Vietnam 2016 – Trip Report 5

Ho Chi Minh City – Quy Nhon

 

5.15am!

5.15am!

On a Saturday!

Although, to be fair, you don’t really have days of the week when you’re on holidays.

But still,  5.15am!

Who’s idea was it to catch the early flight to Quy Nhon?

I’d like to blame Lisa, but I can’t.

A quick pack up and we head for the stairs.  It wasn’t that much fun going up them with the big bag a few days earlier.  And it wasn’t that much fun going down them either.

Could quite easily have gone down a lot quicker than I’d have liked to, as well.

A knock on DP’s door as we go past and then we’re finally downstairs; with all bones still intact; to the entrance.

The door is locked.

DP goes to find the owner while I try to pat ‘Lucky’ the dog, who sleeps next to the door.

Lucky doesn’t want to be patted and he lets me know, the way dogs normally do.

As I’m quite fond of my fingers, I decide to give up on the conquest.

Door finally opened, Lucky happy to see the back of me, and we’re off.

DP comes with us to help us get a taxi.  Past ‘my’ alley way, and up to the main road (which I later find out is the road that takes you straight to the airport) where ‘dessert no. 3’ place is.

Fortunately, it’s not open yet.

After an excruciating wait of almost 3 minutes, a taxi comes by.  About time……

We dump our bag in the boot and DP makes sure the driver knows where he needs to take us.

It’s time for our ‘goodbyes’, and, like ‘last days’, I really don’t like ‘goodbyes’.

We’ve had a great time.  We’ve seen and done things that we would never have experienced and we’ve had a lot of fun doing it.  We will be forever grateful for the opportunity that DP gave us.  Thanks mate, and hopefully there are more adventures to come, in the years ahead. 😉

Goodbyes done, and we’re on our way.

It’s at this point, through my still blurry eyes, that I realise we’re not in a Mai Linh or Vinasun taxi.

Great….., we’re going to be ripped off, scammed, threatened, stabbed, and probably shot.

Or maybe worse….

I watch the meter tick over.  One thousand and one, one thousand and two, one thousand and three, etc, etc, I count in my head.  The meter keeps ticking over at a consistent rate.  It’s not getting quicker and it doesn’t jump every time he toots his horn.  Hmmm……interesting…..

We get to the airport and the meter reads 59 000 dong.  He helps get our bag out of the boot and I give him 60 000 dong.  He then requests an extra 10 000 dong for the ‘airport fee’.

Damn it!  I remember a TA thread on this very subject, but I can’t remember if it’s a legitimate request.

I don’t think it is, but I give him a grin and hand him the extra 10 000.  I’d actually thought about rounding it up to 70 000 in the first place, anyway.

A moment of weakness, perhaps?  Possibly.

Or maybe I was just happy that he hadn’t killed us….

Queued up to check in; and don’t the Vietnamese queue up well…..

When we finally get to the counter the girl asks if we’d like the emergency exit seats.

“Why?”, I think to myself.  Does she know something I don’t know…..?

I tell her I’d prefer a window seat.  She obliges.

Check in done, we make our way upstairs to queue up for security screening.  And don’t the Vietnamese queue up well…..

We stand in a line for 10 minutes before realising we’re in the wrong line.

“Do I have to be responsible for all the decisions?”, I want to ask Lisa.

I wisely don’t…..

Through security and we’re off to find our gate.  It’s the furthest one away.  Of course…..

Eventually our flight is called and everyone jumps up to be on the plane first.  As people like that do….

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Finally, we make a move and begin our walk along the airbridge.  Ten minutes later we reach the plane.  Seriously, that airbridge was the longest airbridge I’ve ever walked down.  I’m not sure where the plane was parked, but it wasn’t close to the terminal.

As we make our way towards our seats I scan the other passengers.  Good, there’s only about six that look like us.  The rest are locals.  Good!

I take my ‘window seat’ and discover, to my dismay, that I don’t actually have a window.  Well, there’s one in front of me, that belongs more to the person sitting in front of me, and there’s one behind me that I can sort of see out.  But only if I strain my neck and contort my body in a way that is neither comfortable, nor healthy.

The day hasn’t really panned out the way that I’d hoped.  Quy Nhon better be worth it…..

What next?  The plane doesn’t leave on time?

Correct!

But!  It actually leaves early!  That just never happens.  I’m blown away.

Over the course of the flight I do the occasional body and neck twisting to get a glimpse of the ground below.  And as we get close to Quy Nhon I’m really ruing the lack of a window.  It looks interesting down there.

