Travelling Vietnam – Nha Trang and VinPearl

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The MacInnes family – apart from Campbell – take on Cambodia and Vietnam for a family holiday that will sure to bring a lot of laughs, a lot of arguments and a lot of drinking.

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So it was a 6pm flight to Cam Ranh, Nha Trang for five nights by the beach at the Vin Pearl Resort on the Hon Tre island. At Ho Chi Minh airport the rain started to come down heavy, like really heavy. The airport was packed and flights were being delayed every 10 minutes.

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We got to the airport early because our driver was waiting for us an hour earlier than expected. Pick on dad day – as he calls in – had him walk off to go back to Australia, but return five minutes later with a beer in hand.

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My head was pounding so Mum and Dad set off to find some panadol but the only solution given by shop assistant was the famous tiger bam, I would describe it as like a deep heat rubbing oil with a strong scent. I rubbed that into my head, wow did it make me worse. Like big time worse. So our flight was delayed but we seemed to get on the plane a lot quicker than most.

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Through a massive puddle of water onto the bus and from the bus onto the plane, the airline did very well to get us on the plane as dry as possible. By this point, I was in severe pain, not much luck flying after the stomach pain at the beginning of our trip.

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We sat in the tarmac for a few hours before we took off, but to be honest we got in the air a lot sooner than the budget airlines. Sometimes it pays to go with a better airline (we used Vietnam Airlines) in these situations for domestic flights.

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The flight was pretty horrendous, I guess with a pounding headache everything is horrendous, but we finally made it to our very fancy transfer with Buffalo. The minivan was very high class, well if you read about my time in Ho Chi Minh, I am the first daughter so I wouldn’t expect anything less.

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Driving around an hour to our hotel, the minivan was driving through quite a bit of rain, unknown to us Nha Trang had a lot of flooding and landslides, so we are very shocked we even made it to the hotel that night!

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The Vin Pearl Resort is very fancy but everything is very strict. When we arrived we actually arrived at the check-in dock, the first step before getting the speedboat to the island. The only way on is by speedboat or cable cart over the water.

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Reception wasn’t all that welcoming, he went through the rules. No food or drink from the mainland to the island unless you pay $50USD, no wonder Pham Nhat Vuong (VinPearl owner) is so rich. A deposit for two rooms worked out to be around $600AUD, but anything you don’t spend is credited back to your account – pretty sure we spent that anyway.

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You even have to get a photo as ID for your room card, which is used for the boat and anything you buy during your stay, including the Vinpearl Land tickets (yes this island has a theme park), breakfast or dinner you purchase using your room key – unless you paid for the package.

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By the time we got on the island and our bags to our room, it was 11pm, we stupidly didn’t have dinner in Ho Chi Minh so ended up with room service at midnight, which I may have had a sneaky nap before receiving and woke to him at the door – FYI prices on the island aren’t cheap compared to the mainland.

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The next morning was a needed sleep in and I had finally recovered. Once we had settled in we worked out the rules to the resort. No clothes drying on the balcony, that’s a fine, you must not take advantage of the buffet and not stack your plate up with food you don’t eat. You get the point, strict.

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Well, Dad being Dad took these to the extreme and everything we did was deemed as “kicked off the island” in his books. Okay, so you want my review of the Vin Pearl?

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The breakfast buffet was amazing, the selection was great and the view of the pool and ocean was incredible. The facilities were also great, we had our own private beach, two pools (even if one was closed until our last day due to the storm), the restaurants served great food, more on that later. The buses to the boat were efficient and on time, even if it was a little bit of a long process to get the mainland, it was still easy.

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The cleaning service was excellent, our rooms were made up every day and if we were out of the night we came back to lamps on and our beds pulled back. Overall it was a beautiful island, I can’t fault the facilities including the gym and entertainment, but there is a but.

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We found the service to be lacking at the main desks and room service. The English was the worst we had experienced during the course of our whole trip, it was very hard for them to understand what we wanted.

