I didn’t intend to go to Nha Trang, a coastal city in southern Vietnam, and the way things turned out, I wish I hadn’t. But it was a good midpoint stop on the way from Ho Chi Minh City to Hoi An, and my friend’s dad had described it as a “the Riviera of Vietnam,” so I thought I’d stay a couple days to lay out before moving on. As it turned out, I got hit by a car my first full day in town, and I never made it as far as the beach.
The “hit by a car” story is one for another day, but suffice it to say I didn’t explore too much of the town after that. (Yes, I’m fine now, and it’s a funny story in retrospect, so watch this space.) Nha Trang was in low season, anyway; most tourists come during the summer. The weather was warm, of course, but overcast and sticky. Not great for laying out or even working up the energy to go swimming. I saw maybe a couple kids in the water when I took a walk to the edge of the beach. But the wide expanse of sand and the view of hilly islands in the distance hinted at what a nice place this would be in the sunshine.
I walked up to the Roman Catholic cathedral, which was a strange sight after the many temples I’d seen throughout Southeast Asia. Services were being held when I got there, so I didn’t go in for a good look around, but I did glimpse the neon red cross blazing over the altar. I had to step aside for several elderly ladies zooming up the hill on their motorbikes to attend church.
I got lost on the walk back to my hostel, which was great, because I walked through a couple different neighborhoods and got an idea of what the town is like. I walked through an entirely Vietnamese neighborhood, where I smiled at the behind-the-hand giggles my size and whiteness prompted. I then passed through a tourist area filled almost entirely with Russians; this is a popular resort town for people from the eastern part of Russia. Finally, I got within blocks of the beach, an area that mixed English and Russian signage and was entirely populated by Vietnamese tourist businesses and their customers.
I’d met a couple of lovely women on the train over from Ho Chi Minh City, and we met up for dinner and drinks at one of the many tourist-and-expat bars in town. Laura and Kate cheered me up immensely after my scrape with a 3,000-pound metal bully, and we danced the night away at an establishment that guaranteed “Free Headache Included” at the bottom of its drinks list. Kind of a fitting end to my brief, strange visit to Nha Trang.