If you’ve missed any of the previous parts of our trip, you can catch them here.
Nha Trang is a place that really splits opinion amongst tourists. It’s very much a ‘marmite’ destination in the sense that some people love it whilst others can’t wait to leave. It’s easy to see both sides of the argument; it’s an absolute tourist haven, particularly for Russian holiday makers and so is fairly westernised and overpriced compared to a lot of other places.
I happen to like Nha Trang though. Yes, it is fairly tacky and not all that authentic but if you take it for what it is, you can have a good time. If you want a drink, there are plenty of bars to check out, if it’s sun and sand you’re after then the beach runs through the city, and it’s also probably the best place to dive in Vietnam.
We were keen to put our open water certificates to use and get some diving done here, but we’d heard mixed things about the visibility at this time of year, so decided our money would be better spent elsewhere. One such place was Vinpearl Island – an island resort which is about a 10 minute cable car ride off the coast of Nha Trang. James and I spent a good day fully embracing our childish instincts (which doesn’t take much, let’s be honest) at the theme park and water park. I’d recommend if to anyone who’s into that sort of thing!
Leaving Nha Trang was a tough one. Not so much because of our fondness for the place, but more because of the horror stories we’d heard about every possible route to the next destination. In the end, we were faced with three options:
A) Ride from Nha Trang to Pleiku, where we’d been told the roads were in bike-breaking condition for the large majority of the ride.
B) Ride from Nha Trang to Quy Nhon on Highway 1. Highway 1 – need I say any more?
C) Rode from Nha Trang to Quy Nhon on a load of random backroads we found on Google Maps.
In the end, we opted for option C. We’d heard nothing but bad things about options A and B, so we thought it would be a gamble worth taking. We’d even toyed with the idea of taking our bikes on the train up to Hoi An, but I was really keen to avoid this. It felt like cheating – like running a marathon but getting a lift for 10 miles in the middle!
We arose at 7am fully aware that the day ahead was going to be a very long, and potentially soul-destroying event. We needed to be fully awake and I actually discovered the best wake up call possible.
Still a little drowsy from the early start, we went to retrieve our bikes from the car park round the corner. I paid with a 500,000 dong note and upon the return to the hostel, we were asked how much we were charged for the parking. I seemed to remember him handing me back 350,000 dong, so I told them 150,000 – which is less than a fiver for two bikes over three days. The lady in the hostel informed me that we’d been ripped off, so took us back round to confront the man.
To say all hell broke loose would probably be a slight overstatement, but he was certainly not happy. There I was, half asleep at 7am with a Vietnamese guy yelling at me in a language I had no grasp of. Eventually, it transpired he wanted me to check my wallet and he had indeed given me 450,000 back. My bad. We returned to hostel with me slightly red faced, and very much awake.
As for the journey – I will say is that this particular route was unheard of because it is bloody awful. We started off on some nice backroads through the mountains, and I was feeling very smug thinking I’d got one over on everyone else who rode their bikes through the bike-breaking conditions to Pleiku. My smugness was, however, extremely short lived.
It was all going so well when we suddenly found ourselves on the worst ‘road’ I have ever seen. I put that word in inverted commas, because if wasn’t so much a road as a pile of rubble we were allowed to drive on. Honestly, we can’t have covered much more than 10 kilometres in an hour and by this point, we were well and truly fed up. We can’t have said more than a few words to each other in the hour. It didn’t help that the sun was well and truly on us, resulting in a slightly unflattering tan for James.
We eventually got on to the tarmac and tried to make up for lost time but it was too late. We were well and truly in the middle of nowhere and the winding roads meant that no matter how far away the map said we were from Quy Nhon, we were much further purely because of the layout of the road. If the scenery wasn’t so nice, I hare to think of how much worse our moods would have been!
As we were edging ever closer to Quy Nhon, the sun started to set. Now, usually this would lift the spirits a little bit. I mean; who doesn’t appreciate a good sunset?
Turns out that we don’t appreciate the sun setting when we’re pulling on to Highway 1 for the final stretch of the journey, and neither of us have working headlights. Consider this a lesson learnt.
Thankfully, our hotel was visible from the moon due to the flashing LED sign on the roof, and we arrived in one piece (despite our souls having been crushed in to tiny little pieces). We checked in and slumped on to our beds despite being covered in dust from the roads – we really didn’t care. All we could think about was resting our arses and sleeping. It was bliss.
Click here for the next, slightly less painful leg of our journey: Quy Nhon to Kontum!