are pretty crowded and they herd you on/off many times during the day. One option if you want fewer people is to go out with the scuba divers. They will take non divers out for the day, $15 includes lunch. You will get more snorkelling time with the dive boats, not any time on the several islands the tour boats stop at. Most choose the tour/cattle boat option since it is only 100,000VND, includes lunch, all the cheap wine you want to drink and has a party atmosphere. Our boat had mostly VN people on it, probably 2/3. The rest a mix of western countries and few Japanese. The tour guides rattle off their set spiel, first in VN, then English. You are out of luck if you don't speak one or the other. I think one of the guides could of spoke French if needed, but he was not asked to. First stop is usually the snorkel stop, Mun Island. We had a nice sunny day, so many hop into the water and start swimming/snorkelling. With my injured toe, I stay on board and take photos. You do have a another option. A guy comes by in a glass-bottom basket boat. Several of the VN ladies get in and off they go. This way you can watch the fish w/o getting wet.

We motor to another area and the staff get out the microphone and keep us entertained. Karaoke is encouraged from all that think they can sing. I know I can't, so keep a low profile. Over to Mot Island and more swimming/snorkelling. Then the 'floating bar' makes its appearance. Get a life jacket and swim over to the 'bar' and have all the sweet, cheap red wine you can handle. Every guide has the: "Don't say no, say YO!" yell down pat. They want everyone 'happy' and being drunk helps that along. "V" & "R" get out there and say "YO". "H" and I stay on the boat. After everyone gets back on board, lunch is served. They put out a real spread, even a veggie like me has plenty of choices. This is like a Vegas buffet, eat all you want. If you leave hungry, it is your own fault.

Now we head to Tam Island for beach time & water sports. You have to pay a fee, 10,000VND for entrance. National Park, protected area or another way to make a bit of money, I am not sure. Everybody pays and you try to pick a spot. Sand is free but you have to pay to use the chairs or lounges. We opt for the seawall and stay out of the sun. Most hit the water again or go parasailing, jet skiing, banana boat, something. A very pleasant hour, weather permitting. Last time I was in NT it was Feb. and not many got in the water. Raining and cool. Today was perfect. There are 4 or 5 boats all tied together and you have to walk across several boats to find yours. Not for the old and stiff, like me. I manage but it is an adventure. Most are younger than I am and have fun jumping boat to boat. With my injured toe and battered back, I am last to arrive onboard our boat. In Asia, the old are venerated because of their experience and wisdom. I keep this in mind as I hobble on/off the boat. I am not sure the smiles and shaking of their heads at my display is exactly reverence, but I am going to go with that theory until proven false.

A large display of fruit is waiting for us when back onboard. You won't go hungry today. After we stuff ourselves with a variety of fruit, we motor over to Mieu Island for the aquarium. I have seen it before on a previous trip and don't need a repeat viewing of a second class aquarium. 25,000VND if you do go. I read my book in the shade and held down the fort. You really can use the tour for your BF & lunch. Won't need much dinner either. I recommend a light BF, maybe toast/tea and hold out until they serve lunch. This way the tour is basically free. You can spend 100,000VND on BF & lunch in many NT restaurants. Back to the docks and the van ride to your hotel. We got back about 4:15pm. All in all, a decent day out on the water.

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Posted by vegasmike6 12:27 Archived in Vietnam Tagged tourist_sites Comments (1)

I Get To Visit A VN Hospital!

I had my big toenail ripped off, ouch!

semi-overcast 91 °F

The day started off normal enough. After BF, the group decision was to visit the big market and see if there were any bargains to be had. It is quite a walk from the Blue Star, so we took a taxi. Split 3 ways it is very cheap way to get around NT. I really wasn't fired up to 'shop until I dropped', but went along for group harmony. I did find a VN t-shirt that looked good, but could of done that a block from my hotel. After shopping, the new plan is to walk over to a bank so "V" could change a travel check into VND. It was not too far, but it was sunny and HOT! I still had my umbrella purchased in DaLat, so I was not getting too much sun. Lucky for me they have chairs in the VietCom Bank. It takes awhile to change a Canadian travel check into US dollars into Vietnamese dong. But, I was sitting in an air con lobby, so I was not complaining. Then the group decision is to walk back to our hotels. I vote that is this stupidity. It is too far and too hot. After a bit of arguing, "H" votes with me and then "V" switches his vote when I tell them I will pay for it. Now it is 3 against one and we hail a taxi. I am happy to pay 20,000VND rather than endure another death march in the VN sun. I learned my lesson in DaLat. That slog took a lot out of me. My legs hurt not only that day, but the next as well.

