Last Nha Trang coffee

‘Henry’ , Hung Nguyen, above left, and myself, right.

This morning was the last episode of a ritual which has been an anchor for me here in Nha Trang.

That’s “Henry” ( Hung Nguyen to his mother ) above left, and a foreign interloper above right.

In between the usual Chewing of Fat, Henry ,as always, demonstrated typical Vietnamese generosity and grace. I left loaded with ( coffee-related ) gifts, and he left with some books I gave him.

Henry’s been a major support in surviving here in Nha Trang. He’s educated me in Vietnamese ways, fuelled me with excellent coffee, offered a wise sounding board, and got me through the trauma of the bike accident.

That last involved at least two days of his time, among everything else he does, for example, tending to his family ( married with two young sons ), and managing several businesses.

In return, I’ve taught him some English – he can now easily chat over many subjects – and, I hope, been a friend. I’m very well aware that I owe him far more than he owes me.

Here’s to you, Henry, a gentleman and a scholar, and someone I’m proud to call a friend.

Pigging out

Henry landed me today with a big task – work my way through lashings of pork belly pieces.

He asked a friend to stock up for the cafe, but the friend got the order wrong. He manhandles a pig’s worth of meat onto the table.

It’s mine! It’s a tough call, but I think I’m up to the challenge, since pork belly pieces are my favourite Vietnamese meat.

In case motivation wanes, I composed the wee ditty below to help me through the Last Days in Nha Trang.

Pork belly slabs
good for the muscles

pork belly slabs
need no hustles

the more you eat
the better you feel

pork belly slabs 
for every meal

Beautiful Nha Trang beach

This day I returned to Nha Trang, when they welcomed me back with power cuts.

There was nothing for it but to try to escape the heat by cruising the waterfront, where there is at least a sea-breeze to mitigate the 40 deg Celsius heat.

This is why Chinese and Russian tourists, and beach-bunnies from further afield, flock to Nha Trang.

The Chinese are easy to spot. They’re the ones wearing flotation tubes the size of tractor tyres around their waists.

A Russian on Nha Trang beach.

Ditto the Russians. There’s one of them to the left.  For the sake of the photo, he put aside his beer and cigarette.  He did say, though, that he was very proud of his ‘tan’.

Usual Hunting Ground

market haul
Clockwise from top left: avocado ( 20k ), cucumbers ( ~5k ), 10 duck eggs ( 28k ), puto rice cakes ( 8k ), homemade pork luncheon ( 22k ), tomato 3k. ABSENT – 2 x coconuts : 18k.

Back in the usual Van Kiep, Nha Trang, hunting ground, I stocked up a little for the last week here.

The above haul at the local market, 3 minutes’ walk away, cost 100.000 ( Vietnamese use periods [‘.’] for thousands rather than commas [,] ) dong, or about NZD 6.70.

I could live on this –  if variety were no issue – for a couple of days.

Power Cuts

In totally unrelated news, and no doubt as a personal ‘welcome home’ from the city Government, just for me, there is no power in the neighbourhood today. All day, til 5pm. Ulp.

This happens regularly, under the label of ‘maintenance’, and suburbs around the city take it in turns.

The usual time is 4 – 6 hours, but today’s outage will be especially challenging for the lack of air-conditioning in the heat after the respite of the cool of DaLat.

Three Nights in DaLat

DaLat is in Vietnam, but in some ways, it’s another country.

Most obviously,the climate is in total contrast with the other parts I’ve visited. A morning walk requires a layer,and two for good measure, against the chill. In Nha Trạng, the popular Old Man uniform – a plain flimsy white singlet – is more than enough.

Descent toward the light

DaLat is at altitude, 1500m above sea level, a fact which was obvious on today’s descent to Nha Trang.

The bus ( a luxury 9-seater, trip NZD 11) emerges after midday out of the high dark mist of DaLat toward the bright, clear heat of NhaTrang, like a shuttle-full of winged beings from a Renaissance painting.