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The rules were a bit much, I get it is a five-star hotel but you want people to enjoy their time, not feel like they need to be held down to rules. Hot tip, don’t get your laundry done at the hotel, it is extremely expensive, go into town and get it done for around $15,000VND per kg.

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Dad’s worst nightmare? He couldn’t order a beer easily. He was drinking what was called 333 or Ba Ba Ba, but when he rang for beers to his room asking for 3x 333 beers it got everyone confused!

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Does remind me, along the trip in Hanoi he went to buy water, the lady didn’t speak a word of English, Dad no Vietnamese and his communication lacks, so to pay she laid out the money and Dad match it with what he had in his wallet, genius and good life hack!  Anyway, would I stay there again? Probably not. Did I enjoy it? Ohh it was beautiful, worth having a look.

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Anyway, I’ll get back into what we actually did in Nha Trang. So on our first day, it was pretty wet, but we went into town and caught it in a clear weather spell. Thinking that should be the end of it we set off to explore Nha Trang city until the downpour started and didn’t stop.

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I was catching up with someone I’d met in Hue – who was held back in Nha Trang due to the horrible weather. So I set off in my Northface coat as it had kept me dry in the rain so far, not this type of rain though.

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I was drenched, my jeans wet, all my clothes were wet. We found a small cafe called unknown because I can’t find it on Google Maps, for coffee and to dry off. This was probably one of the better coffees I’d had in Vietnam, they usually have it super strong and with condensed milk, this one was normal. If it helps it was on Trần Quang Khải.

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Once the rain had finally stopped we explored a bit of the beach esplanade and the bad weather had caused the beach to be brown in colour and definitely not appealing to swim in. But by the beachfront had it all, restaurants with pools, little shops, hotels had their own designated area for beach chairs, on a nice day this beach area was buzzing.

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Finding Mum and Dad again we set off to look around the town again, without the rain. So what does Nha Trang offer? A lot of spas and I mean nearly every second shop is a spa, a lot of seafood restaurants and a lot of shops selling these hideous looking stone necklaces and a lot of linen clothing. If you want to leave your shopping to Nha Trang, don’t. Unless you want to spend big $$ in some of the shopping centres.

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We walked around the streets, found a spa place who was going to give us a good price on foot massages and nails on our last full day. I got one of the street crepes with bolognese – delish – and we headed back to the Vin Pearl. That evening before dinner, Dad and I walked up to the Pagoda and enjoyed the sunset over the ocean, it is a beautiful place.

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Dinner was at the Jasmine restaurant where we lashed out and got a seafood platter. The food was delicious and the service really good, which we noticed was a first for the resort. The place was dead, not many people out and about around the resort at all, the bar was empty every night.

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Another day, another buffet breakfast, a nice walk around the cliff face and a gym session to really start the detox, well kind of! After that, it was time to relax on the beach for an hour or so and a quick dip. Laying in the sun for no more than 30 minutes burnt me, like big time very burnt, like red for days after!

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A sneaky cocktail by the pool that was actually open and we headed back into town for lunch at the Sailing Club, right on the water the service was slow but the food was good! Mum and I shared the Thai salad and some chicken wings.

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We cruised around the city, had a drink and a game of pool at Crazy Kim bar. Safe to say, pool isn’t my strong point. Nha Trang also has a good bar right on the beach with old cars on display, would be beautiful on sunset. Then we headed to meet our guide for the street food tour with Urban Adventures. At this stage, we were nearly street food’d out but we still enjoyed the food on offer, however it wasn’t as good as the Hanoi tour.

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To begin we met our tour guide, he was lovely. He taught us the ways of Nha Trang, loads of labour work on new flashy hotels, long working days and the lotus flower statue in the middle of town symbolises good luck.

The tourism industry is the biggest in Nha Trang and is more popular with the Russian and Chinese tourists, which we noticed. He also shared with us the local life, many don’t live in Nha Trang city because it is too expensive to live. We also noticed a lot of Russian workers, meaning some live in the city as well.

