The next stop on the trip was Nha Trang. This was where American servicemen went on their time away from the front lines. A crescent of white sand stretches for miles in front of the city. Beautiful islands dot the horizon and the crystal clear waters lap gently against the shore like a giant bathtub. We rented beach chairs on the sand in front of the Louisiane Brewhouse. It was amazing. We’d spent months drinking the local brews; Chang beer in Thailand, Beer Laos in Laos, Ankor beer in Cambodia, all of which taste like watered down Coors Light. The beer at Louisiane was a revelation. We downed frosty mugs of thick chocolaty stout, deep caramel ales and crisp, flavorful pilsners, all under a thatched umbrella that shielded us from the burning sun. When the inevitable afternoon rain showers arrived, we retreated inside for several games of pool and several more delicious brews.
The next day wanted to take advantage of the offshore islands and pristine water so we booked a snorkeling trip. Strange does not even begin to describe the itinerary. A boat picked us up at the local pier and took us to a protected marine preserve where we swam amongst the coral and a living rainbow of tropical fish for about an hour. And that was the end of the snorkeling. We went back to the boat for lunch and the crew began the “entertainment.” A full drum kit made of discarded plastic buckets was placed on the central table. The captain came out playing a cheap, imitation Fender Stratocaster and our guide warbled karaoke songs into a microphone with so much reverb that it sounded like he was singing in an empty auditorium made of tin. My favorite tune was a heavily distorted punk-rock version of “Yellow Submarine” by the Beatles.
After lunch the boat stopped in the middle of the sea, miles away from shore. The crew threw a few old tires into the water to use as life preservers. They then pulled out some bottles of rice moonshine and informed us that it was happy hour. The guide set up a few bottles and glasses on two of the larger tires and everyone jumped into the water to start downing shot of this vile concoction, often mixed with large amounts of sea water from the splashing waves. So much for snorkeling.
We left Nha Trang on a night bus and headed to Hoi An. Stepping off the bus was like being transported back in time 100 years. The ancient downtown area of Hoi An is closed to cars and you stroll the cramped maze of streets in relative silence that is unknown in other cities in Vietnam. The old colonial buildings are covered with ivy and bright crimson flowers. Crumbling French windows and the brilliant yellows so common to southern France, fit in perfectly with delicate pagodas and stupas of Buddhist temples that are a thousand years old. We rented bicycles and rode with a local, Mr. Trung, to his village just outside of town. Each village specializes in some type of craft. Mr. Trung smiled warmly as he showed us the techniques that his village had used to churn out red clay pottery for hundreds of years.
|Bia Hoi Corner|
|It's called Bun Cha and it is AWESOME!|
|A classroom in the temple of knowledge|
|Ho's final resting place|
|Ho Chi Minh's house|
|The bridge on Hoan Kiem Lake|
|Vladimir Ilyich Uylanov!|