From Nha Trang, Rob and I decided to continue on the Coracle’s coastal route rather than cut inland to the Ho Chi Minh highway, which adds a bunch of miles. Our next big stop would be Hoi An, a tourist-friendly old port town back on the backpacker trail three days away.
Night 9: Tuy Hoa
After parking ourselves at a great hotel, Hong Hai, near the beach in Tuy Hoa, we headed to Bob’s Cafe American for dinner. Of the places in Tuy Hoa, this one had tons of reviews promising great American food at reasonable prices and an interesting time with Bob, the American Vietnam vet who runs the place with his Vietnamese wife. The food was great but it was busy and Bob was distracted, so we didn’t get much of an opportunity to chat with him. The beer was 50 cents for a liter on draft and they brought out the real ketchup for us. The red bottle on the table was not ketchup.
In the morning, we departed for Quy Nhon. We took a route following the coast ending up on a peninsula with a notable formation called Ganh Da Dia. Reminiscent of Devils Tower/Bear Lodge in Wyoming, Ganh Da Dia has the same geometric columns formed from molten lava, but these are oriented differently and eroded by the ocean. We had missed the turn and as we turned around two tour buses went past. We were able to follow them right to the carpark.
Here’s a great blog post with instructions on how to get to Ganh da dia, although it’s now 10,000 vnd per person to get in. Some lovely views of the ocean can be seen by hiking along the coast from the parking area. Heading inland, we stopped for lunch at a banh mi stand in a small village. I tried to make conversation with the woman running it and soon we were having a google translate conversation with her and her daughters, son, friends and other people. We took countless photos with them and I got to hold a baby.
Since our drive for the day wasn’t too far, we also had time for a stop outside of Quy Nhon. Life’s a Beach and Big Tree hostels are located next to each other in a small fishing village about 10 km south of town. We decided to stop in for a cold drink and potentially stay there for a night. Sadly they were out of beds, so we eventually continued on to Quy Nhon.
Night 10: Quy Nhon
I had messaged the Quy Nhon kids English club (send them a message if you’re going to be in the area for a night), a group of people who are interested in practicing English conversation and we ended up setting a time to meet up later that night. In the meantime, we checked into our hotel (the only one so far that we wouldn’t go back to although its location was convenient) then walked along the waterfront.
Finally we met up with Vu and his wife, Oanh, for a dinner of banh canh and ban cuon at a local place. They were both so friendly and engaging. It turned out that they were about the same age as us and had a one year old son. It was so fun just to talk about normal life! I feel like we have the same obligatory conversation with so many other travelers that’s useful and interesting, but it was so great to break out of that mold.
Rob and I didn’t quite realize what was planned for after dinner, but we ended up grabbing drinks at a street side cafe. As we sat down, tables kept getting added around us and a group of 15+ other people (mainly a class of kids with their teacher) showed up to talk with us. They drove over 10 km on Saturday night just to practice their English, which was pretty amazing. With our limited classroom management skills, Rob and I ended up splitting the group in two and tried to have conversations with them all – a difficult challenge indeed. Some of them were very willing to talk (two of the little boys spoke great English constantly and at high volume) and others who were less confident, I tried to engage them the best I could to give everyone a chance. Especially with the pop culture stuff, I am way out of date. We tried to talk about music and movies and I struggled to find common ground. I did get them to try to teach me some Vietnamese for awhile, but I don’t know how much of it stuck. In the end, Rob and I learned some more about Vietnamese culture and really enjoyed meeting so many people. We were both exhausted, though. Being a teacher takes skill.
Oang and one of the older club members invited us to join them the next morning for their weekly hike. Great! No problem! Wait, it’s sunrise hike and we meet at 5am!? Rob took a large deal of convincing but let me drag him out of bed in the dark. Meeting at the road to the trail head, we couldn’t believe how many people were there. More and more kept coming. Our smaller group was around ten people including Oang’s son, who got handed around the group for the long uphill slog. This mountain is the highest of the four surrounding Quy Nhon. The group rotates mountains every week. We took tons of photos at the top and then hiking down, everyone (and I mean everyone) out hiking posed for this massive group photo. A few other folks took photos with Rob. After hiking, we had a breakfast of crab (cua) noodle soup with part of the club before everyone went home to nap time. It wasn’t even 9 am yet. We fit in a few more hours of sleep before setting off.
Night 11: Quang Ngai
Our first stop this morning was the memorial at My Son, the location of the terrible My Lai massacre during the American War. This article from the NY Times is an interesting retrospective look at why it happened and the aftermath.
Rob and I both felt that we needed to visit here to confront the horrible acts committed by American soldiers/government and remind ourselves of the great responsibility we have as US citizens to hold our government and political leaders accountable for their decisions. I feel our institutional memory is too short. Rob and I both were ashamed about the paucity of our knowledge about the Vietnam War. As far as I recall, my US history classes would make it through WWII and the school year would be nearly complete. If we had better remembered or passed on the knowledge of Vietnam war, how could we have put ourselves into Iraq and Afghanistan? I remember one day during an AP US history class (2004) being shown an article talking about how the majority of the Iraq war protesters were middle-aged. They had all lived through the Vietnam war.
It was clear when we reached the outskirts of Hoi An as all the signs had English too.