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This is part three of a series of blogs with information, helpful hints and recommendations for backpackers in Vietnam and Cambodia (Part one: general recommendations). It all comes from my experiences traveling around these areas, and I hope this helps you in your adventures!  Click here to read about my backpacking adventures in these countries.

I snapped this photo from a bus ride in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. This photo is the epitome of local transportation in Vietnam.

Bus in Vietnam and Cambodia
This is the cheapest method of transportation in Vietnam and Cambodia if you are traveling for long distances. There are several bus companies that offer coach bus rides with air conditioning and reclining chairs. However, the quality of coach busses vary. We went on one very nice Hyundai coach bus, and we went on another very old and unclean “coach” bus. I would recommend the following bus company: Sinh Café. They have locations all throughout Vietnam and Cambodia. There are many fake “Sinh Cafes” so be sure to go to the real one. Their Ho Chi Minh location is in the backpacker district: 246 – 248 De Tham St., Dist. 1, HCMC. Visit their website: http://www.thesinhtourist.vn/

Here’s a rough breakdown of travel time and costs of the following bus trips (a general standard for most bus companies):

Ho Chi Minh to Phnom Penh: $7-8 USD, 6 hours
Phnom Penh to Siem Reap: $8 USD, 8 hours
Siem Reap to Ho Chi Minh: $17-$20 USD, 15 hours

You will never have to pay more than $20 USD for a bus fare in Vietnam & Cambodia. If so, you are getting ripped off. Before you ride a bus, let me forewarn you that the drivers drive extremely fast. They swerve in between vehicles on the roads, drive on the other side of the road if they’re trying to get around a slow car, and in general drive erratically. I suppose this is how many drivers drive in Asian countries, but it’s a bit scary when you’re on a bus full of people.

Train in Vietnam
There’s a lot to be said about train rides in Vietnam, so I hope this is helpful. There is one main train station in Ho Chi Minh, and there are several overnight trains that leave at different times in the evening typically around 7 pm, 9 pm and 11 pm. These trains leave from HCM and make several stops all the way until it reaches the northern part of Vietnam, so you can stop off at different cities. My friends and I took the 11 pm overnight train from Ho Chi Minh and arrived in Nha Trang at 6 am.

My recommendation is to go to the train station to buy your ticket prior to departure. I would book your tickets as soon as possible because sometimes the trains fill up quickly, especially the “soft-sleeper” cabins (a preference for most foreign travelers). Also, buying your ticket at the train station will save you money. If you buy your ticket through a travel agency, they will charge a bit more for commission. However, they only charge a few more dollars so it’s really a matter of getting your cabin preference booked as soon as possible (unless you don’t mind what type of cabin you’re placed in).

Inside the cabin (three bunks on each side)

A typical train in Vietnam

There are three cabin types: soft sleeper, hard sleeper, and general train. The soft sleeper cabin fits four people and is considered “first class” since it has a soft mattress to sleep on. Many backpackers and foreigners prefer the soft sleepers. But remember, even though it’s the “first class” cabin, don’t expect much. Most trains in general are old and worn down. The second type of cabin is the hard sleeper cabin, which fits six people and has hard mattresses. There’s no real difference between the two cabins since most are uncleanly and old anyways. The difference is four people per cabin vs. six people per cabin. The third type of cabin is the general train, which is like a normal train with rows of seats.

My friends and I paid for the soft sleepers, but our travel agency got us hard sleepers. At first, I was apprehensive about this because I did not want to share a room with strangers, but it was not as bad as I thought it would be. We were in a cabin with two Vietnamese people who slept on the top bunks the entire ride to Nha Trang.

It was a very tight squeeze inside the train!

Tuk Tuk in Cambodia
This is a popular means of transportation in Cambodia. It is usually standard tuk tuk: a motorcycle with an open-air carriage that can fit up to 4 people normally. If you are in Siem Reap and you want to get from one place to another, the drivers will usually tell you $2 USD. Although this seems like a cheap price, they are ripping you off, and you can definitely get it down to $1.

