17 August 2014

Nha Trang - "Little Russia, Bucket Virginity & Embryos"

After our first overnight train we arrived in Nha Trang early and could check in straight away (thanks to the smooth G Adventures operation) so we napped it off before walking to the beach to have a posh breakfast at Sailing Club.
Although the prices are high, the setting is lovely and it's almost a mini holiday within a holiday. You could just buy a fresh juice and lounge about on the bed sunbeds and imagine this is all part of your 5* get away with your Russian sugar daddy. And I say that because oddly Nha Trang is overrun with Russian tourists thanks to direct flight as part of package holidays. With winters like theirs you can hardly blame them.
It was slightly strange to see a beach so organised and landscaped rather than the beach shacks selling fruit shakes that is so omnipresent round South East Asia. Nonetheless this was a welcome break and I thoroughly enjoyed relaxing in the sand with new found friends before hitting 'Why Not Bar?' for my first bucket of the trip. It didn't go to well and getting home was a challenge as after hours all the hotels and shops pull down shutters and it can seem near impossible to get your bearings - I was very thankful for company that night. This is a backpacker haunt and the night will be better (or worse) depending on who you spend it will, which I guess is just a rule in general?...
 The next day we recovered at Thap Ba Hot Springs, although I say 'recovered' losely as I'm almost certain it didn't help. That said it was an expensively awesome, 100% tourist activist that involved mud, power shower tunnels, hot springs and swimming pools. Eat before you go as it expensive once you're there. Find people to relax with, as the only way there is a taxi.

Lanterns Street Food Tour

Lanterns is a great restaurant that serves up a variety of Vietnamese cuisine including a 'street food' menu section which I thoroughly recommend. When I was there for dinner, the street food tour caught my eye and after an average restaurant meal in HCMC I was desperate for something more authentic. We bit the bullet and went the next day and I cannot reccommend it enough.
The guide was so lovely and friendly as we set off towards the town. I was amazed that just a few blocks back, I didn't see any tourists - just us and our guide in her bright orange top and Vietnamese non la (the conical leaf hat). The tour advertised that we would try 7 different dishes. We had expected to share a few dishes between us... No, no, no we get a portion each - that's equivalent to 7 meals. Plus there were other bits our guide was desperate for us to try, so she'd ordered those too. Needless to say we were full by the third stop. Prepare your eyes and your stomachs for the many photos you're about to see.

Banh Trang Tron

Salad with liver, rice paper, chilli, lemon basil and papaya. This had quite a kick and was one of my favourite dishes.

...O and a little quail's egg - they like those.

Banh Tai Vac

These tapioca dumplings where either stuffed with shrimp or some kind of vegetable that is the rough equivalent of potato. Absolutely delicious with a chilli kick from the bowl of chilli on the side. I'm becoming quite the chilli fiend!

Banh Xeo

Little seafood pancakes (I would've said omelettes) with either squid or prawns. The prawns had been decapitated but not 'deshelled'. I didn't really think about it until the girls pointed it out - then I didn't fancy the prawns anymore. Isn't it mad that sometimes what you don't know, doesn't hurt your appetite?

...And some pretty darn great spring rolls. (Sorry arteries, but I like mine fried every time.)

Banh Canh

One of my favourite dishes - a soup with thick thick rice noodles and a refreshing broth. This is comfort food Asian style. There was also the option of a tapioca soup which looked part jellified and creeped me out. We ate this soup at a long table in the side street with many locals, mant of whom went back for many more portions.

Banh Can

These eggy, spongey buns were made in a similar way to the omelettes with a metal heavy pan and round mould. They are to be dipped in the little bowl of sauce (see below) but they were so plain in comparison to the rest of the dishes. It could be to do with how we were eating them as in Asia generally, they love their condiments and spices which sit on the table waiting to be added liberally.

A lot of the places we went to were just set up in someone's front room, so we would get snippets of the TV as we ate.

Banh Trang Nuong

Our guide got us a few little bits. Fried quail eggs, rice paper pancakes made on the barbie, beef wrapped in some kind of leaf and intestine for those feeling brave.

Che Chuoi Nuong

Last but not least the barbecued banana sunk in thick sticky rice pudding and sprinkled with peanuts. For me it was just too rich and there was just noooooo room at the inn.

This picture (below) may look mundane, but in that bag is a Vietnamese delicacy that none of us even considered trying - boiled eggs with the embryos inside. Our guide just ate around the chick, but yes some people do eat the little unhatched bird too.

As well as the water you get on arrival for the tour (we purchased more on the way in the hope it would aid digestion) you also get a soft drink or local beer at the end... If you can fit the bubbles in.
Below, the street food tour group + Mu Mu who always takes the photos and is behind the camera!!
Thank-you Lanterns! One of the highlights of my entire trip!!

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