Quy Nhon is a small beach city in central Vietnam. It wasn’t originally on my list of spots to visit, but my friend Qua had told me that I would like it. With a population around 300,000 people, it is much smaller than some of the other coastal cities of Vietnam, making it widely skipped by many travelers. It’s mostly known for agriculture and fishing but in the most recent years it has seen a rise in hospitality and tourism businesses. It has a diverse topography offering forests, fields, salt marshes, lagoons, lakes, rivers, peninsulas and islands. The coastline is gorgeous with clean beaches and an artistic boardwalk. Within a few miles are sand dunes, a zoo, Eo Gio center, temples and Cham ruins.
I had taken a luxury limo van to Quy Nhon from Nha Trang. I hadn’t been feeling well the past few days and coughed the entire ride, making me feel horrible for my fellow riders. The limo van had great door to door service and dropped me on the sidewalk outside my hostel. I loved this luxury ride, hence the rare selfie below. You’re welcome. I was pretty excited for this specific hostel because it had a cool rock and roll theme and had awesome reviews. I arrived a little after noon and was told I had to wait until 2 to check in. I was hungry because all I had for breakfast was a Banh Mi. They weren’t really serving food because their breakfast hours were over, so I decided on a coconut coffee instead. I had never had a coconut coffee before and I was curious. I love coconut and I love coffee, so it had to be a win.
I sat down at a little table in the reception area while I waited for my drink. They had an amazing playlist with all kinds of rock and roll from every era. The vibe of the place was laid back and the service was amazing. When I got my coconut coffee my life was transformed. I have come to learn that coconut coffee is blended coconut milk and ice cream, topped with a couple shots of coffee or espresso. This one in particular was also topped with crispy coconut strips. I’ve never been so in love with a beverage in my life and I had about ten of them within my three night stay. Not joking. I sat and guzzled it and suffered a severe brain freeze. But hey, YOLO.
As I was waiting to check into my room, a nice young guy came over and introduced himself and asked me if I wanted to go on a tour that afternoon with a group from the hostel. We would be going sandboarding. I wasn’t really feeling up to it, but I was intrigued as to what sandboarding was and honestly, I’m really bad at saying no. So I agreed and told him I would meet him downstairs for that later. I checked in, showered and found myself some food in a little sports bar on the beach before heading back to meet up with the tour group.
What I didn’t know when I agreed to going on the tour, was that I needed a motorbike. I, of course, wasn’t about to pay for a bike for just a few hours. I wanted to back out then, but some guy offered to let me ride on the back of his, only we couldn’t find a helmet. There’s no amount of money you could pay me to get on a motorbike here (or anywhere for that matter) without a helmet. At this point, I really didn’t want to go. Then one of the staff members brought me an extra helmet, and I was stuck. So off we went.
I obviously didn’t know the stranger who was driving me or anything about him. What I quickly learned was he is a young, show off in front of his friends and live dangerously type of guy. He was attempting wheelies, as I was holding on for my dear life and praying. He was dangerously cutting people off and always had to be in the front, even though he didn’t know the way. We got lost because of it. He would pull up next to his friends and try to kick them off their bikes. I’m talking extreme immaturity folks. When we got to the dunes he drove into the sand at full speed and dumped the bike on top of us, thank god for the soft sand. I walked the rest of the way and refused to get back on the bike again, when we left, until he was on solid ground.
The sand boarding was a lot of fun and I’m really glad that I ended up going, even though it meant risking my life on the back of that motorbike. It’s just like snowboarding but with sand instead of snow and you’re only slightly strapped into the board. The only problem I have with sandboarding is walking back up the sandy hill. I was in serious need of a rope tow or a tall, dark, handsome body builders to carry me back up the hill. I’m in the worst shape and I drink a lot of beer, so I thought I might die hiking back up in the heat. At the top I was terribly winded and had to sit so I wouldn’t pass out. Embarrassing.
When we left the dunes our guide took us to a bridge to watch the sunset, which was fantastic. The guide kept saying it wasn’t a good sunset because of the clouds, however I beg to differ. I think clouds are what make sunsets so special and unique. Check the photos, what do you think? We headed back just after dark, which is when I found out that the motorbike I was on didn’t have headlights. How fantastic is that? We had a car pull in front of us, ran us off the road onto a patch of sand and we almost fell off again. This could have been because of the headlights or because of my horrible driver. I was lucky to make it back alive. My new friends invited me to go to pizza for dinner and of course I didn’t turn down that opportunity. Even if I didn’t like them, I would still eat pizza with them. However, in this case I did like them, which made it even better.
The next morning after my 2 coconut coffees (stop judging me) I rented a motorbike from the hostel and took off for the day. I had a few different sights I wanted to see and was determined to fit them all into one day so I didn’t have to rent a bike for 2 days. They were all pretty spread out which meant a lot of riding. I didn’t mind though because it was bloody hot and the breeze was the only thing that was keeping me alive. My first stop was the first of two Cham ruins. Vietnam’s Cham ruins are relics of an ethnically distinct Hindu empire that thrived between the 4th and 14th centuries. They controlled what is now central and south Vietnam.
I had visited one Cham ruin in Nha Trang and was very interested in finding the other 2 that lie around the Quy Nhon area. The first one was easy to locate because it was inside the city center. It’s known as the twin towers and is surrounded by a beautiful park. Being in the middle of a busy part of town makes it quite noisy, but that doesn’t take away from it’s beauty. You can walk into both towers where there are small alters. I only stayed long enough to snap a few photos, then hit the road to find the second set of Cham ruins, which were about 40 minutes outside of town.