In the back of a tuk tuk in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

The front of the tuk tuk

Taxi in Vietnam

Taxi fares in Vietnam

For travelers, the most popular means of transportation is taxi. Like most Asian countries, make sure you drive in a metered taxi. If the taxi is not metered, or they refuse to turn on their meter, I would get out of the taxi immediately. The driver is trying to rip you off, and make you pay a larger amount at the end.

Taxis are quite cheap in Vietnam. For example, in Ho Chi Minh, the fare from the backpacker district to the airport is around $6 USD (30 minute drive). You can get around from point A to point B for a few US dollars.

A typical taxi in Vietnam - white car with green embellishments

A typical taxi in Vietnam - White car with green embellishment

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This is part two of a series of blogs with information, helpful hints and recommendations for backpackers in Vietnam and Cambodia (Part one: general recommendations). It all comes from my experiences traveling around these areas, and I hope this helps you in your adventures!  Click here to read about my backpacking adventures in these countries.

Hanging out in Angkor Wat (Cambodia)


Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
There is an alley in the backpacker area called Pham Ngu Lao Street, and there are probably 20 different hostels that you could stay at. The alley is tucked away from the main, busy street but if you ask a local or a taxi driver, they will be able to show you how to get there. We stayed at two hostels on Pham Ngu Lao Street: Ngyuen Khang Hotel and Red Sun Hotel. Both were decent, and all of the hostels in this area offer similar prices, which is around $20/night. I personally thought Ngyuen Khang Hotel was a bit pushy when it came to booking tours through their hotel. They took every waking moment to sell us their all day tours or use their taxis, so I would not recommend this hostel for that reason. The Red Sun Hotel’s rooms were not as nice as Ngyuen Khang, but the owners are two Vietnamese twin girls and they are so friendly and helpful!

Just remember, you can always walk along Pham Ngu Lao Street and talk to the owners and check out the rooms. They will let you take preview the rooms before you decide to stay there!

Pham Ngu Lao Street in the backpackers district. This alley is full of hostels.

Nha Trang, Vietnam
Saint Paul Hotel is one of the highest rated hostels on hostelworld.com, and there is a reason. The rooms are very spacious and clean, and the price is not bad ($20/night). You can easily fit 4 people in this room. Plus, it’s located within walking distance to the beach and many restaurants and bars in the area.

Saint Paul Hotel
www.stpaulhotel.com.vn

In front of Saint Paul Hotel with the owners

Jumping for joy in the hostel room!


Siem Reap, Cambodia

Of all hostels that we stayed at during our backpacking trip, I would have to say that Bou Savy was the best of them all. The owner, Mr. Bovuth, is so kind, gracious and hospitable. He made us feel right at home. Plus, the $14 USD per night includes breakfast and internet. A real bang for your buck!

Bou Savy Guesthouse
http://www.bousavyguesthouse.com/
email: services@bousavyguesthouse.com
savy7777@hotmail.com

The entrance to Bou Savy Guesthouse

A typical room in Bou Savy Guesthouse

Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Our friend from Phnom Penh took us to this newly opened hotel. It costs $20 USD per night, which was a good deal because the rooms are very spacious and clean. Of all the hostels we stayed at in Vietnam and Cambodia, this hostel definitely had the most spacious rooms.

Nokorsamreth Olympic Hotel
http://www.nokorsamrethhotel.com/
email: nokorsamrethhotel@yahoo.com

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This is the first part of a series of blogs with information, helpful hints and recommendations for backpackers in Vietnam and Cambodia. It all comes from my experiences traveling around these areas, and I hope this helps you in your adventures!

Nha Trang, Vietnam



General Advice
As a general rule of thumb, I would use Trip Advisor as a good starting point to find out information or things to do in a certain city. It’s definitely my “go-to” website, and I’ve found that it’s the most reliable and accurate of all other travel sites. For example, if you want to find out information such as a good hostel, simply Google: “Hostels, Ho Chi Minh City, Trip Advisor” and the results will appear. The best thing is that there are reviews and photos from actual people, so you can see what the hostel looks like, or you can find the top 10 things to do in a specific city.

Visa
Vietnam requires all visitors to have a visa prior to arrival. In order to obtain a visa, you must go to the nearest Vietnamese Consulate to fill out a short application and pay a fee. If you go to the Vietnamese consulate in Hong Kong, you will have to pay $60 USD for a multiple-entry visa (highly recommended if you’ll be going in and out of the country, which is what we did while backpacking). Usually, it takes around one week to process the visa, but we begged them to have it done in two days and they did it without a rush fee. Just be nice, and they’ll probably do it for you!

Cambodia is a bit different. You can buy a visa at the border for $25 USD (one entry visa). We went through the border with our bus which had an English speaking guide. Most bus companies will have an English speaking guide who helps you cross the Vietnam/Cambodia border.  He collected our money and passports prior, and purchased all of our visas for us. It was quite simple. $25 bucks, and you’re in!

Just beware, i’ve heard many travelers tell me about a scam – particularly outside train stations at the border in Cambodia. Apparently, there are men dressed as customs officials and they claim to handle visas. After they take your money, you realize it was all a scam and you have to pay even more when you encounter the real customs officials. Always be sure before you pay up.

Hostels
If you’re looking for a hostel, I would go to: www.hostelworld.com and find out information about legitimate hostels in Vietnam and Cambodia. Remember, when you’re in third world country, there is always a risk of getting ripped off, so you want to do a bit of research beforehand. Another reputable website is: www.hostelbookers.com

Money
In Vietnam, the currency is the dong and I suggest exchanging your money at the airport, so you won’t get ripped off somewhere else. At the airport exchange centers, you can haggle and try to negotiate an exchange rate!

If there’s one piece of advice about Cambodia, here it is: the currency in Cambodia is extremely unstable, so they use American money. I would highly encourage using American money because you will know how much you are paying for things, thus avoiding getting ripped off. Also, you must bring small bills, especially the $1 bill. Otherwise, if you pay for things with, say a $20 bill, they will give you change in Cambodian money and you do not want this.

If you’re backpacking, I would personally recommend bringing an ATM or credit card. When you’re traveling, you really don’t know how much you’ll be spending (sometimes less, sometimes more), but if you run out of cash…you’re in big trouble. We only brought cash, so towards the end of the trip the four of us had to put our money together, spend less on food, and find the cheapest hostels. However, i’d only use an ATM card at last resort.

Transportation
Before departure, you should do some research about how you want to get from city to city. There are three main options: bus, train, and plane. You need to be aware that plane tickets are often pricey, especially from Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi (Northern Vietnam) or from Ho Chi Minh to Siem Reap, Cambodia. This would be the fastest way to get from city to city, but taking the bus or train would be much cheaper. An extensive list of transportation tips will be in my next blog entry.

UP NEXT: Transportation in Vietnam and Cambodia

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Continued from part 3. We left Cambodia and rode the bus for an entire day back to Ho Chi Minh.

Day 9
We woke up bright and early, and spent the entire day on a bus ride back to Ho Chi Minh. The fare was $18 USD through R-T-R Tours [www.cambodiatrtours.com], which we found in the backpacker area of Siem Reap the night before.  We first took an 8 hour bus to Phnom Penh, then another 6 hour ride to Ho Chi Minh.

The funny thing about Cambodia was that my friends and I barely made it back to Vietnam – in fact, we had to pull our US dollars together to get back to Ho Chi Minh. Why? Well, to put it simply: Cambodia uses mainly US dollars, and that’s what we brought. However, we ended up spending more money than we had planned, and we had no debit card to withdrawal cash. But alas, we made it back to Vietnam where we luckily had plenty of Vietnamese dong.

It was the evening when we arrived back in Ho Chi Minh, and we booked an all day tour to the Mekong Delta through Fantastic Tours once again. This tour was $8 USD – a total bargain!

Day 10
The Mekong Delta is located on the Southern end of Vietnam, and it is where the Mekong River empties into the sea through various distributaries. Almost all tours offer the same itinerary, so no matter who you book through it will all be relatively similar.

Our tour bus left bright and early at 8 am, and took a two-hour ride to the main port. From the main port, we went to four different islands throughout the day: Dragon Island, Unicorn Island, Phoenix Island and Tortoise Island.  We went from place to place via motorboat and traditional rowboats, which was the most interesting part of the excursion! The islands are tightly configured together, and as we paddled through the area filled with tall trees, it felt like I was in a maze.  We stopped at each island for different activities. We visited a honey-bee farm, coconut candy village, listened to traditional Vietnamese musicians, tasted exotic fruits, and more!

Riding the motor boat to the small islands

View of the Mekong River

There were many floating houses, storage units, docks, and more in the middle of the river

In a paddle boat.

This woman was paddling our small boat

We saw a friendly man swimming in the water

Tasting different exotic fruits!

Vietnamese music (left) and singing (right). The two of them performed for us.

Riding the motor boat

Day 11
We had an early flight back to Hong Kong, and it was a bittersweet goodbye to Vietnam and Cambodia. On the one hand, I couldn’t come to grips with the fact that these past 11 days flew by within a blink of an eye. I literally felt like I could continue backpacking in Vietnam and Cambodia for the entire month, and to be quite honest I did not want my trip to end. However, on the other hand, I was so incredibly amazed at the exciting journey that I had just experienced. It’s something that not many people my age can say they’ve done, and I feel so grateful and lucky to have been given this opportunity to travel. I had an “ah-hah!” moment during this trip: I truly came to the realization that traveling opens your mind and soul to the wonders of the world, and to the beauty of the human spirit wherever your journey takes you.

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Continued from part 1 and part 2. From Phnom Penh, we traveled to Siem Reap to see the famous Angkor Wat temple. The Angkor Archaeological Park [which includes Angkor Wat] is a huge area with many beautiful, historical remains of temples, and you could spend several days exploring the area! These temples were built by the Khmer Empire from the 9th through 15th centuries for religious and political purposes. The detail and exquisite artisanship is quite impressive considering the time period in which it was built. Click here to read part 4.

Angkor Wat at sunrise

Day 7
We left Phnom Penh early in the morning and took an 8 hour bus ride to Siem Reap, Cambodia. When we arrived, we had absolutely no clue where we were going to stay, so we took a tuk-tuk (a motorcycle taxi) to various hostels. After visiting two different hostels unsuccessfully, we finally ended up at Bou Savy Guesthouse [www.bousavyguesthouse.com], which turned out to be an excellent place to stay! For around $14 USD per night, it includes free breakfast and internet. The owner, Mr. Bovuth, is so friendly and pleasant! I would absolutely recommend staying here if you’re in Siem Reap.

The entrance to Bou Savy. It's a hidden gem.

A typical room at Bou Savy

Siem Reap is the tourist town that everyone stays at when visiting Angkor Wat.  It is only 15 minutes away from the main temples. I would recommend hiring a tuk-tuk for the entire day – sunrise to sunset – for around $12 USD, which is the standard price that you’ll get from most drivers. You might have to bargain for this price, but this is what you should pay, otherwise you may get ripped off. By hiring a tuk-tuk driver, he will drive you to the main Angkor Wat temple at sunrise, and then drive you to the other temples throughout the day.

That's me in a tuk-tuk!

We arrived to Siem Reap close to sunset, so my friends hired a tuk-tuk and headed out to see it. I felt sick that day, so unfortunately I did not get to go out that evening! Luckily, I felt much better the next morning. Otherwise, I may have missed out.

Day 8
We woke up at the crack of dawn, hired a tuk-tuk driver, and headed out to Angkor Wat at 5 am. The entrance price for one full day is $20 USD. Since the sun rises in the East, everyone was at the main temple, Angkor Wat. It was such a beautiful sight, and words do no justice to the natural, historical beauty of the temple. With that being said, I will let the photos speak for themselves.

The sunrise along the water outside Angkor Wat

Bright and early. Outside Angkor Wat.

