These photos were captured after I left Bangkok over the holidays to spend a few days at the Amiana Resort in Nha Trang. Though it's a relatively small town, much to my surprise, my friend Justin (Founder of Ideapod) just happened to be a few miles down the road from where I was staying. I had noticed that we were both in Nha Trang when I was browsing through Instagram as I was just about to take off on my very dangerous flight to Cam Ranh (the closest airport for you to fly into if heading to Nha Trang, which is about 45 minutes away) from Bangkok. Isn't the world funny, like that?
Nha Trang is a coastal beach town in the southern part of Vietnam. Northern Vietnam differs significantly from the South due to their culture, food, and weather. During the war, Vietnam formed an alliance with Russia and Vietnam used to host a lot of Russian soldiers, whom recognized that Nha Trang has a beautiful bay, several secluded islands, and white sand beaches, and began transforming it into a resort town for holidays. In town, you'll see a lot of restaurants that are not actually Vietnamese, but Russian! Nha Trang also is a town with small fishing villages, which are located between the old and new bridge in town.
I did photoshoots on the beach and on the boats, sans good hair, but none-the-less, I captured some incredible snaps in Nha Trang. Always trying to be an arbiter of style, some of my outfits were planned, some were not. When I traveled to Vietnam, I had already been almost a week and a half in Australia and then a few days in Thailand, so in my one suitcase, I brought with me a mixture of vintage frocks from my grandmother and some very easy Calypso linen pieces that I could just throw on and wear on my explorations.
I spent four days and three nights in Nha Trang. The first day, I woke up at dawn, picked up a bicycle, and biked about 20km south to The Shack at Bai Dai beach for some early morning surfing. Nha Trang is relatively flat, so you can find bicycles for rent on the streets and in town for about VND 20,000 (less than $1 USD) for one day for a basic bike without gear. The Shack is owned by an Australian called Tippy and you can surf, kite, and do a number of different water sports (assuming the wind conditions are good). After lunch, I biked back to town to meet a Buddhist Monk for a two-hour guided meditation with him in a temple. Then I spent the rest of the day at my resort having photoshoots, eating Pho, drinking my favorite drink ever (lemongrass, ginger, lime juice, mint, and green tea), wearing my Korean sheet masks in my very own villa, and writing my screenplay.
The next day, I woke up for another two-hour guided meditation with my Buddhist monk at the temple, then went to visit the Khánh Hòa countryside villages to explore the local rice paddies. I helped some of the farmers cultivate wet rice and vegetables and bound my own traditional Vietnamese conical hat. Afterwards, I had a local Vietnamese cooking lesson, where I created my own rice paper, rice noodles, and incense sticks. I ended my journey back at my hotel for an late afternoon and early evening at the spa. Spa aficionados seeking the ultimate pampering experience should look no further than the mud baths in Vietnam. They are two-hours long and quite the experience! I looked like Scarlett Johansson in the film, "Under the Skin" when she plays an extraterrestrial alien that seduces men, lures them into her place, where they then disappear in a liquid abyss... but, I loved it! I can't say that the massages in Vietnam are my favorite, as I really need someone to take a rake over my back and bring me back to life, but the mud baths were quite the delightful experience. I ended up going to the spa for four-hours (two-hour mud bath, one-hour massage, and a one-hour facial).
Day three, I went on a boat tour on the Cái River and explored Po Nagar in town. Po Nagar is a Cham temple tower founded sometime before 781 and is dedicated to the goddess of the country, Lady Yan Po Nagar. It's super packed, but locals and visitors are allowed to go into the temples and explore (so long as you remove your shoes!). I then met my friend Justin at the Nha Trang Sailing Club where I met his family, and then we headed back to his hotels rooftop bar to record an Ideapod video called, Synchronicity and Chance Meetings: Carl Jung on Bringing Magic Into Our Lives.
It was hard to believe that my time was up in Nha Trang, but when I woke up and headed to Cam Ranh airport, I soon realized that they had canceled my flight to Hanoi without any notifications. Apparently this is quite common in Vietnam. The next flight out wasn't until two days later, and by then, I would have missed New Years in Hanoi. In these types of situations, it's best to just go with the flow and see where you can fly to and change your plans along the way. I assume most peoples reactions are to clam up, freak out, and internalize a fear of the unknown since their plans are disrupted, but I looked at the flights going out and decided to just buy a new flight to Cat Bi Airport and go on a new micro-adventure to Halong Bay for the day!
Once I arrived in Cat Bi, it was about a two-and-a-half-hour drive to Hạ Long Bay, where I then paid my driver to keep my luggage with him until I finished my boat tour and he could drive me to Hanoi (you can find more Hanoi tips in my Hanoi City Guide here). I booked a private junk boat with Life Resorts, since I was only trying to do a day-experience, but my friends had good experiences with both Cruise Halong and Emeraude Cruises. Hạ Long Bay to Hanoi is another three-hour drive, so I arrived at my hotel rather late in the evening, but then realized my friends Will and Madelyn were in the same hotel as me and my other friends Caroline and Dave just arrived in town from Seoul and were staying on the other side of town! More synchronicity and chance meetings! The first night I stayed at Meliá Hanoi (where I got to sip some champagne and take some selfies with Will and Maddy), and the second night I stayed at the Hotel Metropole (on NYE), which is probably still the best hotel in Hanoi. I had my own classic White Vespa to drive around and the explore the city with, which just made my explorations even better.
I ended up meeting up with Caroline and Dave the next morning for a food tour at Hanoi Street Food Tour (74 Hang Bac) with our food tour guide named Moon. We explored a number of different local street food spots with two other friends and ate traditional Bun Cha Ta noodle soup, spring rolls, summer rolls, papaya salad, Bánh mì sandwiches, egg coffee, and more. In the afternoon, I explored the local areas (Hàng Bông, Hàng Gai, Hàng Trống, Nhà Thờ, Nhà Chung, Lý Quốc Sư, Xuân Diệu, and Tây Hồ) for shopping and found myself mesmerized with all of their horn home objects. Caroline and I went around getting prices for NYE dinner and found the perfect spot right above this celebration (that we thought was originally going to be a small ordeal and ended up being a crazy, sardine-packed rave!). It took me over 50-minutes to fight my way through the crowd that surrounded Hoàn Kiếm Lake and get inside our restaurant. At times I thought my body was going to be split in two, but it was such a fun experience riding the waves of the crowds with the locals. This was one of the best trips of my life and I am so happy that I took the time to travel by myself.