Once back to our hotels, we agree to meet in an hour and hit the beach. We meet at Blue Star lobby and walk across to the main NT beach. It is Sunday and heaps of VN people are out and enjoying their day off from work. Most are hiding in the shade of the tress, good strategy on a hot day. We price the beach beds closest to us and get a surprise. This lady wants 30,000VND for one beach bed. It is 3:00pm, hardly an all day rental. She won't budge and we walk off a bit pissed off. This is more than we pay in Pattaya. I know the Sailing Club is less than that, so we head down the beach. They want 20,000 for a beach bed and I agree. "V" & "R' decide even this is too much considering the time and they head for the trees. I pay and get ready to read my book. Unfortunately it is partly in the sun and I want full shade. I should of got the guy who takes your money to do it for me. First mistake. I get in front and try to drag it into the shade. Mistake #2 it turns out. These things are solid wood and are heavy! I got in the front and try to drag it a few feet into the shade of the umbrellas. Unfortunately I drag it right over my toe. Well, that is not exactly true. The solid wood front hits my big toenail square on and rips off 90% of it. Ouch! It is bleeding pretty good and there goes my idyllic afternoon on the beach. I limp across the sand in my bloody sandals and show my friends my damaged toe. They suggest a hospital but don't know where. It is only a block to Octopus Divers on Biet Thu St. I know these guys are familiar with injuries and the location of a hospital. There is only 1 guy there at this time of day, the rest are out diving. He gets a motorbike taxi guy and tells him the name of the hospital. Off we go with my foot balanced as well as I can on the footrest. 5 minutes later we are at the emergency room entrance. I limp into the ER and show the first person I see my toe. He scurries off and finds an English speaking guy. I don't know if he is a Dr, a PA or nurse, but he knows what to do. A quick consult and they decide to rip off the entire nail. I lobby to save the nail, but that is not possible, all agree on that. He irrigates the toe, then gives me a shot of Lidocaine to numb the area. He waits a few minutes to let it work and finds out how I injured my toe. He then gets out a large pair of tweezers to remove the nail. I brace myself and with a quick jerk, off comes the entire big toenail. Luckily, it really did not hurt very much. In fact, the toe did not hurt very much after the first few seconds of the accident. Good thing, as I am not a real hero when it comes to dealing with pain.

Now that the toenail is off, the guy uses disinfectant and then wraps the toe in a dressing. I limp out to the see the Doc and he writes a prescription for pain pills and antibiotics. They make up the bill and give it to me. I am pleasantly surprised to see that it is $15 for the visit. Compare that to going to an ER in the US. I thank everyone involved and limp out to the parking lot. My moto guy is still waiting for me, as agreed. He takes me to a pharmacy close to my hotel and I fill the antibiotic part of the prescription. The one he wrote down is about a a dollar per pill. Since I need 3/day for 7 days, I object to a $21 bill. She tells me about another antibiotic that is much less money but still effective. 30,000VND for this antibiotic. Now we are talking. I pass on getting the pain pills filled, it does not hurt. I pay my moto guy and limp into the lobby. Huong, the front desk lady says she would have called a Doc to the hotel if I had shown it to her first. Well, I did not want to limp that far when I basically knew it was beyond a pharmacist or a friend attending to it. Besides, if I had done that, I would not have visited a VN hospital and had a new experience. Professional and affordable. I got good care at a reasonable price. I suspect VN citizens pay even less, but so what? I was happy, the Doc was happy, a win, win deal for all involved.

I checked with the guys at Octopus Divers later that day and all of them recommended salt water treatment. It proved to be good advice as it scabbed over in a few days with frequent use of salt water. I made my own, table salt and bottled water. I poured it over my toe several times a day until I was happy with the scab forming. This accident really only effected one day out of a 30 day trip to SEA. I feel fortunate that my stupid accident did not ruin my trip. It certainly could have if it had become infected. By keeping it clean and using the antibiotics, I dodged that bullet. A potential disaster turned out to be a educational experience, for me and now, for you. Don't hesitate to use the VN medical system if you injure yourself or become ill.

Posted by vegasmike6 21:45 Archived in Vietnam Tagged health_and_medicine Comments (0)

Switching To A 'Nice Hotel'

sunny 86 °F

I am not a good sleeper and noise tends to wake me up. I was up at 6:00am and decided to get the day started. At 7:00am I was walking the streets around my hotel just getting prices to see if I wanted to move. I hit several on Hung Vuong & Biet Thu St. Nothing special but competitive with where I was. I saw a sign off Hung Vuong St that said 'Nice Hotel'. It was down a small alley maybe 20 meters. I like quiet rooms, so this looked promising. Big, clean lobby, 3 computers and an elevator! I have never stayed at a hotel in VN that had an elevator. It is always trudge up 3-5 flights of stairs. Now I am thinking it will be out of my budget range. Huong, the manager was very professional and quoted me $9/nite. I asked to look at a room and was shown one on the 3rd floor that was being cleaned. Not large, but had a real bed, not a block of foam you so often get in cheaper rooms. Large TV, clean bathroom, small fridge, good air con. Everything was just nicer than at the 62 Tran Phu Hotel. I told her I would stay 4 nights, she lowered the price to $8/nite. I walked back to 62 Tran Phu and started packing. I was farther from the beach, but so what? Now it was a 4 minute walk instead of across the street. I will trade that walk for a nicer room at a better price every time. Hanh was not working when I checked out, so just paid my bill and left. No explanation needed. I have stayed at 62 Tran Phu at least 4 times, but will not go back. A 3 minute walk and I was checking in. I left my passport with the front desk, they also have a lock box for you behind the desk. Better place for your money than in your room. You sign the back of a taped envelope so you know if anyone has tampered with it. I was in/out of my envelope several times and it is a good system IMO. I got good news when I arrived. There would be a room available on the 8th floor by 10:00am. There is a balcony on the 9th floor that has a great view of the ocean. I went up there several times for the view, the breeze and to take some photos. One of the perks of staying at the 'Xihn' or 'Nice Hotel'. You also can use the computers on a share basis. They are not the fastest ones I have been on, but they are in your lobby and I never had to wait more than 10 minutes. Guests were pretty good about sharing when others were waiting. I left my bags behind the front desk and went to meet my friends. We had agreed to meet at 9:00am at the Blue Star lobby. Since Des Amis is right across the street, we had our BF there while I waited for my room to be cleaned and ready.