Bright and early. Outside Angkor Wat, getting ready to enter the temple!

Angkor Wat at sunrise

Angkor Wat at sunrise

Such exquisite detail

Courtyard of Angkor Wat

Friends hanging out.

Hanging out!

The back view of Angkor Wat.

Another view from the back of Ankor Wat

We saw these children in the field, and took a photo with them. Rene gave them some food, and they were so jubilant! They had such warm, loving smiles.

Bayon Temple, which consists of 216 stone faces:

Examples of the stone faces of Bayon.

Angkor Thom temple. This is the entrance where the movie “Laura Croft: Tomb Raider” (with Angelina Jolie) was filmed.

Inside Angkor Thom. Could you imagine Angelina Jolie making her way through here?

Almost everyone heads over Phnom Bakheng Temple to watch the sunset. It’s a 15-20 minute hike up the hill, and everyone climbs up the temple to view this spectacular sight.

Sitting on top of Phnom Bakheng Temple while waiting for the sunset.

We spent the entire day at Angkor Archeological Park, hopping from one temple to another. From sunrise at 5 am to sunset at 6 pm, I witnessed the beauty and tremendous detail of these historical temples. It is a true reflection of Cambodian culture: beautiful, exquisite and peaceful.

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Continued from Part 1. From Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam we headed to Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Click here to read part 3.

My first sight of Cambodia.

Day 5
Our train arrived back in Ho Chi Minh City before sunrise at 5 am, and we had nowhere to go. We knew we wanted to take a bus to Phnom Penh, but these were relative plans. So, at the break of dawn, we were sitting on the outdoor front  patio of a restaurant/bar, watching the sky turn from dark to light. Then, a nice-looking charter bus that said “Ho Chi Minh to Phnom Penh” on it, so we decided to hop on that bus. It was a bus/tour company called Sinh Café, a company that I highly recommend because they have locations all throughout Vietnam and Cambodia. Six hours and ten dollars later, we arrived in Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia.

We were lucky in Phnom Penh because we had someone that was gracious and kind enough to take us around during our entire visit. Rene’s older sister’s finance’s friend (phew! You might have to read that again) named Narung lives in the city, so he picked us up and immediately took us to a nice lunch with his friends. Although the language barrier made it difficult to communicate, it was one of those one-of-a-kind experiences: eating lunch with complete strangers right after arriving in Cambodia!

Narung on the left with his friend.

An (off centered) group photo with our new Cambodian friends

Me, Rene, Mike, and one of Narung's friends

After lunch, we went to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, more commonly known to foreigners as the S-21 Prison.  This represents a very dark period in Cambodian history when the Khmer Rouge killed thousands of people during their four-year regime beginning in 1975. It was literally a genocide of the Cambodian people, and to this day the country is still re-building from this destruction.

The S-21 Prison is a former school where an estimated 14,000 people were tortured here before being shipped off to the Killing Fields [described later in this blog]. The museum displays photos of the innocent people killed, a sad and somber reminder of the severe injustices in this world. Before people were taken to the Killing Fields, each person was required to take a photograph. As I viewed the photos, I could sense the terror, pain and sadness in their eyes.  It’s important to never forget those whose lives were lost.

Photos of those lost.

Photos of the lives lost.

Part of the museum was to show the horrendous methods of torture. It is a very sad and horrible reality of what happened.

View of the area. As I said before, it is a school that turned into a prison.

For dinner we ate at Tonle Bassac Restaurant [www.tonlebassac.com], a buffet that serves a variety of different Asian food: Vietnamese, Cambodian, Japanese, and a lot of fresh seafood. The price is $20 USD, which is extremely expensive by Cambodian standards, but relatively inexpensive in US standards, for a buffet that is.

Day 6
After lunch, we went to see the Killing Fields, located around 35 minutes away from Phnom Penh. It is here where the Khmer Rouge killed thousands of victims and buried them in mass graves. Inside the main memorial building are hundreds of skulls, with glass walls so visitors can view inside. You are able to walk around the grounds, a very somber and quiet reminder of what happened during 1975-1979.

