Posted by: Richard Marshall | April 15, 2013

Family Trip – and Tam Biet Viet Nam

Mom, Dad and I in Hoi An

Mom, Dad and I in Hoi An

After three months in Shanghai I have managed to get a vpn which connects me back to social media. I didn’t particularly miss facebook – though I’m glad to have it back – but I was very unhappy not to be able to update my blog. That really was the reason getting the vpn was so important. I will write up my impressions of Shanghai so far in the near future, but first I’ll write up my farewell trip in Vietnam with my parents.

My parents had been to Ho Chi Minh city before so we only spent a night there – enough to have Pho with Ted, Cindy, Mike and Dung and to go to my favourite restaurant – Huong Cau – for a beery dinner. The next day we took a flight up to Da Lat. I have now been to Da Lat three times and it remains probably the nicest place I have been in Vietnam, or even Asia. In all four places we stayed we went back to hotels I had stayed in before – I think the receptionist in Hue was the only person who remembered me but they were all nice places and it was great to go back. The first day we wandered around the town checking out the usual places – the crazy house, the flower garden, the cathedral – and booked a walk in the hills for the next day. The walk was one I had done back in 2010 and was very nice. Dad and I managed to get some birding in and saw a few new species, but it very pleasant simply walking through the pines.

Birding in Da Lat

Birding in Da Lat

We had one more day to explore Da Lat so we checked out the railway station and Bao Dai’s palace and took the cable car to a pagoda by a lake, but Dad and I were in shorts so we didn’t go in. I might have mixed up where we went each day but we took it pretty easy. We managed to get a few beers at the cafe overlooking Ho Xuan Huong lake which is what had initially won me over to the town. We booked bus tickets for Nha Trang taking the provincial road which I had loved so much on my bike trip and it was indeed spectacular again. Nha Trang is a nice enough town, but the bar at the sailing club is really fantastic so we headed there for a few sundowners looking out over the South China Sea.

Mom at the Yacht Club

Mom at the Sailing Club

Dad really wanted to find a seafood restaurant that did good crabs so I used my Vietnamese with the hotel staff to get a recommendation away from the backpacker area. We took a taxi to the north end of the beach and found a really great place – big, open, no-frills and overlit but with cold Saigons, crabs, prawns and a great atmosphere. I showed off my Vietnamese again chatting with the manager and we had a really fantastic dinner. The next day we weren’t really sure what to do with ourselves so we headed to Vinpearlland – a resort/ theme park hugely popular with the Vietnamese but that I had thought I probably wouldn’t bother with myself. In fact it turned out to be really pretty cool. The oversea cable car to get there was wonderful and gave great views of Nha Trang’s skyline. I went on one ride and we wandered around. It was a pity we had forgotten our swimming costumes as it was hot and the water park looked really fun. We took the cable car back and found another beach-front restaurant for dinner.

Nha Trang from Vinpearlland

Nha Trang from Vinpearlland

From Nha Trang we took a flight up to Da Nang and were picked up by our hotel to be taken to Hoi An. The hotel was one Gregor and I had stayed in and is very nice – the back rooms have balconies that look out over Rau Muong fields and Dad and I saw a couple of interesting birds lurking around. We had fantastic food in Hoi An as always – Cau Lao, white rose, spring rolls being my favourites. The town is charming and it was great just wandering around. The one day I hoped to meet my friends in Da Nang so Mom and Dad went up to Marble Mountain without me. In the end only Joe came down and I could have gone on the trip anyway. Joe, Dad and I had a beer when they got back. The next day though we all three went to My Son, the old Cham capital that I regretted I had missed in two previous trips to the area. Although horribly damaged in the American war – there some huge bomb craters in the complex – there were some attractive buildings remaining and it was very atmospheric in the mist and rain with the green hills surrounding the ruins.

Japanese Bridge

Japanese Bridge

Dinner in Hoi An

Dinner in Hoi An

My Son

My Son

Birding in My Son

Birding in My Son

After Hoi An we headed up to Hue. Unfortunately the bus didn’t go over the Hai Van Pass, though the tunnel underneath it is pretty impressive. It was also a sleeper bus which was surprising and not hugely comfortable, but luckily it isn’t far. In Hue we visited the Imperial Citadel and managed to find some great meals. Sitting by the Perfume River one evening at a string of little restaurant stalls was especially nice, and I tried to find the best Banh Khoai in town, though none could match the one in Dong Hoi on my bike trip. Hue is one of my favourite places and it was nice to see the progress being made on the reconstruction. The second day in Hue we headed out to see Thien Mu Pagoda and the tombs of Gia Long, Minh Mang, Thien An and Tu Duc. I really love the Imperial tombs but unfortunately as the day progressed it became wetter and wetter so that by the end we were all soaked. I kept on slipping on wet, mossy bricks in the downpour. But at least we got to see Ming Mang’s tomb quite well as it is the most beautiful.

Hue

Hue

We spent Christmas day in Hoi An. We had a delicious but rather unusual Christmas Day lunch of steamed squid, mango salad and spring rolls. That evening, after several beers, we had to head back to Da Nang to catch the plane to Ho Chi Minh City. I had been under the impression I would arrive in China at the end of December so Mom and Dad booked tickets home on the 26th. It was only later that I found out I should arrive in Shanghai on the 10th of January. So Mom and Dad’s holiday was unfortunately cut a little shorter than it need have been. But we had a wonderful time and it was great to show Mom and Dad my favourite places and to bid farewell too. Thanks Mom for all the great pictures taken with her cellphone!

I was left with nearly 2 weeks to kill  so went and stayed with Shaun and Amy in Bangkok for 10 days. Ted and Cindy were in Thailand so we met for New Year.

I flew back to Ho Chi Minh City and, after three…tumultous…years in Vietnam finally said goodbye and headed to China…


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