Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Taste of Russia in Nha Trang

I found a flight from Saigon to Nha Trang that was cheaper than the train fare and after an hour of listening to the Russian couple beside me arguing about whether he regretted ever bringing her along for this trip or not I'd arrived at this beach resort town. The weather was as hot and humid as ever, but the beach was nearby and the water lovely, so I settled in. One thing became very obvious very quickly as I explored this small town: it was completely taken over by Russians. Businesses had signs posted in Vietnamese and Russian, with English occasionally thrown in at the end. A true Soviet baba beckoned to me from one of the tour offices nearby in fluent Russian, offering day trips out for snorkeling and island hopping. Pretending not to speak the language for a minute I replied to her in English at which point she got very stern and said "Russian speaking only!" as if I'd approached her. The crowd at the beach reminded me very strongly of beach days on the Black Sea when I was little. Here were the middle aged men with beer bellies in speedos, here were the women in what looked like hand sewn bikinis and housecoats, the people in the water didn't actually swim, they just stood around chatting or doing water aerobics. I visited a few of the sights in town, but most of the time I spent just walking the streets, eavesdropping and giggling. It's strange the sense of comfort you get when you can understand conversations going on around you. 

View of the town and the interconnecting bridge roadways

Po Nagar Tower, in the style of Angkor Wat, is a relic reminding us of the 
reach the Cham people had that stretched all the way up through Vietnam.

Locals come every day to worship inside the temples

Not a single pedestal or idol is left without incense or food offerings

A small sculpture garden behind the temple provides some much welcome shade.

I ran across a short demonstration of traditional dance and music 

Most decorations have worn away, but you can still see a few remains 
like this figure on top of an elephant

Ironically, the best restaurant in town was a sushi restaurant, and this dish 
called "The Honeymooners" was probably one of my favorite things ever.
A pair of fresh oysters topped with quail eggs, uni, several kinds of roe,
 tiny bunches of sea grapes, yuzu juice and dots of hot sauce. Yum!

As you can see, the restaurants feature some of the more traditional Russian dishes.
Borscht in Vietnam? Youbetcha!

Nha Trang Cathedral stands out with it's distinctly European architecture

A lovely place to sit and relax by the fans and contemplate life...or moving.

The Long Son Pagoda is a bit of a hike from everything else and there's not much
to do here but sit and contemplate, but a few enterprising people have set up 
refreshment stands right at the foot of the stairs and pretend not to know math
when it comes to giving change.

The markets offer some of the freshest shredded coconut around

These are not abandoned houses...many people still live like this, and
the nice buildings in the background are either for tourists or the lucky
few who were able to rise above the every day.

You'll spot a few of the water aerobics practitioners bobbing in the water  

All in all, this isn't a bad spot to lounge under an umbrella and chill...
too bad I don't know how to relax this way, so after two days I happily moved on.

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