I found the Bahn It Cham ruins, or at least I thought I had. I could see them and I thought I parked in a good spot to walk up to them. However, I was wrong. I had parked at a next door temple and monk community. Of course none of the signs were in English so I had no idea I was in the wrong spot. I wandered around the temple grounds, which were beautiful, taking photos. I tried asking some local people how to get to the ruins, but the language barrier made it impossible. I could see the ruins on the hill above me, I just couldn’t find a way to get to them. After an hour of trying, I decided to give up and headed back to my motorbike.
I pulled out onto the main street and instantly saw a path I hadn’t noticed before. I almost passed by it out of frustration, but something made me turn. I parked at a small building where a man came out and made me give him money. Maybe to park the bike, maybe for an entrance fee, I don’t know. He pointed to a path and some stairs and I knew I had found the right spot. The beginning of the path takes you through a gorgeous grave yard. In Vietnam they bury above ground and have fantastically decorated graves. After the grave yard are the several sets of stairs. It’s mid day at this point and very hot, and there are no trees for shade. I made it to the top though and was rewarded with a breathtaking panoramic view of the surrounding area. Not to mention, I was the only one there. It was peaceful, calming and truly reset my zen. I stayed for an hour admiring the view before heading back to my bike.
My next destination was another 45 minute drive, which was very welcome, because I seriously needed the breeze to mask the heat. I was headed to EO Gio which is a spectacular arc shaped strait surrounded by strange and amazing mountain ranges. Finding it was a bit of a challenge because Google maps wasn’t recognizing any of the streets in the area and I ended up in some back alley. Luckily, some local girls, also on a motorbike, were having the same trouble and together with their Vietnamese speaking, we were able to find it. I parked the bike and realized I was starving and headed into the first restaurant I saw.
I had read that this area was well known for its seafood. The menu was in Vietnamese and there was no chance anyone there spoke English. I translated as best I could that I would like a seafood soup and spring rolls. I thought I had done pretty well until a seaweed soup showed up. It was basically a bowl of seaweed and hot water, which I did my best to attempt eating. It didn’t have any flavor and the seaweed was a complete turn off. The spring rolls were more edible, however, the shrimp inside my deep fried spring roll was fully intact. I’m talking shell, membrane, poop shoot and tail was all in there. I was starving and they tasted better than the seaweed soup so I ate them. ALL of them. It was very strange eating the shell and thinking about that black strip of poop inside the shrimp that we would normally clean out. Whatever, when you’re hungry, you’re hungry.
I then headed to the EO Gio sight, where I paid a few bucks to enter. This place was swarming with people which made me want to turn right back around. I forced myself to continue though and was happy I did. You can follow paths that lead you to several different viewpoints on the hills or down to the water edge. I spent about an hour roaming the surrounding area and taking pictures. I even creepily watched an interesting photoshoot. Possibly engagement photos?? I followed some goats up the mountain, but they didn’t enjoy my company as much as I was enjoying theirs.
That night a girl from my dorm room asked me to join her for a beer pong competition downstairs. I didn’t want to AT ALL, but again, I have an issue with saying no. So I went and played some beer pong, which I suck at by the way. I even got called out because I am American and apparently all American’s should be excellent beer pong players. This Americana is not good at beer pong. Sure, I’ve been to parties where beer pong was being played but I could have cared less, just like I could have cared less in this particular game. Lucky for me though, after seeing just how bad I actually was, the girl from my room found a different partner and I was off the hook. Which is when I happily snuck away to bed.
That night was the complete lunar eclipse, which me sister Rachel had told me about. She had mentioned how special it was especially because she wouldn’t be able to see it back home in Washington, so I felt pretty compelled to witness it for her. I researched the best time to view it and set alarms to wake up. I went to the roof top of my hostel and sat for over an hour, but the cloud coverage was so thick that I couldn’t see anything. I did take a picture of a picture from some guys high tech camera. Sorry sis, that’s all I got. Fail.
The next day I just wanted to blog and chill. I did some walking in the AM down on the beach and got some great photos. The beach boardwalk was the most artistic park I have ever been in. There are several different sculptures that are all similar in style making the walk flow as an art exhibit would. The plants and flowers were vibrant and well groomed. You could see the little Vietnamese woman with their traditional hats watering very diligently. The park stretched the length of the beach which is hugely impressive. The park even came equipped with a children’s amusement park, which had a Ferris wheel with every cart painted a different Disney character. Lastly, I walked to a giant Ho Chi Minh Monument in the center of town.
After my artsy walk on the beach, I found a café with AC and ended up hiding there for most of the day, until I moved to another café to finish the day out. I headed back to the hostel to pack my things because I was leaving for Hoi An in the AM. I didn’t feel like wandering out for dinner so I ordered a veggie burger from the hostel and it was something I couldn’t forget to tell you about. It was ginormous with three fried sweet potato patties with all the works and was slathered in tzatziki sauce. It was truly delicious and hit the spot, putting me into a full blown food coma. My only complaint was that the sweet potato patties were WAY too crispy and scratched the roof of my mouth. Not cool.
Then just like that I was on the move again. Headed to Hoi An, the city of lanterns, which I was beyond excited for. Can’t wait to tell you all about it, just not today.
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