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During the tour, we stopped at Quan Nem for fresh spring rolls, they were nice! But try wetting the rice paper before you roll them up if you can. Inside was a pork sausage which was yum! Then we headed a few back streets for egg pancakes with different meats in them at Hai San, they were okay, I don’t think I would walk that far for them though.

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The main course was fish bun ca at Nguyen Loan, don’t let the smell turn you off when you get there, it is actually nice! The next meal was easily my favourite! Found in a back alleyway called Bo Ne- Hem 19 and to describe would be to call it steak and eggs, Vietnamese style! You get the baguette to eat it in and wow it was amazing!

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Our last course was dessert at Diem Tam Sang, which was really just fruit juices and ice cream. I went for the coconut ice cream but because the durian ice cream is in the same freezer, it just tasted like durian, not ideal!

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Overall we enjoyed the street food tour and went around some parts of the town where the locals hang out, have beers and enjoy being away from the busy tourist streets but we were glad to be heading back to the resort after clocking up well over 20,000 steps on our Fitbits.

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New day, new adventure. Mum and Dad continued to spring out of bed to do something but then would crash and burn in the afternoon, which is understandable but repetitive – a perfect meme to describe them. We did get some time to relax, but we aren’t really people who can relax for too long.

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So we headed to Vinpearl Land, which was only around $50AUD, not badly priced compared to the rest of the island. There are many elements to the park, the top half has the beautiful gardens, views of the ocean and the city, as well as the animal sanctuaries, the most fierce animal, was seen in one exclosure, see below.

 

 

But seriously, the gardens are beautiful, you have all different domes full of flowers and plants. The bird show could be missed, but I recommend the Ferris wheel unless you have a dad terrified of heights. We couldn’t even move in our pod without dad going mental with fear.

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Lowlight of the day? Lunch at Lotteria, after collecting the food and adding sauce, Mum headed back to the table, in the corner of my eye all I see is Mum go down sliding under one of the tables. This was no joke the fifth or sixth time she had fallen on this trip, Dad helped her up, she was pretty upset but after about 20 minutes she was okay and we now joke about Mum’s penguin slide.

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Anyway, after that ordeal, we headed to the lower level to look at the castle and the water parks and water sports. Then it was time, I wanted to parasail. For $1,000,000VND, I could parasail and have the video included. Okay done and like that, I signed my life away and got strapped in, completely forgetting about my travel insurance, oops. Anyway as they were organising the boat one of the guys was explaining how to use the GoPro, yep okay fine I know how to use a GoPro, what about taking off and landing? How do I land? What do I do?

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After explaining the GoPro he asked if I was ready, I said no, I asked what do I do for landing he ignored me and the boat started to take off “wait I’m not ready”, his response? “one, two, three run, run, run” and off I went.

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For the first few minutes, but what felt like forever, I was terrified and unable to let go to use the GoPro, when the boat turned I nearly ended up in the water and was seriously holding on for my life, it was high up and yes I’ve skydived twice but at least I had someone with me!

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Anyway, eventually, I got the courage to let go and use the GoPro and wow! The views were amazing and finally, I could enjoy it!! Then the boat slowed and I was slowly lowered into the water, just like that, easy. A jet ski picked me up and took me on a little joy ride before heading back into shore. A great experience but god those first few minutes were dicey.

Next stop was the water park. Hot tip lockers and towels were expensive to hire and we didn’t have a lot of VND on hand. If you want a towel it is nearly cheaper to buy one from the shops. Mum and Dad went to the lazy river to cool down and then Dad and I tackled a waterslide together. We picked what looked like the ‘slow’ one, once we got in, Dad realised the dips involved in which he responded: “oh get fucked”, we also nearly went through the end of the wall at the bottom, bless you Dad and your fears, they make me laugh so much.

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The waterpark is pretty good and offers a lot of different slides, a good way to refresh in the hot, sticky weather. Dad was happy as long as he had a beer from Happy Snacks, or what he called Happy House. Yes, you can get beer there.

