Big Question Marks

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Celebs of Quy Nhon

After leaving touristy Nha Trang we thought, "Why not get off the beaten path for a few days?" and soon found ourselves in the sleepy beach town of Quy Nhon. We couldn't figure out why it gets missed by travellers-- it's an unbelievably scenic horseshoe bay of blue-green water dotted with fishing boats, hugged by green mountains and lined with a long esplanade of carefully manicured parks. We scored the marble-pillared top-floor room (more like presidential suite!) of a great little hotel with a giant balcony and a sea view for $11 USD. Our hotel was right across the road from the loveliest outdoor cafe, which was part Hollywood poolside patio and part ancient Hoi An teak house and served delicious iced coffees. All this and barely another Western tourist in sight. It was practically heaven!

There were a few cons to having the town to ourselves. The usual glut of restaurants was nowhere to be found and we were soon introduced to dinners of bony fish and "bitter melon" with scrambled eggs. We tried freshly pressed sugarcane juice for the first time, since that was all the street vendors were selling next to the university by our hotel. (OK at first, then progressively grosser, sip by sip.) And we couldn't walk down the street without everyone yelling excited "hello's"... not to mention anyone who did speak English was dying to practice with us. Renting a motorbike (or even a bicycle) to get to a beach a kilometre or two out of town was pretty much out of the question-- there wasn't enough competition to knock down prices, so we opted to walk... this ended up in us missing the turn-off and heading into the mountains for a steamy hike at noon, until a motorbike driver just happened upon us and drove us the 2 or 3 kms remaining to another--very nice-- beach that we realized was town's weekend hangout as well as the local leper colony... seriously! All because we couldn't ask for directions. On the bright side, there was an ice cream vendor on the way back, where we paid the local prices for a yogurt popsicle-- about 10 cents. Hooray!

But Quy Nhon, for better or worse, holds some of the most vivid experiences we've had yet in Vietnam. Stumbling across the most kick-ass vegetarian restaurant (next to the Buddhist pagoda), not really ordering anything but "2 meals", and getting treated to a smorgasbord of veggies and tofu cooked in about a million ways. Delicious! We also had the chance to learn a little more Vietnamese, by locals who were only too happy to teach us. And we also discovered the cool local hangout-- bizarre as they come-- a dark bar where karaoke is sung to a background of a live band (in Hawaiian shirts) while semi-professional dancers do the tango in front of the stage... for about six songs until the place ramps into high gear and a DJ cranks some cheesy dance/pop music for another five or six songs. And so on...

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