Quy Nhon (Mar 29-Apr 1): A Private Beach, The Friendliest Locals, and A Waterfall Treasure Hunt

The bus was supposed to pick us up at our Hoi An homestay at 11am, and it would take about 7 hours to get to Quy Nhon (or so the sign said). Originally, I had been planning to go straight to Ho Chi Minh City from Hoi An, which would have taken about 16-19 hours, so this way I was able to cut down that number. We drove for less than ten minutes when the driver dropped us off at what must have been the bus depot. He said that our bus would arrive at 11:30. We waited and just after 11:30, someone called out for Quy Nhon. We got into our “luxury van,” which fit about 15 passengers, and luckily had air conditioning. It was one of the bumpiest rides so far – the roads never seem to have any smooth points in Vietnam! We stopped at about 1pm for a lunch and toilet stop. I decided to use the toilet and went to the back, but was extremely surprised to see that not only was there not a regular toilet, but there also wasn’t a squat toilet. It was just the floor with a spray gun. I decided to pass on this opportunity, mostly because I didn’t know how it would work. Nick got something to eat, but I still hadn’t gotten my appetite back (for most of my meals that week, I wasn’t able to finish my entire plate). We arrived in Quy Nhon at about 4pm and by that point, I was starving! Our hostel was about a 20-minute drive away, but when we tried to order a Grab, we found out that they weren’t available. Luckily, someone came up to us and asked if we needed a taxi, so we agreed on 170000 dong ($10.03AUD). Our hostel had two locations and we weren’t positive which one to go to, but luckily we chose the right one. We were staying at Life’s A Beach Backpackers for $9 US ($12.67AUD) per night. The hostel had a really nice bar area with hammocks, and it also had its own private beach. The other cool thing about this hostel was that it had a good combination of local workers and backpacker workers. They had about 5 or 6 backpackers who were working for accommodation and food, and some had only been there 1 or 2 weeks. It was technically a party hostel, but it was also a place where you could go and relax if you wanted to escape all of that. The only really bad thing about this hostel was that it was so far from the city so we were forced to get all food and drink from them. This was fine, but they just kept a running tab so we never knew how much money we owed until the very end. This is where I lost track of my spending completely, and Nick and I both ended up being extremely surprised when they gave us our grand totals at the end of our stay. It’s also weird because now that I’ve hit my budget limit, I feel comfortable with spending more money on everything (even though I’m now cutting into my Australian rent money!). Somehow because I’ve already passed that point, I figure I might as well keep going, so at least I’m nearing the end of my trip! As soon as we got there, I got something to eat because I hadn’t had food since breakfast and it was already 5pm. I ordered another Asian dish, but once again, I couldn’t finish it because my stomach seemed to develop a sensitivity to something. At this point, I was just starting to get annoyed that I couldn’t eat anything. We also decided to extend our stay for another night, from 2 nights to 3 nights because we already knew that we’d enjoy it there. That evening was just spent visiting with other backpackers and playing UNO.

Check out the Vietnamese map – Saskatoon!

On Saturday, we were planning to be completely active and go hiking up into the hills but it was SO hot (we definitely weren’t used to the southern Vietnam heat!). We decided to take advantage of the private beach, and spent some time swimming, tanning, and relaxing in the common area.

That evening, we joined everyone else for a few drinks in the bar. It was weird because even though it was a party hostel, there seemed to be a lot more people who were my type of people – they just wanted to have deep conversations, which was really nice for me!

On Sunday, we decided to do some exploring. I had done some research and made a list of all the things we could see. Little did I know, the first thing on the list would end up taking most of the day. The day that we had arrived to Quy Nhon, we saw that there had been a waterfall tour that afternoon so we asked how to go there. The hostel has a (very crappy) map with how to get to the waterfall.

We were warned multiple times by multiple people (even people who worked there) that it was VERY difficult to find, that it would test out our motorbike skills, and that we should download Google Translate to ask the locals where to go. How hard could it be? After breakfast, we rented out a motorbike and set off to find the waterfalls.

