Off to the Beaches, Mudbaths and Bars of Nha Trang

by Brian Carroll on March 2, 2013

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Chinese New Year on the Beach

Arriving into Nha Trang on the eve of Chinese New Year, neither Brian nor myself really had a sense of how the holiday would be celebrated. While not as much of an over-the-top boozefest as it is back home, the streets and bars of the town were definitely bustling with tourists, locals and the random Chinese dragon dancers. And seeing as our hotel was just a two minute walk to the beach, we made our way down to the boardwalk to catch the fireworks, before heading into a beach bar known as The Sailing Club to celebrate the Year of the Snake.

At the dive shop

Following New Years, it just so happened that some of the girls that we met in Ho Chi Minh would be headed up to Nha Trang, just in time to join us for a snorkeling and diving tour. While Brian decided to dive, I and the rest of the girls spent the day snorkeling and coming across some cool fish, including a stone fish (which I later learned was pretty deadly if touched - thankfully I didn't). The day was warm and sunny which was great for swimming, though the caveat to this was that a few of the girls ended up with some pretty solid sunburns afterwards. That said, they were all really good troopers about it, especially when we checked out the mud baths the following day. Up until that point, the closest I'd ever been to a mud bath involved playing soccer in the pouring rain. I didn't really know what Vietnamese mud baths entailed, but it was a popular thing among locals and seemed intriguing.  So Brian, myself and two of the four girls who met us up here (Rachel and Sam) decided to give them a go. When we first got to the baths (iResort), there were a lot more people than I initially expected. From the outside of the place, it didn't give you that relaxing feel of a spa, as it seemed to be much more communal. While none of us knew what we were doing, thankfully there were guides that basically ushered us through the process of what to do and where to go.

A tight squeeze

The first of the stations was the main attraction, the mud. I was hoping the process would be relatively hygienic and we wouldn't be hopping into a pool of used mud - thankfully that wasn't the case and it was all pretty nice. Essentially when you go to the resort, you get a private tub that they fill with fresh, warm mud through a large faucet. It was nice to have the girls along for this, as I realized that if it was just the two of us guys sharing a mud bath, we may have gotten some questionable looks from the locals.

Getting covered in mud

Stepping into the mud for the first time, I thought the texture of the mud might be somewhat dense and stick to you but it actually had a much more liquid feel to it which would leave a thin film on you. One thing I did not realize when sitting in a mud tub is that sitting isn't really an option at all – you kinda just float in it and bounce into the other people. After the mud, you make your way into this huge waterfall shower with what must have had 10 different spouts to rinse off, before hopping into a separate tub of hot mineral water. We chilled in these tubs for awhile before making our way to some waterfall that had a couple different pools of varying temperatures. The waterfalls were more of a communal spot and we tried to get a couple good pics, realizing that we were really the only westerners here. In all, we must have spent 3 or 4 hours relaxing among these spots which definitely made me feel more relaxed by the time we left. I'd definitely recommend it to others. Our hotel also happened to be adjacent to the main bars in Nha Trang. I thought the bars in Nha Trang were basically sufficient, as they really played to the backpacker demo with $1.50 buckets of booze. Nonetheless, we all had a good time within them – so much so that Brian and I decided to skip our 8am flight and reschedule it for the following day after I had a late night/morning (first time in my life I've ever just skipped a flight).

Fresh Seafood

From a culinary standpoint, I found Nha Trang to have better eating options than Ho Chi Minh (though that wasn't saying too much). We pretty much ate Vietnamese food for most our meals and found some very good, very reasonably priced places. While I had been less impressed with the “street food” in Vietnam relative to Thailand, one good option they had here was fresh seafood that you could buy and cook on a street corner or at the beach. I am far from a seafood fan, but I did actually enjoy the fresh lobster and some other crustaceans that the other Brian bought and had cooked right in front of us – for just a few bucks! In the town, they also had a local brewery where they serve “fresh beer” which is more or less another name for brewed beer. That said, you can get this beer for really cheap as I believe it is only really good to drink for a day or so. Next on our itinerary, Hoi An, a town home to over 400 tailors!

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