A Travellerspoint blog

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)

Touring DaLat

We paid for tour 5 and get tour 4. But, it works out OK.

rain 69 °F

We had paid for a tour of DaLat the day before, $9. We picked a tour that had Prenn Waterfall, Datanla Waterfall, the cablecar ride to Tuyen Lam Lake, and the 'Chicken Village'. I had seen all of these before, but my friends had not. I was particularly eager to visit the 'chicken village' again and buy more handmade souvenirs from the ladies of the Koho minority. It all started out OK. We left on time, 12 of us in a large van. First stop was the cablecar, paid the separate fee of 35,000VND and off we went. Decent photo ops from the cable car and worth doing once. This was my 3rd trip, so not too excited, but wanted to stay with my friends. The ride ends at the Tuyen Lam Lake. But first you look at the Truc Lam Monastery. I took a few photos, but unless you are Buddhist, it is not too significant. The lake is a bit of a walk downhill, but plenty of pine trees make it a nice setting. Mostly VN people here, enjoying being out of the city and with their families. Plenty of photos being taken of varous groups posing together. I volunteered my services many times as I know everyone wants to be in the shot. The tour gives you about 40 minutes at this stop. Back on the van to Datanla Falls. Wrong, we go right by it. I did this on my own last time in DaLat and I know you hit Datanla before Prenn. No, we stop at Prenn Waterfall and run the gauntlet of souvenir sellers that swarm once you are out of the van. A polite "no!" and keep walking. Unless you are in dire need of: film, gum, breath mints, candy, cigarettes, lighter, hat, umbrella, T-shirts, snacks, etc. If you slow down and decide to buy something, then the problem is: who to buy from? At least 4 or 5 are pestering you to buy something, anything. Keep walking is my advice. Prenn admission is so cheap the tour company pays for it. Mediocre waterfall and plenty of cheesy things for VN newlyweds. Such as: dress up in ethnic costumes and: ride an elephant, ride a horse, take a jeep ride, ride in a carriage, climb a treehouse, walk across a swinging bridge, pose by a hut or by the waterfall, all the while being photgraphed by one of the many pros stationed at Prenn. Even VN citizens now have digital cameras, but these guys do get some takers. Go figure. This was my 3rd visit and I was not remotely interested in the kitschy options offered or having my photo taken. But, many in our tour group do. Most of the VN ladies dress up in costumes and get on an elephant or horse or swinging bridge or pose by the waterfall. They want their photo taken in a costume. The men? not so much. The highlight for me came as I was walking up the stairs to leave. A lady in ethnic clothes said: "hello, how are you?" in very good English and ask me if I want to buy something. I took a look and recognized the patterns as the ones on my eyeglass case. I took it out and showed it to her. K-Dong said, "you bought this at my village." I then took out my photos from my previous visits to the 'chicken village' and we had a good laugh. K-Dong was in one of my older photos. We had a very nice chat and I promised her I would visit her relatives when I got to her village. I also had a photo of Mike, a guy who toured DaLat with me several years ago. (photo is in my gallery, sitting on his motorbike) I showed his photo to K-Dong and she said; "I know this man, his name is Mike." I told her we were friends and promised to contract him once back in the US. He has helped this village with water and sewage issues over the years. Meeting K-Dong made the stop at Prenn worthwhile for me. Prenn is OK once, not 3 times.

After Prenn we headed back towards DaLat on the new road. Now I was concerned. The 'chicken village' is farther down the road towards HCMC. Our guide announces we are now heading for the Cremaillere Railway Station. This makes no sense and I ask our guide why are we heading back towards DaLat. He brushs me off and contines with his spiel, first in VN and then English. The railway station is OK, not worth more than 15 minutes, IMO. There is an old engine here, but the railroad is not in real use, just a tourist ride now. A bride and groom were there at the same time, so that was a bonus. Congrats to the newlyweds, a few photos of them and off we go. Lunch is next up on our busy agenda. They try to get you to eat at a designated restaurant, but a quick check of the menu and we walked down the street. Our group of four picked another place within 30 meters and paid about half of what the rest of our tour group did. You are not obligated to eat where the tour guy wants you to. A decent lunch for 35,000VND. When the guide came to fetch us, I asked him what was next. He says; Bao Dai's Summer Palace. Now I am not happy. I point out the tour we signed up for does not include Bao Dai's Palace. We toured it yesterday. Why would we sign up for a tour that included Bao Dai's? Now the truth comes out. Not enough signed up for our tour, so they combined groups. No Datanla Falls or 'chicken village'. I let him know I was not a happy camper and wanted to be taken back to the hotel, right now! I knew we were not very far from the hotel and he certainly wanted to get rid of this angry American. They dropped me off the at Pacific Hotel and I told the front desk lady what had happened. She knew I had signed up for a different tour, but could do nothing about it at that point. I rented a motorbike from the Pacific Hotel for 40,000VND plus 25,000VND for petrol. I insisted on a full faceshield for the helmet and she found one. Light rain was falling and getting hit in the face with rain at 60 km/hour is not much fun. I took the new road that puts you on the main highway right at Prenn. It is a longer route, but safer for a moto. Not much traffic on it. 20 minutes after going by Prenn, I was at the turn off for the 'chicken village'. I had done this two years before and remembered where you get off the main road. I stopped by the ladies doing their weaving and got out my photos from previous visits. I also scrolled through my camera and found the photo of K-Dong. I showed it to the ladies and they yelled out something to a small boy. He ran down the lane and came back with K-Dong's sister. Since I was a 'friend' of the village, I got royal treatment. I showed her Mike's photo, she knew him and ask when he was coming back to visit. I told her I did not know, but would tell him that they all asked about him and want him to return. I then visited the school, met the teacher and her students. We then visited a Buddhist lady that makes incense sticks. You are encouraged to buy them, but I had no use for incense. I did give her a 'photo fee' that equaled her price for incense. Smiles all around. It is very small money for us, but makes a difference to those that are not nearly so well off. Photos of everybody and it was time to buy my handmade souvenirs, $20 total. I tried to spread my spending around and bought from all three groups of ladies. I like to buy right from the makers of the product when possible. Here you have a chance to help at the grassroots level. I said goodbye to everyone, mounted up and started back to DaLat. I stopped by the central market and had my photos developed. Took 20 minutes. I walked over to a small restaurant that the 'Easy Riders' frequent and showed them my photos. One of the guys recognized K-Dong and her sister. I gave them to him and asked that he give them to the ladies when he returns to their village. He said he would. It was raining on/off since I started out and was happy to turn the bike back in w/o any damage. You will be held liable if you damage the bike. A real downside to renting motorbikes anywhere in SEA. I was ready for a hot shower and a bit of rest before meeting my friends for dinner. All in all, a memorable day of bumping around DaLat.

