Monday, February 10, 2014

Quy Nhon to Nha Trang

Day 22 - Tuesday, November 26
Distance - 224 kms = total for day ~ 7.5 hrs
Trip Odometer =  2757 kms
Route - South from Quy Nhon on Hwy #1D then Hwy #1 to Nha Trang.
Hotel -  Ha Van Hotel ($32 US)
Weather -  Beautiful and sunny leaving Quy Nhon... then light rain on pass south of Tuy Hoa turning to heavy rain at lunch.  Rain stopped heading south in and around Ninh Ma and then started raining again all the way into Nha Trang.

Quy Nhon isn't a hot-spot for foreign travellers, but it is set in a lovely location right on the South China Sea.  For us, it was merely a stopover on our way south and unfortunately, it was another part of Vietnam that we didn't have time to truly discover and explore.

Our breakfast at the Hoang Yen Hotel was good, with a huge assortment and choice of food of all varieties.  The main dining area was interesting to say the least, the chairs were wrapped in lovely cloth and lace and made us feel like we were in the middle of a wedding reception - perhaps there was one the night before that we missed.  We chose to eat on the balcony overlooking the water.

We had an excellent ride south of Quy Nhon on the less-busy Hwy #1D.  It wasn't before long that we connected back up with the main Hwy #1 south.  The weather stayed fairly nice and dry for the first couple of hours of riding in the morning.  We passed a 'fish-sauce' zone where businesses were selling bottles and bottles of the stuff on roadside display shelves.  Seeing that we weren't really in the market for the fish-sauce, we kept on riding south.

Peace!  It was very common for the school-kids to wave and shout 'Hello!' at us while we were riding by, this happened daily.  They see SO many bikes and scooters on a daily basis but they would consistently pick us out of the packs of bikes, and then shout and wave.

It was hard to miss this man-made wooden crossing that was just off the main highway.  We pulled over, doubled back, headed down a small dirt track and immediately onto this rickety wooden crossing.  As I was taking a few photos, I realized that the main shack above was actually a 'toll-booth' of sorts where locals would have to pay a small amount for crossing the structure.  We watched the woman above pay (below) and then carry on down the structure.  I'm sure she was rolling her eyes at the tourists finding something like this fascinating.

As we turned around, getting ready to head back up to the highway, we met up with this cycle-tourist from China.  He was doing the same thing we were, taking photos and checking this thing out.  I can't remember this guy's exact route, but he had been riding for 2-3 months already and really enjoying himself.

We stopped for our morning break and bought a mystery cola in addition to a few mystery snacks.  We knew the 'roasted peanuts' were more than likely roasted peanuts, but I was always interested in the random snacks that were sometimes hard to identify.  This instance I bought these chewy sesame snacks in random packing, they were extremely cheap and equally tasty.  

Shop Owners - Mother and daughter at our morning stop.

 It was difficult not to constantly stare at the Hwy road markers every few kms.  It was sometimes painful watching your next destination slowly tick down, number by number, especially with the crazy slow highway speeds you are constantly travelling... (40-60kph).  Of course at home, a 140 km journey wouldn't take much more than an hour and a half... whereas I'm sure it took us a good 3 + hours to travel that final 140 km to Nha Trang, at least we knew we were going the right direction.  

As we continued south down the #1 we came across another beautiful highway pass.  It was south of Tuy Hoa and it was incredible.  We zig-zagged up, and up, and up, but unfortunately, as we gained in elevation, we lost our visibility and we re-gained our rain.  I was trying to enjoy the twisty roads, but had to slow down due to the slick conditions.  As we were scootin' through this section I started day-dreaming about my time riding in Central America on my KLR a few years back.  Along a lot of the coastal roads in CA, you would see random 'comida' shacks (small food restaurants) with a few chairs and a shelter of some sort to relax under, get some food, maybe a cerveza, and you could sit and enjoy the spectacular views.