Eventually, we’re on the ground, and all the people who jumped up to be on the plane first, jump up to be off the plane first.

Even though the bus that will transport us from the plane to the terminal won’t leave until everyone is off anyway.

And yep, no airbridges at Quy Nhon airport.  Not even a small one.

“How are we getting to Quy Nhon from the airport?”, Lisa asks as we’re heading towards the terminal.

“Don’t know”, I say, just to get her a little anxious.

But to be honest, I didn’t know.

A private transfer arranged through our accommodation wasn’t an option.  With the language barrier issue, I’d had trouble just booking it.  Trying to organise a car may have been taking it a little too far.

I’d read about taxis at the airport, as well as a rough guide as to how much that would be, and I’d also read about a bus, but hadn’t been able to find any real information on that option.

“We’ll work it out when we get there”, said in a way not to relieve her anxiety.

We hop off the bus and walk into the baggage claim room / shed.  Yep, pretty basic.  Baggage carousel and toilets; that was it.

And at the other door, to the outside world, the usual taxi touts.

So, option one was there, although I was really hoping I wouldn’t have to use them.

And then, I see it.  Well, actually, I see two things.

A bus, and in front of the bus, a sign on the wall – ‘Bus to Quy Nhon’;  or words to that effect.

Bingo!!!

“We’re getting the bus, honey”, knowing that wasn’t really what she wanted to hear.

Bag collected, we head outside.  Bus guy takes our bag and puts it in the luggage hold underneath.  We get on the bus and take a seat.

There were probably no more than 25 people on it, and none of them looked like us.

Good!

“Are you sure this is the right bus?”, the intrepid explorer asks.

“I believe so”, I reply.  My belief coming from the sign I had seen, as well as the fact that I didn’t think there were too many other places nearby, that a bus picking up passengers from the airport, would be going to.

Ticket lady comes along and we purchase our tickets.  50 000 dong each and it’s actually printed on the ticket, so it looks like everyone pays the same.  No foreigner tax.

A few minutes later, we’re on the move.

“Are you sure this is the right bus?”, the intrepid explorer asks again.

“Yes, I’m pretty sure”, I say, thinking that even if I was 100% positive, I’m not sure it would be enough to convince her anyway…..

“I’m going to ask someone”, she says.

“Well, good luck with that”, I respond, knowing / believing that apart from ‘Hi’ and ‘Hello’, there won’t be too many other English words our fellow passengers will know.

She turns to the young 20 ish girl across the aisle.

“This………the………bus……..to……..Quy……..Nhon?”, she asks with both her mouth and her hands.

“Yes it is “, replies the, obviously English speaking, local.

The intrepid explorer is relieved.  I’m surprised.  I didn’t see that coming.

(And just in case Lisa’s recollection of this part is a little different to mine, you know who’s is the more accurate.  Don’t you? 😉  )

We then spend the next 10 or 15 minutes talking to Lisa’s savior.

She’s from Quy Nhon, but has been living in HCMC for the last few years where she’s been going to university.  She’s just graduated and she’s come back home to see her family.  But it’s a flying visit as she heads back to HCMC tomorrow.

I think she’s a bit surprised that we’re coming to Quy Nhon.

Good, I think.  That non-touristy thing again.

She wants to know where we’re staying.

I tell her.  She doesn’t know it.

I’m not sure if that is good…..

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The bus finally pulls up at the bus station in Quy Nhon, 45 minutes after leaving the airport.  As we’re reversing in, I notice the usual taxi / xe om crowd out the front.  This time, I don’t have a choice.  Will have to deal with them.

Bag barely retrieved and the first approach is made.

“Motorbike taxi?” he asks.

“No thank you”, I say, thinking we really need the comfort of an air conditioned car.  And I’m not sure Lisa would have spoken to me again if I’d said yes.

I spot a guy standing next to his taxi.  He’ll do, I think.

I show him the name of the hotel.  He gives me a blank look.

This is going well…..

He calls his mate over.  He also deals with the request the same way.

This is going real well…..

Finally, a third one comes to the party.

Success!

Well, he seems to know where it is.

We jump in the car and in less than 10 minutes we’re turning down the small lane off the main road, where the hotel is.

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The laneway outside the hotel.

 

I know where the hotel is from maps I have seen.  The taxi driver pulls up around the corner from where I think it’s supposed to be.  He insists this is it.  I pay him the whopping 30 000 dong fare and we get out.

Sure enough, it’s not it.  Never mind, we walk the last 25 metres and there it is.