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It had already been a long day but we still had some of the park to see, we headed back up to the world featuring all the rides and I tackled a few of the roller coasters, which were scary only from the horrible sounds they made, so I only opted for two before we headed on the cable cart to get a nice view of the VinPearl at night as well as the city.

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VinPearl Land is great for kids, they have many shows, rides and activities but it is a long day!

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After our cable cart ride, we headed for the buffet dinner, which was next level buffet with seafood, cooked meats, sushi, pasta cooked fresh, desserts and even a white chocolate fountain! It was delicious.

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A highlight of the buffet? Dad asking for pawns not realising it was for the Pho, he just wanted three pawns for his seafood plate, lost it! The Pho was the end of him too.

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Our last full day in Nha Trang was spent on an island hopper tour in Nha Trang with Buffalo. One of the three best bays in Vietnam with Da Nang and Ha Long Bay!

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First stop was Tri Nguyen Aquarium on Mieu Island, there were many sea species of Nha Trang/Khanh Hoa province. Our guide told us how they eat and cook every fish in the aquarium, we also fed a turtle, which was amazing and a giant fish. See below!

 

 

Next, we headed to Bai Thanh Island to relax, have a swim and watch people parasail. On one side of the beach the sand was actually rocks instead, so if you want a nice foot massage, you can get one for free there!

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After that, we went snorkelling in the ocean water. Mum and dad passed on that activity but the guide and I went for a dip, the coral wasn’t as colourful as I hoped but it was still nice and refreshing! Before heading to lunch it was a quick drive through the fishing village. Amazing how they live on pontoons and when a storm is coming, they all tie together and move away to a safer part of the bay!

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The lunch with a view was great at Con Se Tre, the view more than the food. The highlight was the tour guide who loved to take model shots of me, most unintentional.

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Afternoon by the pool, the big pool finally opened after the damage from the storm. A sneaky pina colada and a dip before heading back into town.

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Looking for restaurants in Nha Trang where the locals own and operate? Go to Lantern. The food is good, the service is amazing and they offer tours as well as a lot of support to the community.

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A hot tip, if you’re looking for a night market, don’t expect too much, they don’t offer a lot. But if you’re looking to get your nails done, go to Yen Yen Nail Spa. They are friendly and offer a good deal! Highly recommend.

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Our last afternoon in Nha Trang was spent doing some shopping centre shopping at Vincom, but again disappointing, then it was to the airport for our flight home. Goodbye Vietnam, you were actually amazing

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Overall thoughts on Nha Trang, reminded me a lot of Gold Coast with the beach and the city, but with a lot less to do. The day trips and tours around Nha Trang are a lot more exciting than seeing the city itself.

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If you are looking to sit on the beach and pool all day, Nha Trang would be your destination. The locals were extremely friendly, the tourists not so much.

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However, my highlights were the fact you could buy antibiotics from the pharmacy – you probably can do this everywhere in Vietnam too and also Dad’s logic “I’m not hard to work out, I just like beer.”

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Then it was time to say goodbye to Vietnam and goodbye to our trip around two very beautiful countries! My favourites for both? Hoi An in Vietnam and Siem Reap in Cambodia.

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Before I finish this amazing adventure, I want to highly highly recommend Intrepid Tours. We went on the Southbound Trip starting in Hanoi and loved every minute of it! You can see the rest of our trip below. Our tour leader Nhi was just amazing, her knowledge of Vietnam was outstanding, she always ensured we were looked after, ate the best food and saw the amazing sites. Her history lessons were great and for a young tour leader, I couldn’t fault her!

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Also, a shout out to my travel agent Emma at Travel Club made sure we saw as much as we could in the time we had! She booked an amazing trip for us and made my life easier taking my two parents away – no offence Mum and Dad!

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Read more on Vietnam

Travelling Vietnam – Hanoi and Ha Long Bay

Travelling Vietnam – Hue and the overnight train

Travelling Vietnam – Hoi An

Travelling Vietnam – Ho Chi Minh

 

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