Snorkeling in Nha Trang, Vietnam

17 01 2017

Our destination after Saigon was the coastal town of Nha Trang. After the noise, congestion and pollution of chaotic Saigon everyone was looking forward to some quiet time by the sea. Well, we were completely unprepared for what a mega town it is. Nha Trang is far from a sleepy beach town! It’s got 35-story hotels and boasts a population of over 400,000! So much for the Margaritaville experience. More like Atlantic City New Jersey or something! Nevertheless, I was able to get some decent snorkeling in.

The week prior to our arrival it had rained hard. So hard that runoff turned the sea brown that week. I was concerned the water would be too cloudy for good snorkeling. More than water clarity, I’d heard that many reefs in Asia were damaged due to dynamite fishing. In some places, people are so poor they don’t use nets or lines. Instead they blow up everything and haul in whatever floats to the surface. By doing that, they destroy entire ecosystems. Years before I’d snorkeled in Bali and it was tragic. The coral was dead. Only a few fish to see. I feared the worst.



Well, well! Took a chance and was rewarded!


Nonetheless, six of us booked a boat to go out beyond the bay to Moon Island. We all said to ourselves, “Even if the water’s cloudy, heck at least it’s a boat ride, right?” Well, much to our delight, the water was clear. And the reef? Healthy!

The boat, which was also equipped with scuba gear, took us to a secluded spot maybe 50 feet from shore. I donned the mask, snorkel, and did my customary snorkel/scuba back flip into the water. The water was beautiful. Warm. Pretty clear! And the corals were so close to the surface, one only needed to drift along to view.

I’d been to Belize in 2014 and learned how to free dive. That skill came in handy in Vietnam. You simply take a breath, turn completely vertical, and allow your weight to sink you down. Sometimes having a rock or two in hand takes you down faster. This way, when you arrive down some 15-20ft, you have not expended energy to get there. My tour-mates were all amazed to see me down that far. Once down, you have a maybe half a minute to swim amongst the wonder. I found I got so intrigued that, when I needed air, I was suddenly freaked that I had 20 ft to rise!

It was a good day. We were all delighted we’d taken the risk because it paid off. Not only had we taken in some good snorkeling. But we’d escaped the busy hum drum of the Nha Trang waterfront!

Biking in the Rain in Hoi An, Vietnam

9 01 2017


On our bucket list for our visit to Hoi An was a morning bike ride. Hoi An is pretty flat, and the traffic moves at a pedestrian pace, so the slower, easy-going bike is a good way to enjoy the city and surroundings. But in November, Hoi An is known for biblical downpours, and we were not disappointed!


Cindy gets all custom fitted

The route would include gliding past wetland agricultural areas, villages, a food market, and then back along the Hoi An waterfront.

We’d been advised to carry water for rehydration, and to bring along at least a rain jacket.

Although we left by 9 a.m., it was already very humid.

It doesn’t take long in Vietnam to get sweaty. We got our bikes, moved the seats into correct height, pumped up the tires, and we were on our way.

We began pedaling along streets in town and soon headed out to some submerged farmland, where we rode along paved berms in between fields. I was unsure to call them fields or paddies. They seemed to be growing rice here, but also there were other crops, too.


We encountered a farmer riding his water buffalo. The water buffalo was very much focused on his breakfast of grass.

And then, without warning, the fire hose turned on! When it rains in Hoi An, all you get is one or two drops notice before the bucket is thrown at you! It rains so hard that no technical outdoor gear can stand up to the humidity, your perspiration and the volume of water coming from the sky. You are going to get soaked, and anything in your pockets, too.


Kristi and Cindy at the market

Instantly every local is donning ponchos. Rain doesn’t slow them down one bit. We paused for a visit at a local fresh food market and holy cow rain was cascading down on everything. I had a waterproof camera, but the lens got droplets on it!

Regardless of the monsoon, business must go on! They were selling everything. Produce, fish, chicken, pork. I saw a wahoo, lots of crab and some oysters, too.

Once the rain let up we got back on the bikes and headed back to town. But my bike broke down. The right pedal crank arm just slowly weakened and fell off! Metal fatigue. So I limped back using the left pedal only, until a replacement bike could be found. Back at the hotel, soaked, I just jumped in the pool. It was quite refreshing! And while there, another sudden downpour fire hosed me from above. But, since I was in the pool, it seemed refreshing.

If you are visiting Hoi An Vietnam, definitely try a bike ride. It’s a nice way to go!



Overnight in Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

6 01 2017


No visit to Vietnam would be complete without a visit to the emerald waters of Ha Long Bay. For many, their only familiarity with it comes from the silver screen. Ha Long Bay has been depicted in “Pan,” “Tomorrow Never Dies,” “Indochine,” “The Quiet American,” and the soon to be released “Kong: Skull Island.”


The many “junks” carrying visitors.

A World Heritage Site since 1994, Ha Long Bay is some 2,000 limestone islets, most rising vertically from the sea topped with rain forest. They are eroded through countless eons into fantastical shapes. This archipelago forms the most popular tourism attraction in northern Vietnam.  The islets have been taking shape for 500 million years.These islands are literally like giant rocks rising from the sea. Some of them have big caves and grottos.


While most are uninhabited, there are a few with beaches and residents. It is beautiful. And ethereal. I felt like I was on another planet altogether. There are activities, rock climbing, snorkel and scuba, cave viewing, hiking, kayaking and beach combing.


The best way to view the islets is by kayak!

Although there are day trips one can book, Ha Long Bay is best visited as a complete overnight. This allows for some activities but also to see the light bathing the islets at different angles. There are all sorts of overnight “junks” one can take. Most have very good dining.


As  you can see, everyone is BUSY chowing down! Fried whole fish, steamed shrimp, and stuffed crab were on the menu.

Some are only 10 guest rooms, others are 4-decked monsters with pop-out stern docks from which inflatable skiffs and kayaks can be launched.


My room was plenty big.

Thankfully, the beauty was never spoiled by the noise and smell of wave runners or jet skis. And in the evening none of the party boats had loud karaoke playing. And the stars came out.


We were really looking forward to some time on the water. Not long after our boat launched, we took advantage of the roof top lounging area!

It is true Ha Long Bay is popular with tourists. Don’t expect to have it all to your boat. Your boat will share with dozens of others. But it’s still worth a trip. For a more intimate experience with the limestone islets, book a two-day trip to Bai Tu Long Bay. You’ll spend more, but the extra Dong will buy you more solitude.