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Posted by vegasmike6 15:14 Archived in Vietnam Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

On To DaLat

We hit the central market, check out Bao Dai's Palace and the 'Crazy House'.

All of us have been to HCMC before and we had no desire to see the same sights again. We booked the open tour with Hanh Cafe and left for DaLat the next morning. We picked Hanh Cafe because they stop at cheaper hotels than the Sinh Cafe buses do. Say $7/nite where Hanh stops vs. $20/nite where the Sinh Cafe bus stops. The bus ride is not too bad, you start heading uphill a few hours after you get out of HCMC and it becomes quite scenic. Takes about 6 hours, one stop for lunch. We wind around Xuan Huong Lake that is in the center of DaLat and stop at the Pacific Hotel. Big rooms but a few were musty, price was $6 single. I had stayed there before and wanted a quieter room. I found one up a small alley, the Loan Kim Hotel. Just a few minutes walk and you are away from the traffic noise. It backs up to the woods and is much quieter than any hotel on Bui Thi Xuan St. Price was $8/nite. I was happy to pay a bit more for a quiet room. Met my friends for dinner, we ate at the V Cafe, just down the street from the Pacific Hotel. Nice place and good food. We ate there several times and always had a decent meal. Not cheap at 60,000VND or more per meal, but it is nice. Located right across the street from the Trung Cang Hotel, where the Sinh Cafe bus stops. My buddies like a few beers after a meal so we wandered down to the lake and spent an enjoyable hour sitting at a restaurant overlooking Xuan Huong Lake. I had hot tea and they had their beer. Wear long pants and have a sweater or windbreaker, it can get cool at night even in April. "H" was really happy to be in DaLat. Cooler, pretty and not as hectic as many VN cities, many couples pick DaLat for their honeymoon. We walked back to our hotels and called it a night.

The next day was for shopping and just bumping around DaLat. Most ladies like to shop and "H" was no exception. After BF we walked down to the hill to the Hoa Binh Square where the big central market is located. Fresh fruits and vegetables outside, clothing and everthing else inside. After everybody had what they wanted, we headed down Truong Cong Dinh St to the Peace Cafe. I had stayed at the Peace Hotel on previous trips and knew it was an OK place for a smoothie or light lunch. Caters mostly to backpackers plus the Easy Rider guys use it as a hang out. We decided to go to Bao Dai's Summer Palace from Peace Cafe. Too far to walk, but a cheap taxi ride and we were at Bao Dai's Palace. I've been there several times but my friends have not, so we paid our 8,000VND and spent the next hour on a self guided tour of the palace and grounds. Worth seeing IMO. The chance to dress up in royal attaire is not something you get to do very often. I have the photos of me in royal robes already, so I passed. I could not get my friends to dress up, so we made our way out. We decided to walk back and stopped at the Hang Nga GH and Art Gallery. Known to one and all as the 'Crazy House', it is worth a stop. It is constantly under construction, so new rooms were added since I was there 2 years ago. Paid the admission of 10,000VND and walked into every room that was not rented. Bring one of those small umbrellas when walking around DaLat. It is either going to rain or you will be getting more sun exposure than you want. I got mine at Bao Dai's for 25,000VND. Saved me from getting sunburned on our trek back to the hotel. I wanted to take a taxi, but the group decision was to burn up some calories and walk. It is 2-3 km and I was knackered before we got back. For a 15,000VND taxi fare I could saved myself an hours slog in the sun and tired legs.

We met for dinner and priced several places on the way to V Cafe. None had the menu choices, ambiance or fair prices as the V Cafe, so we went back. We got the same table and same waiter as the night before. A repeat to be sure, but all three of us enjoyed our meal, so it was a good decision. Afterwards, they wanted to have their nightly allotment of beer. Since I don't drink and was tired from our long trek during the day, I passed and went back to my hotel for a decent night's sleep.

Photos of Xuan Huong Lake, the Central Market, Bao Dai's Palace & Crazy House.

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Posted by vegasmike6 11:25 Archived in Vietnam Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

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