It’s around this point that I notice the heat.  And it’s only just after 9.30am.

 

 

 

 

Into the hotel and we’re greeted by a little old lady.

Well, greeted as best you can be by someone who appears to not have one word of English at her disposal.

Tried explaining, ‘we have a booking’.  Not going to happen.

Gave up on the ‘booking’ thing and just tried to ask for a room.

Started to make a little progress.

She made a couple of phone calls and she writes an amount down for the room.  It’s less than what we had previously been told.  Well, that’s a win.

Fifteen minutes after we’d walked in the door, we finally got to our room.  Ok, that was a little harder than I thought it would be…..

Room is nice.  It’s a reasonable size, it’s clean and tidy and it has a little bit of character about it.  I like it.

And the bed?  Well, it was a typical Vietnamese bed.  Harder than a carpeted floor, but softer than a slab of concrete.  Good thing we’re only sleeping on it…. 🙂

Bags dropped and we decide to go for a walk.  Back down the lane way and we turn left onto the main road.  It’s a very wide road, about 3 lanes each way, with a raised centre median strip with plants.  On the other side there is a large, mainly grassed area, and then the beach.  There are a couple of hotels in this area that overlook the beach.  Not built up at all.

We cross the road and head down onto the sand and then the water.  Water is warm, but not too warm.  Sand, on the other hand, is hot.  Hot, where as you walk across it, your pace quickens the longer you’re on it.  To the point where you end up running and people laugh at you.

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Quy Nhon beach, looking north

The shaded grassed area seems like a much better idea.

We head towards the centre of town and just walk.  The place seems big, but not busy.  The other thing I notice, is that there really isn’t too much around of any great interest.

There’s a large ‘sculpture’ thing, with a big ball on top, in the centre of the main roundabout.  It’s probably more noticeable because it looks pretty average.

Keep an open mind, we’ve only just arrived.  Keep an open mind……

We grab a couple of cold drinks; damn it’s hot; and end up back on the main road heading back towards the hotel.

We pass a young girl and her banh mi cart and decide that’s a pretty good idea.

I think she’s a little surprised to see us.  Happy, but surprised.

She points at various condiments and we nod to everything.  She likes that.

I didn’t ask how much before ordering, and I didn’t have to.  This ain’t District One.

I can’t remember how much they were, but they were cheap.  Even cheap by Vietnam standards.

And they were good.  Real good.

We continue our walk back to the hotel and by the time we get to our room we’re stuffed.  Hot, and stuffed.

Siesta and cooling off time.  And at that moment, the bed actually feels alright.

A few hours of recovery, and it’s time to head back out.  We head back down to the beach, and this time, because it’s later in the afternoon, the locals are out and about.  It’s certainly not packed, but there are quite a few enjoying the now, slightly cooler, weather.

Interestingly, most of them are swimming right in front of the two hotels on the beach.

Why?

Because both hotels, due to their height and the position of the sun, are providing shade onto both the sand and the water.  They really don’t like being out in the sun.

We sit and watch, and just enjoy seeing the locals having fun.  Especially the kids.  Ahhh…… people watching….. 🙂

After a while we decide to walk back into town.  Just another aimless walk.  Hoping, perhaps, to see if the place grabs me this time.

Keep an open mind.  Keep an open mind…..

We come across a fruit juice cart.

This’ll do, freshly squeezed fruit juice always makes things look better.

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Mmm – fresh pineapple juice!

Well, sitting on the footpath, watching the world go by, the pineapple juice was sublime.  Is there any other fruit juice, or fruit for that matter, better than pineapple?

Don’t worry about answering that, cause there’s not! 🙂

Juice done, opinion still not at the level hoped for, we begin our walk back to the hotel.  A quick beer would be nice, but I can’t even find a beer place that appeals.

Nasty thoughts about the Quy Nhon lovers on TripAdvisor, start to enter my head.

Keep an open mind.  Keep an open mind….

Back at the hotel and the little old lady has been replaced by a younger guy.  Good, I think, we might have a bit more luck with the language thing.

We don’t…..

No worse,  but not much better…. 😦

A quick change and we head back out looking for dinner.  A couple of doors down from the hotel, on the other side of the lane, is a very basic, very local, place that has several people enjoying……some sort of food.

“This’ll do”, I say, “Seems busy enough”.

Lisa just follows….

We walk up to the back, and the young girl is not only surprised to see us, she looks positively nervous about seeing us.

She finds it daunting?

