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Thanh Hoa Adventure 22 June 2010

Posted by uggclogs in Travelling, Vietnam.
Tags: , , , ,

So, we rented a car for the weekend, and drove south.

Hanoi has been hot and sticky all week, with brilliant days of sunshine, and blackouts plaguing the office. So we decided that on a fantastic weekend like this, we might as well try to find a beach to hide away at. Taking an extra day made us able to make it into a longer trip, too.

We drove south past the city of Thanh Hoa, to a little beach called Hai Hoa. The directions we had were “drive until you were in this and this town, then take the first left after the post office”. The post office was spotted, and we took a left, but unfortunately it was the second left, not the first, which we had missed.

But the second turn off led us south along the coast for about 10-15 kilometres, into a fishing village where we got to see the locals make dried fish and fish sauce. If you have ever been anywhere that makes fish sauce, by the way, you will instantly recognise the smell of fermenting fish – slightly repugnant, and incredibly strong.

The locals were clearly not used to seeing foreigners, and it was fun to see their reactions, we were waved at, and laughed at, lots of people would have a chat, and it was generally quite a welcoming feeling. The village had little windy roads along the coast, but no real beaches to speak of. We eventually asked about the way to Hai Hoa, and realised that we had gone the wrong way, so we turned back.

Back at the town, we realised we had overshot the turnoff by ten metres, so we had not been that far off.

Hai Hoa has a beautiful little beach, with fishing boats dragged onto the sand, and two main hotels on the ‘strip’. We ended up going for walks, eating lunch in deckchairs on the beach, napping during the hottest part of the day, and reading our books. When the day wore on and the harshest sting was out of the sunlight, we ended up strolling along the beach and starting up a conversation with a group of local fishermen.

They were assembled to head out to sea, where they spend their nights from 6 at night until 6 in the morning, working. They offered us their special brew (some sort of alcohol which we politely refused, as it looked a bit like moonshine, despite the assurances from the fishermen that it was fine French champagne) and spent loads of time chatting with us. They were friendly and open, and all of them loved the fact that my partner speaks Vietnamese so well.

We sat at the beach with a beer watching them go out to sea, and as it got darker, the entire horizon was dotted with squid lamps. We headed back to the hotel to try and find a place to watch our respective teams play football, but could not find anywhere showing it apart from the reception. So we watched it in our room.

Strangely, we could not get the aircon to work, so we ended up trying to keep the windows open for a draft to come through. Sadly, our idea worked, and it ended up slamming one of the windows into the wall outside, breaking the glass. So by that stage, the aircon would not have actually been very effective anyway.

We had a most wonderful spread for dinner on the beach, including huge prawns, mackerel fish, squid, morning glory and deep fried corn. Then, after an extremely hot sleep, and mosquitoes biting me to death, strange sounds and a touch of karaoke, we decided to move along to another destination.

Driving north, we took a random right turn off the highway in search of an adventure. The first turn was a bit of a sad one – after only a couple of hundred metres, the road just ended into a dirt track, meaning that we had to back the car up past the rice fields and the skittish cows again. The locals here just stared – they must have thought we were insane.

The next right turn was a much bigger success, it led to the delta of a small river, and lovely landscape and houses that we passed. But the most wonderful was the beach that we found. Not a single building on the beach, and the only other people we saw were two fishermen and two ladies walking in opposite directions. The fishermen were happy to have a chat, too, and show us how to fish. They showed us their catch, and told us why they did not keep certain fish. The water was cool, and it felt like summer in so many ways – nowhere to be, nothing to do, having a yack with randoms.

We ended up driving a little further north to Sam Son after that – a beach touted as the second nicest beach in Vietnam. (Something I may have to disagree with, especially due to having just seen that wonderful, deserted beach just above.) It was all very Vietnamese, and some of the things offered there for ‘entertainment’ were not after my taste (down to the little white horses painted with black stripes, which you could get a photo with dressed as a cowboy…) but it certainly had a bit of a ‘Miami’ feel to it – a strip of hotels, food stalls and stalls selling knick-knacks that no one really wants. It also had cyclos and golf carts to ship the (Vietnamese) tourists around, and ice cream on every corner.

There was also a little temple on top of a cliff, and it was quite a neat little set-up. We stayed at a beautiful resort way up the other end, which allows for some more privacy if you wanted it, as well as a walk along the beach going north, where there were no more buildings. We swam in the ocean, then went for a dip in the pool. I spent time walking up the beach with the camera, trying to capture the lives of the local children and women looking for clams in the sand.

The next day, we walked along the beach and struck up conversations with the local women peddling wonderfully colourful crabs, and learnt that they go out at 3 in the morning on their boats, and return at 7. Somehow crab fishing must be more lucrative than squid fishing further south. The lady told us she makes about 100,000 dong per day (about 6 dollars) selling her crabs, which is probably why she was so keen on selling them to us.

We headed north to Hanoi again before lunch, to avoid driving after dark. All in all, quite the adventure, and I must admit, I feel like I have been on holidays!


1. lyn - 24 June 2010

Sounds like the perfect break for you! You deserved it!

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