On day 3 we took an overnight train to Nha Trang, boarding around 6.30pm and getting off at 5.30am (although it was meant to be 4am, but the train was delayed). We were all pleasantly surprised by the state of the sleeper – we had prepared ourselves for the worst but this was almost like a 4* hotel on wheels! Each compartment had 4 bunk beds, and was separated from the other compartments with a sliding wood-effect door complete with mirror on the back. There was also a small TV, a vase with flowers on the table alongside some water glasses and there wasn’t a bed bug in sight on the fresh sheets – what luxury!
Once we had found our hotel, we headed off again to spend the rest of the day at some local mud baths. First, you clamber in to massive tubs (fit for 8 people) and it’s pumped full of mud the consistency of melted chocolate. After a bit of mud-soaking, you are then ushered out and encouraged to lay down on the nearby giant flat stones and bake yourself for about 10 minutes. Next step is to shower before heading to the ‘Hydrotherapy Springs’ where you walk through a narrow stone corridor whilst being blasted with jets of water from all angles. Finally, your pampering is finished with a soak in the natural hot spring pools – all very relaxing!
In the evening we headed to ‘Why Not‘ bar for some super cheap drinks before dinner at the Sailing Club Restaurant; a lovely restaurant with great food, situated right on the beach. It was (obviously) a little more expensive than the local restaurants we had been visiting, but it was well worth it to treat ourselves for the one night.
The next day we all went on a boat cruise. It was slightly different to the boat trip we took in Cambodia in Sihanoukville, as this was a large boat of around 40 people, rather than a private boat. It was a lot of fun and was basically a ‘booze cruise’ with added snorkelling. Music was played all day, and there was even a live band at one point! The drinks flowed and a massive BBQ buffet was served up to those that preferred not to have a liquid lunch. Afterwards, one of the crew set up a floating bar; a large rubber ring with a storage ring around the outside full of cocktail mixes. You had to swim to the rubber ring, cling on, hold your cup out for a mystery drink, and repeat!
After our 3 days in Nha Trang, we headed up to Hoi An on another overnight train. We were warned by our tour guide Frank that the train was likely to be a little less luxurious than the one we took from Ho Chi Minh to Nha Trang but were still shocked once we had boarded and seen it for ourselves! It was filthy, with cockroaches scuttling across the floors and even on the walls and in the beds. The bedding was also dirty, so I was very pleased to have my little silk sleeping bag (a definite travel essential). We all stayed up late drinking to try and help us sleep eventually, but I don’t think any of us got more than an hour or two.
However, all was forgotten once we stepped off the train – Hoi An is beautiful! Famous for its many tailors, it’s cobbled streets make for a relaxing day of wandering. There’s also a river / harbour area lined with restaurants and bars, with boats that can take you out for a gentle cruise for just $1.50 per person.
The tailors are awesome – you can have pretty much anything you want made to fit you perfectly. There are shops with magazines and catalogues (anything from Next to Vogue) piled high, which you can use for a reference. You can point to an item of clothing in a Vogue catalogue and have your own made-to-measure version in just 24-48 hours! Whilst there, I designed myself a lovely tweet coat and a pair of Nike style trainers; both of which were ready for collection the following day.
In the evenings, there are plenty of bars and restaurants to choose from, including a couple of Western style places if you are missing home comforts. We enjoyed (thanks to our guide..) a shot of rice wine from a jar containing 6 snakes and a raven.. gross. Rice wine is very popular over here and is a vodka-style drink which is often found in bottles containing dead animals (often snakes) or creepy crawlies and are regularly bought as souvenirs.
I sadly didn’t get many photos of Hoi An as I was too busy enjoying myself, but hopefully I’ll take lots more on my second visit!