Stray New Zealander Keys continues to make us all jealous as she travels on Stray’s very first Vietnam trip…
The Road to Qui Nhon
Our journey took us back out on the coast and we enjoyed beautiful vistas all day. There is no such thing as a boring road trip in Vietnam but it is nice to do it in the comfort of our Stray van with friends around and the flexibility to stop for photos and toilet/snack stops as you need them. I could spend hours watching the constant flow of vehicles, mostly bicycles and motorbikes, stream towards us – not to mention overtake us on all sides.
For the most part, the roads are in good condition in Vietnam, with road markings and asphalt. We have seen quite a lot of road works and very few accidents. There is quite a lot of honking of horns; our Stray driver doesn’t use his unless absolutely necessary but most 4 wheeled motorists tend to use theirs extensively and I suppose it’s because 4 wheeled vehicles are not so common here, nor so manoeuvrable amongst a flowing river of bikes.
We had lunch at another roadside restaurant and, as always, were greatly aided by our Stray guide Hang to get the food we wanted and to be able to experience different local treats. Most days when we are on the road we’ll pull up at a small ‘Mum and Pop’ style restaurant where food is already prepared and just choose from the buffet on display. This means we don’t waste unnecessary time on food stops and get to try more dishes.
We stopped at a beach on the coast and dipped our toes in the surf. It’s winter here so nobody was game for a swim but it was a beautiful beach and you could see from the infrastructure that in the summer this would be a popular spot. In fact, various sections of the Vietnamese Coast have been turned into beach resort towns.
Qui Nhon turned out to be just this type of town and when driving into it we came down a hill and a series of lights opened out in front of us, not unlike the strip in Las Vegas but not so OTT and of course without the casinos. I was reminded of other coastal resorts I’ve been to like Cancun, Mexico and the Gold Coast, Australia. Our hotel even had a lift and a balcony – what a luxury!
A bizarre dinner in Qui Nonh
Richard our Tour Leader took us to an interesting restaurant for dinner. There was a small aquarium with all sorts of seafood in it including lobsters and a sea turtle. We all felt bad for the turtle but my mum had already warned me, after watching a documentary on Vietnam, that these creatures are eaten in this part of the world.
The menu was really extensive, 10 pages with about 8 dishes on each side.
Some of the dishes were lost in translation like ‘virtual squid’ and ‘hiding frog’. Other dishes included the entrails or genitals of certain beasts such as the bull penis stewed with medicinal herbs, or pig tail with soy cheese. Faced with so many novel choices I decided on the crab soup and jellyfish salad. The soup was nothing to write home about but the jellyfish salad was interesting. I found out from our guide Hang that it’s not cooked but marinated in something. The texture was crunchy, similar to the effect you get when biting into celery. It was served with bitter gourd which is a vegetable with lots of seeds inside not unlike guava to look at but the size of a lime and indeed rather bitter. It gave my tongue a weird sensation so I mostly stuck to the jellyfish, which was fish-like in flavour but definitely not in texture. Hang told me they often prepare jellyfish with green (unripe) mango and I imagine that would be a really tasty combo.
This was also the restaurant where those who ordered chips had them served with butter and sugar on the side. The group consensus was that the butter sort of passed muster but the sugar was definitely not a welcome addition to the all-time classic hot chips.