On this section of road, rather than food shacks dotting the highway coastline, we were seeing small shacks (I'm assuming with people inside) and outside a variety of hoses shooting water 50' + in the air.  With the abundance of water flowing down the hillsides, they were all gravity flow diversion hoses.  I figured these out to be nothing more than 'truck-wash' stations.  Rather than a sign stating 'Truck-Wash', the proprietor would line up the hoses having the water shoot into the air and because it was all gravity-flow water, there was no need to turn them off, the hoses alone were their 'Truck Wash' signs.  Seeing that it was bucketing down with rain, we didn't see any of these shacks with any business what-so-ever.  I'm guessing the truckers would pull over and get their rigs washed when the rain stopped.  On an ongoing and daily basis, I thoroughly enjoyed the random Vietnam roadside 'unknowns' as I called them...  some of these we figured out, some we still do not have answers for.

We pulled over for lunch in the small fishing village of Dai Lanh and had a great meal.  We were back to craving a hot bowl of Pho Bo (beef noodle soup) due to the wet weather.  Luckily and compared to the north, it was a much warmer rain on the coast.  We were still drenched and wearing most of our thermal clothes to keep warm, but rather than getting constantly chilled when wet as in the north, we were keeping warm 'while wet' in these sections of the south.

Above:  Someone has horrible spelling...

Above:  Another toll-booth... scoots just pass through on the right without stopping and without any payment (see Amanda up in the distance on the right)  

We arrived to Nha Trang in the afternoon at a decent hour but immediately didn't know where we were going.  The streets were quickly getting more congested and busy and there were off-shoot roads everywhere.  The problem was that the maps on my GPS were not that good for Nha Trang, and we didn't have a Nha Trang map with any detail.  Neither of us had a roaming package on our phones, so we pulled over and I walked into the first hotel I saw.  They were very generous in giving me their WiFi code, so I plugged it in and was able to re-calibrate my Google Maps on my iPhone with the location of our hotel.  Once doing that, I was able to use my phone with the 'Location Services' turned on and the phone would show our location on the maps and the proximity to the hotel we were looking for, all in offline 'airplane' mode.  It was very useful.  It was then a left, left, right, straight.... and then a left, and whammo, we found the Ha Van Hotel in Nha Trang quite easily.

After unloading our bikes, we were told to bring them off the street and into the hotel reception (doubles as an ice-cream cafe)  We had a great, safe place to park them in the back by the washing machines.

We both had a nice, hot shower to clean up, and then we hit the streets for eats!

We were shocked when we first started walking around Nha Trang.  Most of the signs in the heart of the tourist area were in Russian.  Some in both english and Russian, but most, just Russian.  We didn't understand this.  We hadn't seen anything like this in our 2757 kms and 22 days of Vietnam up to this point and now... Russian every where we looked.

As we slowly discovered in our x2 days in Nha Trang (after curiosity and research), it turns out that Russians have direct international flights to Nha Trang and are allowed a 15 day travel visa which fits together nicely with various charter packages.  Turns out, many Russians actually own shops and bars in Nha Trang and many also own vacation properties.  What I loosely came up with (off the web) is that Russian has had military ties with Vietnam and essentially a historic war time alliance.  The Russian Navy began using the Cam Ranh port in 1979, making it the largest naval base for the Russian Navy outside it's own territory.  This relationship lasted until about 2002 and it 2004 the Cam Ranh port was turned into a civil port but recent agreements have allowed Russia to come back and invest in it's shipyards, a submarine base, and a 5-star resort for Russian military officers.  I found an article that stated the numbers of Russian tourists coming to Nha Trang is increasing year by year exponentially.

I found it very interesting to learn about this tourist phenomenon - (it isn't even close to Russia.)

With the full 2 days of riding south from Hoi An to get to Nha Trang, the plan was to take another 'rest-day' the following day and we were praying for nice weather and some beach time... after all, Nha Trang is Vietnam's beach capital and we were in desperate need of some more Vitamin D.

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