Front of the museum

Front of the memorial

A mass grave

Afterwards, we went to the Russian Market [“Psar Toul Tom Poung” in Cambodian], which is a very large open air market selling everything from t-shirts and clothing to watches, fabrics, jewelry, and other Cambodian cultural goods. Even though it’s called the Russian Market, it has nothing to do with Russian goods. If you’re in Phnom Penh, you must go to the Russian Market to shop around for extremely inexpensive souvenirs. Remember to bargain!

The evening was quite interesting, to say the least. Narung took us to his friend, Superhero’s 30th birthday party at the Phnom Penh Seafood Restaurant [and yes, that is his English name…Superhero!] Superhero is a doctor who also teaches classes at a medical school in Phnom Penh. We also met their friends who were all very well educated. One of his friends is a judge in Cambodia, and he was very curious about this profession in America.

The group at Superhero's 30th birthday party dinner

Delicious seafood

Birthday cake for the birthday boy!

After dinner, Narung took us to buy tarantulas because my friends wanted to taste it. We ended up buying the tarantulas from a random lady on the street, and met up with Narung’s friends. In Cambodia, many people hang out in the middle of the streets on those middle islands/areas with grass, so we all did that! We ate tarantulas, rode mopeds, and “chatted” despite the language barrier.

Hanging out in the middle of the street. Many people were hanging out here.

Riding mopeds, a popular form of transportation in Cambodia.

Bugs and insects...sold on the side of the road.

Eating tarantulas!

Narung then took us to a favorite hotspot of his: The Place [www.mwgroup.com.kh]. It’s a posh and upscale lounge/bar, and in America these types of places would be very, very expensive! One of his friends, Justin Peng, joined us. Justin is Cambodian, but he was educated in America and went to college at Cal Poly Pomona. Now, he is living in Cambodia helping out with his parents’ English Language Academy. But he is also pursuing his singing and modeling career in Cambodia, while becoming popular on You Tube!

Justin (Left) and Narung (Right)

New friends, Justin and Narung!

After looking through You Tube videos, here is a clip of one of Justin’s performances. [You just look up: “Justin PP” and you’ll find results] His videos are interesting! Justin is a really nice and friendly guy.

Phnom Penh was a wonderful city filled with history and warm, friendly people. Cheers to new friends, random adventures, and two days of fun! Thank you to Narung for being a great host and showing us around your city!

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Backpacking is one of the most exciting and thrilling adventures i’ve ever experienced. It really is an adventure in every sense because very little – or nothing is planned beforehand. This turned out to be the best part of it all: letting your instincts and self guide you from one place to another. Backpacking is so different than a traditional vacation where most things are pre-planned out in an itinerary. However, it is what makes it a unique and exhilarating experience! Click here to read part two of the adventure.

Three friends and I went on an 11 day backpacking trip in Vietnam and Cambodia in early December. We booked our plane tickets on a Thursday, and five days later we were on a plane headed towards Ho Chi Minh, the capital city of Vietnam. The only pre-planning we did was research reputable hostels to stay at (via hostelworld.com), and that was it.

Day 1 (Ho Chi Minh)
We arrived in the late afternoon, and checked into the Nguyen Khang Hotel located in the Pham Ngu Lao District, also known as the backpacker district.

Since it was dark by the time we settled in, we walked to the Ben Thanh Market about one mile away from our hostel. The Ben Thanh Market is a popular marketplace in Ho Chi Minh with small stalls selling everything from clothing to watches to fabrics – a great place to bargain. Unfortunately, it was closed since it was after dark, but there is a night market just outside with places to eat and shop around for goods. We ate at an open-air food stall and ate delicious food: catfish, meat skewers, and other Vietnamese dishes.

Eating dinner at the night market outside Ben Thanh Market

Delicious food for dinner! All for around $5 a person.

