Thursday, March 29, 2007

Nha Trang, March 17-20

Nha Trang was to be the relaxing, beach part of our vacation, and the beach was stunning, indeed. We had the most fun in the surf here of any place we've ever been. Gentle waves, soft sand, pleasant scenery, and NO crowds made that part of this location spectacular.

Unfortunately, we were not so pleased with the Sofitel Vin Pearl Resort, which is obviously trying (unsuccessfully) to become SE Asia's Disney World. I don't recall any mention of an amusement park on the hotel web site when I was planning this trip, and my travel agent had recommended this as an alternative to the extremely expensive Ana Mandara hotel in Nha Trang.

The Vin Pearl is on an island off shore from the small city of Nha Trang. Guests gather at a landside reception center, check-in, take a ferry to the island passing under a new tram overhead. Looming on the other shore is an amusement park under development. Then you take an open tram over the hill to the hotel on the other side of the island, where another wait at reception is required.

I'd booked a superior, ocean view room, so I asked for a high floor, whereupon the desk clerk told me we'd be in a deluxe bungalow on the beach. That sounded good. NOT.

They escorted us to a hot, tiny and extremely dark duplex overlooking a weedy lawn and the water sports concession. The noise of jet skis and motorboats pulling sky kites was deafening. Absolutely not. We want an ocean view room on a high floor in the main hotel. Sorry, those are all taken for tonight. Long story short, we had to take a room with a view of a barren hillside for the first night, but they did move us to a nice, two-room suite for the remaining three nights. This suite was quiet, with a gorgeous view of the ocean and islands beyond, and it had two bathrooms.

For a place that caters to tourists, especially westerners (all prices are listed in US dollars, and they aren't cheap), their staff speak little or no English. This was a particular problem in the restaurants and with room service.

Wednesday morning at 5 a.m. we were at the check-out desk as directed, so we could repeat the tram, ferry, shuttle bus routine to catch a 7:45 flight to Saigon. They had no record of our pre-payment of the four nights. Geez..........very stressful, but after calls and e-mails to our travel agent, I THINK we have that resolved.

The coast of Vietnam is gorgeous, but we'll definitely try another resort next time. Meanwhile, I'm including photos of the pleasant aspects of our stay.

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