The kids had a week off for the Lunar New Year, so to escape the clouds and cold of Hanoi we took an hour and a half flight south to a Vietnamese beach. After a three week total absence, it was wonderful to see the sun again!
We spent the first two nights at Paradise Resort in a remote location called Doc Let. At the end of our two night stay there was some questioning of the moniker “Paradise”, which we all decided was a bit optimistic. It was very rustic, but the kids loved the beach – the water was warm, clear and calm, there was no drop off so they could swim out far.
One day when we wanted to play chess, we noticed two pieces were missing so I sent the kids to the beach to find shells to complete the set. Anna returned and plopped a shell down that started to move on its own accord, which turned out to be a hermit crab. Another “piece” they found was a small sand crab which didn’t like the chess board at all and scurried away. The kids were very proud of their joke.
Interesting chess pieces
There were many fishermen and beautifully painted boats near the shore where we swam. From about 100 yards away, the beach looked pristine.
Upon closer inspection, I was upset to see loads of trash on the beach, washing up on sand and floating in the water.
Litter on the beach
Just as I said to Michael that I thought for sure this must be trash coming from people on boats, a little boy ran out of his house and out onto the sand in front of us, and he threw a plastic bag of trash into the water. It was heartbreaking. I wondered if it was safe to allow the kids to swim in the water, but there was no keeping them away from it. On the second day Anna cut her hand on something in the sand. We are not sure what it was – it could have been a shell or glass. She is fine now, but it was a pretty nasty cut.
We also saw a couple of mopeds on the beach. There is no place in Vietnam free of mopeds!
Moped on the beach
Sunrise at Doc Let
One memory that we will laugh about for a while is how the owner of Paradise, an older French man, got upset with Anna for her picky eating. Anna nibbled on French bread for three days while we ate family style fish or soup. The Frenchman lectured her one day, saying that “not even a dog will look at you if you eat nothing.”
After two nights of relaxing at Paradise, we set out for the larger beach town of Nha Trang. On the way we saw rice paddies and brightly painted houses.
In Nha Trang the beach was a bit cleaner, but still we found dead rodents, bloated and washed up on shore, amongst other trash. There were more things to do and see in Nha Trang, including a trip to the locally famous mud baths (three family members opted to participate while the other two chickened out)!
Fun shower after the mud bath
The children were constant objects of special Vietnamese love. Everywhere we went, they were like movie stars and the Vietnamese could not get enough of them. They were hugged, kissed, pinched, cuddled and nose-tweaked by many strangers. They were really good sports about it. We were repeatedly asked their ages and if the girls were “same same” (twins). One night we happened upon hundreds of families jockying for a photo op in front of a special New Year’s display of sorts that included a couple of big dragons, flowers and a sign proclaiming “Happy New Year” in Vietnamese. We maneuvered in for our own shot, and then a Vietnamese family asked for a picture with the kids.
Funny family photo
We also saw some free public performances on an open air stage of dragon and lion dances. Here’s a short video clip of one of the dragon dances:
We also visited a very old local temple called Po Nagar. To reach the top of the hill where the temple buildings stood, we walked up lots and lots of stairs that led to beautiful views of the ocean and city. Po Nagar is more than 1,000 years old. To show respect, we had to remove our shoes before entering the buildings and be very quiet. There were many Vietnamese people praying in the temples. I saw one little girl rub her hands all over a statue of Buddha and then rub her face with her hands.
Po Nagar Temple
Matthew inside a Po Nagar temple
Vietnamese girl and a Buddha statue
On our last day in Nha Trang we spent the day at an amusement park called Vinpearl — it is Vietnam’s answer to Disney World (sort of). To get there one can take a ferry or ride on the world’s longest cable car! It is 3320 meters (how many feet could that be??). The kids loved the cable car ride– check it out:
There were many amazing water slides that the kids enjoyed. There was not much enforcement of height restrictions, so Matthew was able to join in all the fun (thankfully we made it out alive).
Kate and Anna had beautiful traditional Vietnamese outfits called au dai made. Now we just need an excuse to wear them! The Vietnamese typically wear them to formal events like weddings and graduations.
Girls wearing their new ao dai
When we returned home to Hanoi yesterday, we were invited to the home of some new Vietnamese friends to celebrate the end of Tet. We tried a locally made rice wine (just for adults – very strong!).
Trying rice wine
We also went to a temple down the street. Many Vietnamese visit a temple during Tet to pray and show respect to their ancestors. This was the first pagoda we had visited that was filled with the sounds of a monk praying. Listen for yourself:
Walking into the pagoda
Just to show you that not every dog in Vietnam is eaten, we had to take this picture: