In a country with 3,444 km of shoreline, a beach would have to be pretty special to stand out, right? So what’s so special about Nha Trang? OK, tick the boxes. Six kilometres of fine white sand set against a backdrop of forested hills. Clear turquoise water. Excellent swimming, snorkelling and scuba diving. Catamarans, diving equipment, surf boards, paddle boards, kayaks, para-sails, and wind kites up for hire. Massages and beauty treatments available at the wave of a hand. Food and cold beer on demand. Seafood galore — what’s not to like?
You can drive carefully, you can drive defensively, you can drive at a sedate 30kph, but sooner or later you’re going to come to grief on Vietnam’s roads. It was my turn early last year.
Mui Ne was once a sleepy fishing town that few people had ever heard of. The solar eclipse of 1995 reversed all that; thousands of astronomers and curious tourists streamed in to observe the phenomenon. Since then, Mui Ne has undergone a major transformation, and is now one of Vietnam’s major tourist attractions.
Many visitors to Vietnam are fascinated by the Vietnam War era. They seek out the places where well-documented battles took place, they visit war-museums, they comb war-surplus markets for helmets, bits and pieces of uniform, canteens, rusty dog-tags and the like.
I’m in two minds about Dalat. Sure it’s been dubbed ‘Le Petit Paris’ and ‘The City of Eternal Spring’, the scenery is spectacular, and it’s Vietnam’s most popular honeymoon spot, but as I explored the region I kept thinking to myself that maybe I’d have been better off going to Sa Pa or Mui Ne or Nha Trang instead.
Be truthful now; how much do you know about the Mekong Delta? If you’re like most expats in Vietnam, not very much, I bet. You’ve got no excuse — the Mekong Delta is the world’s largest delta, an ecological treasure trove, the nation’s rice basket, and a region of pivotal importance to the wealth and wellbeing of the country. You can hardly be blamed for being in the dark, though; the Delta has never received much press attention. Alternate floods and droughts seem to be the only events there that the media considers newsworthy.
It’s my son’s big overseas experience. He stops off at Vietnam on his way from New Zealand to London, where a job awaits him. He is buoyed up by the prospect of life overseas, and raring to go, has but one problem. He is weighted down by far too much baggage. I’ve told him time and time again that travelling light is the only way to go, but then whoever listens to the advice of their oldies?