After dinner, we headed back to the backpacker district to find a tour of the Cu Chi Tunnels for the following day. In this area, there are several tour agencies where you can book full-day tours or bus rides, but most of them are similar in itineraries and prices.  We found Fantastic Tour (www.fantastic-tour.com) and they proved to be our “go-to” agency for booking tours and train tickets. We booked a full day tour to the Cu Chi Tunnels for $6 USD which included an English guide and transportation to the location which was about 45 minutes away from the center of Ho Chi Minh.

One example of how people hid underground in the tunnels.

Day 2 (Ho Chi Minh to Nha Trang)
We left bright and early with our tour group of about 10 people to see the Cu Chi Tunnels. The Cu Chi Tunnels is an underground community where people hid during the Vietnam War in the 1960’s. They stayed down there to protect themselves from the bombings and violence in the city. It was literally an underground community in every sense.

Squeezing our way through the underground tunnels.

Coming out from the tunnels - fresh air again!

After our all day tour, we got our belongings, ate a quick dinner, and headed to the train station where we took an 8 hour overnight train ride to Nha Trang. We booked four tickets in the “hard sleeper train” which was the overnight cabin, where we could sleep. It ended up as a 6 person cabin, and two random strangers were on the two top bunks above us. If you travel in Vietnam, riding the train is a great experience and I definitely recommend it for everyone!

Our train

It was a very tight squeeze inside the train!

Inside our cabin (three bunks on each side)

Day 3 (Nha Trang)
We arrived in Nha Trang at 6 am, and by a miracle we found our hotel/hostel. We forgot to write down the name of the hostel we booked online (via hostelworld.com), but we just knew it was “Saint something..” Well, after driving around aimlessly in the taxi, we found our destination, the Saint Paul Hotel.

The Saint Paul Hotel. That's us with the owners!

Nha Trang is a beach city located along the Eastern coast of Vietnam. It was the host for the Miss Universe competition in 2008, so you could imagine it being a beautiful location. We walked along the warm sandy beach while gazing at the never-ending crystal blue water. It was quite relaxing.

The beach – crystal blue water!


During lunchtime, we were walking along the beachfront looking for a good place to eat. I asked a random woman passing by, and she invited us to join her to eat with her friends! She was a backpacker, originally from London, who has been traveling for the past 20-something years. Her friends were two brothers from Colorado who took off one semester of university to travel around Southeast Asia. They met on a bus ride, and decided to travel together for a bit!

Lunch with new friends!

During lunch, they highly recommended going to the mud bath in Nha Trang. We really had no clue what this was, especially since they didn’t know the name of the location, but we hopped in a taxi and told the driver to take us to the “mud bath.” Well, this mud bath turned out to be one of the most amazing things ever, and quite a surprise find!

This is a MUST if you’re ever in Nha Trang. The place is called Thap Ba Hotsprings, and for around $5 USD, you and your group are given a private mud bath. After the mud bath (no time limit), you rinse off in the showers and head over to your own private mineral bath water. Then, you finish at the hot water pools, similar to a large swimming pool. You can easily spend 3 hours or more here relaxing and lounging.

My friends and I in the mud bath!

We ate dinner at an outdoor restaurant that we randomly found while walking on the streets. I say “restaurant,” but it was more of an outdoor area with small tables and chairs, filled with people drinking and eating. It had interesting foods such as: eel, frog, goat, lama and more!

Small tables…small chairs!

There’s a really cool bar in Nha Trang called Why Not Bar, and mostly backpackers and foreigners hang out there. My friends and I enjoyed going there – twice! It’s a fun place to hang out and relax. I’d definitely recommend going there – just ask anyone, and they will probably know where it is!

Day 4 (Nha Trang to Ho Chi Minh)
We spent the morning and early afternoon at the beach, ate lunch at a posh little restaurant, and then headed to Thap Ba Hotsprings again – yes, it’s that addicting! Then after dinner, we boarded the 11 pm overnight train back to Ho Chi Minh City.

Lunch on our last day in Nha Trang.

Relaxing on the beach

Backpacking in Vietnam and Cambodia: Part 2 of 4 (Phenom Penh, Cambodia) next…

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