I will be recommending the Nice Hotel to any TP member that is going to Nha Trang. You can e-mail them at:
<nicehotel@vnn.vn> I saw them answering e-mails while I was at the front desk. People were reserving a room via e-mail. I have never reserved anything in 5 trips to VN, but it is not a bad idea during high season.

Photos of my room and the view from the 9th floor.

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Posted by vegasmike6 10:39 Archived in Vietnam Tagged lodging Comments (0)

On To Nha Trang

semi-overcast 86 °F

We had the Hanh Cafe open tour and booked the next leg to NT. Up at 6:00am to clean up, pack and walk over to the Pacific Hotel. Had BF at the small Pacific Hotel restaurant, basic omelet/bread/tea BF all hotels seem to offer. The bus was 1/2 late leaving and was not the best bus I have been on, but it got us there. Sinh Cafe just has better buses on most routes. Next time I will use Sinh Cafe open tour and walk or take a moto to a cheaper hotel. It seems you always circle around the lake before heading out of town and this happened again. DaLat really is a pretty city, so you don't mind another view of the lake. It is a very steep drop from DaLat to NT and slow going. The bus has to stay in a lower gear or the brakes would burn out. We stop once for a smoke break I guess, just 10 minutes, then about noon we have our lunch break. Every company has its place to stop, kickbacks would probably explain why they choose one over another. Basic choices at OK prices, but I usually pass. Not really hungry and we will be in NT in a few hours. The Hahn open tour stops on Hung Vuong St. at the appropriately named 'Hanh Cafe Hotel'. Just a typical hotel on a busy street. We pass and the guy drops his price from $8/nite to $7. A taxi is right there to take the four of us to the 62 Tran Phu Hotel, located oddly enough at 62 Tran Phu St. I have stayed there before and recognize the front desk lady, 'Hanh'. I have a photo of her in my gallery and below. I like the location, beach right across the street and the rooms in the rear are quiet. But, they have upgraded all their rooms to air con and are more expensive than we want to pay, $12/nite. My friends walk away to look elsewhere. I decide to stay one nite out of loyality, but will look for a better option. My friends pick the Blue Star Hotel, just around the corner on Biet Thu St. Good location, a/c, cable TV, $8/nite.

After getting unpacked, we all meet an hour later to walk around NT. Laundry is cheaper on the street than in your hotel, so I drop mine off where I see 12,000VND per kilo sign. We then walked out to the main NT beach, across from Biet Thu St. Price the beach beds, too high really, and walk the beach, down to the Sailing Club. Too expensive for our dinner budget, but will come back later for drinks/pool. We walk the beach for some exercise, then back to our hotels. A shower, bit of TV and over to the Blue Star at 6:00pm to meet for dinner. I like Cafe Des Amis, right across the street from The Blue Star. I ate there many times on previous trips and they agree to give it a try. Des Amis have veggie choices, sidewalk tables, good food at decent prices. A good dinner for 20,000VND is a real deal in '08. Meat dishes are more of course, but still a bargain. The only downside that I can see is that if you use the sidewalk tables, you get plenty of vendors pestering you. A steady stream of sellers hit us up to buy: books, postcards, cigarettes, candy, paintings, etc. Be firm with your "NO!" or sit inside. After dinner we walked down to the beach and end up at the Sailing Club. A few ladies of questionable morals make "R" and I offers we both could turn down. It did not seem to matter that "H" was with us, they still made their pitch. One continued to chat us up all the way there. She even invited herself to our table, sat down and proceeded to order a drink. That is taking chutzpah to a new level. We told this 'lady' to bugger off in very plain language. She still did not leave until "H" told our waitress that we were not paying for her drink. The price of a SC drink got her moving. We figured she would be waiting for us on the beachwalk, so we took our time enjoying the SC atmosphere and the view. Hard to beat gazing at the ocean from your table and having a nice breeze cool you off. Yes, the drinks are more expensive than at other places, but what a location. We signed up for the pool table and waited our turn. 40 minutes later we were still not up, so we headed back to our hotel and called it a night. Good introduction to NT and "R", "V" & "H" were happy we were there. Some beach shots, "eating street" and local ladies below.

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Posted by vegasmike6 17:12 Archived in Vietnam Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

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