Family holiday at the Beach

1 Feb
(lots of) Travelling to Nha Trang

(lots of) Travelling to Nha Trang

We were only just back from the beach (visiting a friend’s fancy beach resport in Vung Tao) and what comes next. Right: a little holiday to the … beach. With the family-in-law this time and going a bit further afield: to Nha Trang (more north). We packed and loaded the car in good family style, stuffing the boot with beach stuff, munchies and picnic for the road, as well as one aunt & mother, brother & wife and also the kids of the brother, full of enthusiasm.

The trip was scheduled to start at 7am, in order to reach Nha Trang at a decent hour (so that we could still have a quick dip before sun set), but children, aunts and cars don’t always move that fast in Vietnam, so it wasn’t till 8h30 that we dived into Sai Gon traffic (after having got up at the crack of dawn to be ready). Getting out of Sai Gon (like in any big city) was the biggest challenge. The brother did a good job though honking the mopeds of his path and overtaking slow cars and lorries from both sides and in curves and all. Funnily enough, buses always seemed to pass us out – so they must be the fastest (or most time-pressured) on the road in Vietnam.

All that's needed to survive a 6 hour car journey

All that's needed to survive a 6 hour car journey

Once we got to a steady‘cruising speed’ the food started flowing. Mum and aunt 10 in front kept on delving up different snacks from their magic bags filled with pic nic and passed all kind of goodies to us on the back seat. There were delicious hand rolled fresh summer rolls, sticky rice mixed with meat & veg, dried spicy meat, bread with something inside (pork but with definitely some unidentifiable chunky chunks), and of course fruit, and more fruit.

  • The Vietnamese just adore fruit. I read somewhere that if the Vietnamese had to choose between giving up fruit or meat – meat would go out of the window straight away… no question about it. Since I arrived in Vietnam I have already tried a dozen of fruits I never even knew they existed: longan, Vietnamese pears, milk fruit, soursop, rambutan, guava, mini mandarins, some fruit with bubbles on the outside, and more.
The view from our bed...

The view from our bed...

When arriving in Nha Trang, the next challenge was to find a place to stay for the whole family, including the car. The idea was to stay on the beach road, which drove the prices up considerably, and also needing a parking space for the car was not all that evident. Negotiating prices did not seem to go as well, as for ‘us’ foreigners. I guess I would have been harder in the negotiating and walked away. But for some reason if you speak the same language, you care more about the other person? Foreigners don’t give a damn? Anyway, I didn’t want to mix in, and in the end we ended up in a lovely Vietnamese hotel. I say ‘Vietnamese hotel’ because the majority of people there were Vietnamese. Maybe because for foreigners the glass wobbly doors (so you could see who was home and who not) and the balcony with paint stains would not inspire quality (for the price we ended up paying). Having said that, we had a superb view of the sea from the bed, and the sun caressing us in the morning.

Family dinner at Pho 24

Family dinner at Pho 24

I invited the family for dinner, as I had been pampered so much by them – I felt as if they had adopted me. Soooo nice. But on the first night when we arrived after a day in the car, they were so tired that we actually didn’t get much further than the Pho (Vietnamese soup & noodles) restaurant around the corner. On top of it it was “Pho 24” – a fast food like chain of these typical Vietnamese soup restaurants. I wanted to invite them to some place more upmarket – but when we were looking for a good address that C tried and tested 2 years before seemed to have gone out of business (maybe it was tooooo much upmarket for people – read expensive). And when Vietnamese are hungry (as I experienced when in Gran Canaria) then situations get complicated, so we ended up in some mediocre very local restaurant that would cater for student parties or family gatherings. Well, at least I did ‘something’ in return, even though it was not ‘haute cuisine’…

The next day we were going to the beach – however not just in front of the hotel (which we booked especially to be at the sea shore) but we drove another hour through beautiful countryside, to get to some kind of resort, with all the infrastructure it takes to make a Vietnamese family happy: parking lot, beach huts and a plethora of stuff for rent and food for sale. The family splashed out big time: first of all it took an entrance fee to get in, then we had to pay for a hut/roof/veranda, the brother rented hammocks, etc.

One two three - and masses of sea food arrived

One two three - and masses of sea food arrived

It only took about 15 minutes – and there was all kind of food on the table: of course fresh sea food (lobster – never eaten that – crabs I had some experience with now), more fruit and fruit, some cold beers from the stalls next door – a truly big feast, in our little beach veranda overlooking the sea. They ordered far too much (better too much than too little?), so the leftover crabs and lobsters were wrapped up again and traveled back to the hotel with us on the roof of the car (the coolest spot) and then they surfaced again in the restaurant we were going for dinner that night.

Playing on the beach

Playing on the beach

It was fun to see how a family spends their day at the beach. We went for swimming in the turquoise blue sea, with tranquil little waves. We helped the children out in building sand castles (and of course a 30 something white guy building sand castles attracts quite some attention in Vietnam) and in digging each other into the sand. The usual beach stuff.

  • But the beach was turned the ‘wrong way’. Vietnam has most of its coast facing East, so in the afternoon the sun is shining on your back if you want to face the water. So you would have to go and lie upside down to enjoy the sunset – but then all the bungalows and stalls are blocking the sun… It never crossed my mind that a beach could be oriented the ‘wrong way’. I guess I prefer west coast beaches, so that you can see the sun sinking in the sea… (e.g. like at Phu Quoc, Kep or Shihanoukville: see pictures).
Posing on the beach

Posing on the beach

And then it was around 2pm, and the family had enough of the beach and packed up and we drove back to Nha Trang. Had I said something wrong? Did I miss something? Was the beach indeed the wrong way around to stay till sunset? Were they just tired (from getting up too early to drive there) and wanted to go for a siesta? That’s the fun part of intercultural contacts – things happening for mysterious regions – and trying to find out what’s the story behind ;-)

The next day the family went back to Sai Gon, leaving us to ourselves and to each other… (more for VIPs here)

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