The bus to Nha Trang was only 5 hours, and leaving Mui Ne around 1:30 am we arrive around 6:30 am. Unfortunately we got a loud awakening at 5 am – Vietnamese dance music with the speakers on full blast, impossible to drown out the beat with earplugs or one’s own music. Both Anne and me hadn’t slept very well, and once we were dropped off in the center, luckily close to Nha Trang beach, we needed a few minutes to sort ourselves out. Nha Trang beach is quite nice, with almost white sand and covering the whole length of the city’s coast. It has a promenade with palm tress, and beach chairs for rent, and a great view of the hills and mountains in the back. In the morning and evening it is mostly occupied by local people playing or doing a work out, and not so many tourists.

After a short while sitting at the promenade we went to have coffee, and checked our options for things to do in Nha Trang in the remaining 11 hours til our bus left. We first decided to check out the option of doing the journey from Hoi An up to Hanoi by train, since after this bus ride during which I had barely slept I felt rather opposed to spending so much time on a bus. Since  I figured the constant rumbling and jumps from the potholes would not really be very becoming for my lenses in the long run, so I tried to buffer my backpack by keeping it on my stomach during most time of the bus rides, or keep it on my inflatable pillow. Next time I’m sure I’ll take care to put in some air cushions as an additional buffer for my photography pack. Since we also wanted to find a place to store our backpacks, we took a cab to the train station, hoping they might have some luggage storage there. As it turned out train tickets were more than three times as expensive as the bus ticket, so we decided to skip the train, and bus it all the way to Cat Ba. Since the train station didn’t offer any place to store our backpacks we had to drag them along to our only sightseeing destination before settling down at the beach – the Po Ngar Cham temple towers about 2 kilometers off from the city center.

The Po Ngar Cham temple towers are located on a hill next to the water, looking out over Nha Trang city. Our cab driver dropped us straight at the entrance – he was a nice guy, not a cheat like the one who had taken us on a detour to the train station. We didn’t enter the temple straight away but went to find some food first, since we both started to feel irritated and short on patience without breakfast. At the local market we got a coconut and some baguette, and after finishing the coconut milk even managed to tell the woman to cut it open so we could eat the fresh coconut flesh. That actually was just the perfect thing to do, and we both felt much more energized. We entered the temple, paying the entrance fee, and climbed the few steps up to the main towers. There we looked for a place in the shade where one of us could relax and keep an eye on the backpacks, while the other could look around. Anne took the first watch on our backpacks, since she wanted to catch up on sleep, and I walked around, taking pictures and taking in the weird atmosphere of the place. As I understand it, the Cham are a religious as well as ethnic minority in Vietnam, and this temple is one of their primarry religious sites. The temple consists of two main buildings and a smaller shrine housing statues, as well as some common space to prepare offerings and pray on them, and to perform traditional dances (for the tourists) as well as traditional religious rites (not so much for the tourists, I guess). Walking around with my camera I felt very strange, a little bit like a voyeur, and wondered if I might be disturbing. But then so much of the religious actions where so obviously aimed at the touristic public that I didn’t feel completely like an intruder. Unfortunately I know very little about the Cham religion, so not much of the things I saw actually made more than general sense to me.

After a while I got tired as well, so I went back to Anne and took my turn chilling in the shade. I dozed off a bit, and time flew by quickly, and soon Anne returned and we decided to get some food – it was already 1 pm, certainly past lunch time. In the guidebook Anne had found a recommendation for a good vegetarian place, and we asked the cab driver to drop us off there – it was useless walking around with our backpacks in the heat. The eating place was small and looked like any other small eating place in Vietnam. It is very interesting to see how all across the country the eateries have the same look – starting from the font type, size and colours of the advertising signs (always dark blue and red on white ground) to the plastic chairs and tables that so reminds me of the plastic furniture we had in the garden back home when I was a child. This particular place had a very small menu, with one item of interest to us – rice with everything. When the food arrived, it was clear this was literally a bit of everything that had been cooked – spicy zucchini, fried tofu, green beans, some tomatoes as well as a cold but very hot spicy cucumber soup. The portion was more than filling, and we felt a lot better after it – our first real meal that day.

Since we were both very sleepy after the little sleep of the night we both felt just like going to the beach and chilling out, maybe sleep a bit, until it was 7 and we had to get on the bus to Hoi An. Since all the beach recliners where occupied in the close vicinity we lazily just relaxed on the green in the shadow of the coconut trees at the beach promenade. After a while Anne got us two beach chairs, and we stashed our backpacks between them and went for a sleep. Anne also went swimming, despite being scared of the evil jellyfishes, but I was too tired and comfortable, so I missed out on the beach day by mostly catching up with some sleep. Later I took a short walk along the water – Nha Trang beach is long and has a slightly coarse white-greyish sand, and many active people playing there, especially local kids and teenagers and families, as we had seen in the morning and now at evening.

Around six we walked over to a cafe to have drinks and access their WiFi, and around 7 we walked over to the bus company where our bus should leave. When we asked about when the bus would come, the lady at the counter noticed that our ticket had been set for the next day – quite annoying, as we had explained the tour booker in Mui Ne that we wanted to leave on the evening of arrival, not spend a night in Nha Trang. Luckily the lady could re-book the seats. The bus arrived almost on time, only 30 minutes late, and we got in and took some seats. I got one in the front at the window, because with the middle seats I was always scared my backpack might drop off at night. Unfortunately the lady who had collected our ticket upon entering the bus insisted almost to the point of shouting that Anne sit next to me, in the middle seat, which turned out to be shorter than the seat she had been on before. The bus finally left after some confusion about who sits where, ut after three minutes we stopped in some back alley, to take up more people. Now things apparently got very complicated, because it took an hour of shouting and several times asking for our ticket again (the lady we had given tha ticket to had conveniently disappeared) and Anne and me got so annoyed by explaining every time that we had given or ticket upon entering the bus, and that the lady wasn’t around anymore. Anne got really scared that we might be kicked out of the bus. After a long unnerving wait we finally departed, off to another bus night with little sleep. It is really too bad that the average height in Vietnam is about 15-20 cm smaller than me – it is just impossible to find a comfortable sleeping position, in addition to the other sleep-hindering factors like loud Vietnamese pop music, TV on  top volume with action movies or just the hundreds of potholes and gravel pits that make the journey a rumbling and shaking affair.