Within an hour, we’ve gone from the chill plateau of Dalat to the intense heat of Nha Trang. In that, sitting outside under shade for the 15-minute rest break is murderous. The difference is a major.

Vege Basket

A lot of the ‘fresh’ produce on shevles – maybe not roadside stalls – throughout central Vietnam comes from DaLat. Coming into the city from the East ( seaward, from Nha Trang ) there are hectares upon hectares of strawberries, for example.

French Influence

The city, as far as my once-over-lightly research goes, was built by French colonists, as an escape hutch from the heat of the rest of Vietnam.

The only obvious signs of this are at least one petit Eiffel Tower.

I hoped to find a wider variety of cheeses on offer, but I spent most of my time there motorcycling aimlessly around the city, instead of shopping.


From my very brief experience, not so bad as Nha Trang, or Da Nang, and made more bearable because there’s no accompanying intense heat.

The city has not one set of traffic lights, instead it’s roundabouts everywhere. So, very easy to navigate from one to another, weaving a thread between each cotton reel roundabout.


In an enforced experiment, I ate out twice a day, for lunch and dinner. It’s very easy to buy a solid meal for VND 30.000 ( NZD 2 ). That’s a decent serving of meat, a fresh salad ( mostly cabbage ), and a small pho ( soup ).

Of course, over three days I was very limited in what I was able to sample. But of two small sit-down restaurants ( 5 – 10 tables ) I visited, one cooked its meat to perfection, while the other served dry, overcooked fare ( but good salad ).

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These should play in sequence, press play once.


This is a city I could live in, ideally during the hottest part of the year. I’d  happily forego being ocean-side in favour of comfort heat-wise.

This is a city I want to go back to.

Cool Chaos in Dalat

I made my way to Dalat, with its fine crisp mountain air, and then things went all Fawlty Towers on me. Again.

The taxi driver couldn’t find the hotel. Neither could I, after my phone, which I’d wisely topped up, packed a sad.

After we found the hotel, it was a little more than cupboard. Only two or three power points, all in the most awkward places possible. No lift. No fridge. No TV. No balcony.

I discovered I’d left the laptop charger in Na Trang. The rental bike had about 2km worth of gas innit. I was hungry enough to kill a careless seagull. And I didn’t want to spend the night in the cubby-hole I’d booked.

It was a conundrum.

While I was riding around trying to avoid getting lost, there was a strange sensation. In my thin white collared shirt, I was … cold! For the first time in South-East Asia. Aaaah.

But you’ll sleep soundly, I’m sure, when you hear that I managed to sort all of those issues. And I’m now about to collapse in the Nang Chieu Hotel – about 200m from the original hotel – which is the red marker above.

Kids’ Party

If I were C Montgomery Burns the hounds would be satisfied and licking their chops about now.
For a new trend is lowering the neighborhood tone, you know.
The local bratpack have started swarming in the street at 7pm and thereabouts.
I don’t really mind, though. It’s short-lived , and is the healthy sound of souls enjoying company. So unlike the dogs, the noise doesn’t jangle the nerves.
And barring disaster I’ll be back in peaceful ( dull? ) NZ in less than a fortnight.
And something tells me I’ll miss the chaos.

New Boots Again

She’s a hard road finding the perfect pair of streetware / active shoes, but I’m getting closer.

In a case of second verse, same as the first, I’ve taken advantage of cheap online shopping here to update my footwear.

The new ones come a little closer to respectability, have a little more padding underfoot, and are heavier – probably the same weight as heavy work socks.

They’re also more versatile colour-wise – black ‘n white goes with anything, eh Grace?


The above are run-of-the-mill sights on Vietnamese Roads, any one of which would be like rotting meat to flies for NZ cops.

Everyone here, including cops, pretty much ignores these spectacles. They do present a challenge for novices such as myself, inasmuch as getting past them on narrow streets is a fraught game.

But all part of the fun.

I ran across the pictures in a post , Thailand v. Vietnam, and couldn’t resist nicking them.