We’ve given her less than 30 seconds to deal with her comfort zone.  We’ve been dealing with ours all day….

We point, at pretty much everything, and both parties now feel less daunted.

“Oh, and two beers, please”, I say, holding up two fingers, as we’re heading towards our table.

I get a smile and a nod.  Ahhhh, what language barrier…..

A warm can of beer, and a glass with ice in it, arrives.  Kind of knew that would be the scenario.  And then the food.

Pork, morning glory and rice.

In the meantime, locals are coming and going.  Seems a busy little place.  It’s a good sign.  Or, it should be a good sign.

Once the beer is cold, the beer is good.  As it usually is.

The food is……, Ok.  Not great, but not awful.  It does make me question the number of locals here, though.

Oh well, it filled us up.  And at 80 000 dong, for food and beer, I’m not going to complain.

We head back to the main road and begin walking back into town, again, along the grassed area between the road and the beach.  It’s lit up with thousands of coloured lights, as well as little kiddy’s carnival rides.  Some of it is quite pretty, some is a little tacky looking.

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As we get closer to town it’s even more lit up.  That sculpture thing with the ball on top is a mass of alternating, coloured flashing lights.  Looks much better at night than during the day.

The very large town square that is next to it, is also lit up, with hundreds of people out enjoying themselves.  A lot of them are getting around on roller blades and there’s quite a few on those silly hoverboard / segway things that, if they don’t kill you, they maim you for life.  Yep, I’m getting old….

There is also two, very large, outdoor television screens at each end20160514_192606_LLSa.jpg of the square.

Lots of colour, lots of people, lots of noise.

Again, that combination of nice, and a little……, ummm……, tacky.

I’m struggling, but I’m trying to keep an open mind.  It’s becoming difficult, though….

We walk down one of the roads that runs off the square, past a ‘Mc Donalds’ type looking restaurant thing.  Aaaargh, it’s not making it better…….

A bit further on and the street begins to change.  It becomes more local, more real.  Hmmm, things are looking up.

We come across a fruit juice cart run by two young guys.  As fresh fruit juice makes the world a better place, we decide to indulge.  Seriously, these two young guys couldn’t do enough to help us.  Two chairs seem to magically appear and before we know it we’re sitting down while fruit is being turned into juice.

And the juice?  Beautiful.  Superb.  It was something like lemon and lime, and the only reason I chose it was because I’d never had it before.  Obviously not as good as pineapple, because nothing else is, but ohhhh, so good.

Great juice and unbelievably friendly guys.  Yep, the world did just become a slightly better place.

We continue walking and find a few more interesting little streets that give me more hope.  We then come across a night market.  Mainly clothes and bits and pieces, so not as interesting as a wet market, but nice to walk through all the same.

Back on one of the main roads – more lights, blaring music, over the top noise; everything I so love….. – and Lisa needs a bathroom.  No problem!  I have paper notes!

We then walk past a large pond / lake that had a pretty impressive water feature in it.  Well, it looked impressive from where we could see it, but unfortunately you weren’t allowed to get too close to it due to the barricade around it.

Yep, build it and they will come.  But don’t let them admire it too closely……

We begin our quite significant walk back to the hotel.  I’m killing for a beer, but the problem with where we are, is that none of the beer places that I’ve found around here appeals, as well as the fact that it’s a fair way back to our hotel from here.

There is a place around the corner from the hotel, and while not my usual preference, it is close.

It will have to do.

We get there and it’s pretty busy.  Lots of young locals out enjoying their Saturday night.  We get a few smiles and ‘hellos’ when we take a seat.  It’s nice.  A guy on the next table comes over and shakes my hand.  He has some English and is keen to try it out on us.  It’s a bit of a limited conversation, not helped partly because of his level of inebriation, but it’s fun.  He then buys me a beer.

I’m starting to get a feel for this place.  Maybe those Quy Nhon lovers are right.  Maybe…..

I buy a couple of takeaways to have back at the hotel.  I can’t get any more than that as the room doesn’t have a fridge, and finding a solution to this problem would involve a conversation with the reception staff.  And that wasn’t going to happen….

Resorting to stuffing the bottles in a couple of wet socks, and leaving them on the tiled floor of the bathroom, sufficed.  Drinking a little quicker than normal, also helped.

I drifted off to sleep, nestled snugly in our bed….yeah, right…… with much better thoughts and expectations than I thought I would have had, earlier in the day.

Hopefully tomorrow would see it improve even more.

Cheers,

Scott

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Beach photo shoot
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Looking south
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