Nha Trang 1: "Beach Sands and Hot Tub Mud"

July 23, 2003 

Nha Trang

Vietnam

My Dear Curious Friends, 

OK. I know more than a few of you are just aching to know the details of my "coffee date" in Dalat.

After coffee, Ha persuaded me to stay another day. The next afternoon we strolled around the lake. In the evening we had dinner and drinks at a French style club. Very conservative. Very proper. Ha is delightful and smart. I hope I will see her again.

How many times can I use the word "spectacular"? OK ... superior, then. The three-hour bus ride from Dalat (elevation 1475m) to Nha Trang (sea level) was superior. We go down and around; down and around; down and around. We leave the cool, rainy, temperate, mountainous climate of cabbage, carrots, green beans and coffee and descend into the tropical flat coastal climate of water buffalo and rice.

After Thailand, Vietnam is the second largest exporter of rice in the world. This region is so blessed with fertile soil and rainfall that the farmers manage three crops each year.

At one point during the bus ride we stop at a mountain pass. The view is just as you can imagine. Pine tree forests on hills near and far, and green valleys below. Swarms of kids sell water and fresh fruit. I splurge on a sweet, juicy pineapple for 3000 Dong. 20 cents.

The second stop, near the coast, is a religious site of three Cham towers. The Chams are an ancient civilization that flourished in this central region. The Po Nagar Cham Towers towers are unique. About twenty meters high, they are rectangular at the base and ornamented and decorated at the top. They are made of red brick, with religious figures carved into the sides. After scampering around, we head for Nha Trang and the beach.

Golden sands, rough cool water, I plunge in. I think, "Hey, I am swimming in the South China Sea,&quot.

On the beach a parade of women and kids sell fruit, sweets, chips, used books and massage. I opt for a very large piece of flat bread, about the size and shape of a medium pizza. The bread is thin and crisp and flavored with coconut juice. Crunchy. Tasty.

What am I doing hanging around a beach? The next day, I hire a motorbike driver and head for Long Son Pagoda. Live monks. Ceramic dragons. And then, Thap Ba Hot Spring Centre.

The spa is another world: Beautiful gardens, lotus flower ponds, little wooden bridges, swimming pools, and waterfalls. The best was a group of very lovely hot tubs that are filled with the most delightful, warm brown mud. I slide in. Sorry, my buddies, the mud doesn't cure baldness. But it does cure everything else, for sure.

After a half hour of this cure-all, I shower and investigate the next station: a hot mineral bath. Then to the very large, swimming pool ... water temp 38 degrees Celsius.

After my swim, I relax at the cafe for a bit of lunch and a couple of beers. I am accompanied by the cutest blond from Canada you ever did see.

Showered and dressed, I pop back on the patiently waiting motorbike, and ride back to town to the florist and my dinner date. No, not with Sharmin from Edmonton; with Han from Nha Trang .............

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