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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Dec 14-16: Nha Trang

I had been hearing about Nha Trang ever since I arrived in Vietnam in June. All of my students kept saying it was the best beach in Vietnam. Now I finally had the opportunity to see what all the fuss was about.

I took an overnight sleeper bus from Hoi An, arriving in Nha Trang at 6:00am. I quickly found a hotel room for $5 a night - the cheapest one yet! I left my backpack in the room & headed for the beach.

There was no one there. Of course, it was a Monday & it was early in the morning, so maybe all the beach goers were still snug in their beds. I looked in the guidebook & found out that there were some Cham ruins not far from the center of town. These were the same people who built My Son in Hoi An, where I had just been. I decided to rent a bicycle & check them out.

Po Nagar was an interesting site, well worth the 11,000 dong entrance fee (about 60 cents). The ruins have obviously been well-taken care of - rebuilt & cleaned up. It was like being in an outdoor museum. The temples are still used today as worship sites. When I ducked inside, people were crowded around altars to Shiva, a hindu god, burning incense & muttering prayers.

On my way back to town, I stopped at the Long Son Pagoda, which was at the top of a long stone staircase. At the top, I found the pagoda & several large statues of Buddha, as well as a cemetery full of stacked crypts. Very cool. Back at the bottom of the hill, I had lunch at the vegetarian cafe there, which served your standard Buddhist grub: fake meats & rice dishes for a few pennies.

The next day, I took a boat tour of the islands off the coastline. At our first stop, several of us dove into the water while others went for parasail rides. I was just putting on my mask & snorkle when I felt a slight sting - & then another. I looked down into the water: jellyfish. I wound up with a rash of little red bumps all over my body that itched like the worst mosquito bites for days & days.

After that, I was ready to spend an entire day lazing on the beach, doing nothing but reading & listening to the waves roll over the sand.

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