We were told that it would be a 20-minute drive, but we kept driving and never found any of the landmarks that were on the map (no school, no well, etc.). We stopped at a village and one of the locals pointed us further down the road but we still couldn’t find out where to turn. We continued asking different locals, but many didn’t know what we were talking about and many continued pointing us further down the road. I was watching the landmark on my maps.me get further and further away (yes, the landmark is on maps.me but the road to get there doesn’t exist on maps.me OR Google Maps). We finally decided to turn around and go back to the hostel to ask for better directions. On the way back, we passed a cute, little fishing village so we decided to take a quick stop to check out the beach.

The sad thing about the beaches in Vietnam (and in Cambodia) is that many of them are SO messy and so littered with garbage. It’s not very nice to see! By the time we got back to the hostel, it had been an hour and a half and was already noon, so we decided to get some lunch before heading out again. One of the workers gave us a very detailed list of notes so I took a picture of her list and we set off again.

The first step was to turn right at the red and yellow sign. Well, there were about four signs that were red and yellow (which doesn’t help when it’s Vietnam’s flag colours. The person couldn’t have written what the sign said….). The notes were alright, but they weren’t detailed enough. Literally on every single step, we questioned whether or not we were making the right turn. We stopped a couple more times to ask some locals for help, and then it got to the point where we didn’t even have to stop to ask – we’d be riding down the road and people would just start pointing in the direction that we were supposed to go – it was pretty funny actually, and we both loved how friendly the locals were. At one point, we got to some rice fields so we knew that we were on the right track, but the detailed notes stopped being useful.

All I had left to rely on was a Google satellite image of the dirt path and where the waterfall was – it was literally like we were following a treasure map. The road was so dangerous, with stones and gravel and sand, so I got off the motorbike and ended up walking the rest of the way. Keep in mind that it was about 36 degrees, we were in the direct sunlight, and we stupidly only had half a bottle of water with us. We both ended up burning that day! The road kept getting worse and worse, and we really started questioning whether we were going in the right direction. I knew that we WERE going towards the waterfall – I just didn’t know if we were taking the worst way to get there. The plus side was that the views were nice, but I think both of us were too hot and getting too annoyed to really care. Nick kept saying that he was done, but we also didn’t want to turn back when we had already come all this way. After about an hour (so much for 20 minutes), we finally got to the point on my Google map where we were just south of the waterfall. But there wasn’t a path going north. I was trying to stay optimistic for the both of us, but it was getting more and more difficult, and I was so thirsty! We finally decided to give up and turn back, much to both of our dismay. All I could think was that if we were a team on The Amazing Race, we would fail miserably… The last step on the detailed list was that there would be a black pipe and if we followed it, it would lead us to the falls. On the walk back, I suddenly noticed a black pipe in the forest. This HAD to be it! I said that we had to follow the black pipe, but Nick seemed dubious that I knew what I was talking about. I was still determined to find these falls because I felt bad that we had wasted most of the day looking for them. He said that he’d go park the motorbike, so I ran through the forest to see if I could find the falls. And lo and behold, they were there! Maybe we’d do alright on The Amazing Race afterall… I breathed out a huge sigh of relief and went back to the front of the path, where Nick was just starting to walk. We headed back to the falls and when we got there, there were only three local kids and three foreigners, all who left about 15 minutes later because the sun FINALLY decided to hide behind the clouds (it couldn’t have done that an hour ago?!). We happily jumped into the pool at the bottom of the falls and welcomed the cold water.

The water was full of little minnows that constantly nibbled us – we didn’t even have to pay to get one of those fish foot massages, we ended up getting a full body massage for free! I actually got cold quite fast after the sun went down, so we checked out the other two pools (there were three in total) and then decided to head into town.

Again, I walked back most of the way until the road seemed safe enough for two people to ride on the motorbike. Nick needed to get a new SIM card, so we drove 20 minutes into town and as soon as we got there, we saw a plaza. It had been so long since either of us had been in a proper shopping mall, so we decided to go in and see if we could get a SIM card. It was neat because they had underground parking strictly for motorbikes, and the amount of motorbikes that were down there was insane, all parked within inches of each other. We got looks and stares from the moment we got into the parking lot, and we were the only foreigners in the mall. It literally felt like we were celebrities – everyone was looking, waving, saying hi, and everyone was so friendly! We found out that the plaza didn’t have any SIM cards but decided to walk around anyway, and checked out the grocery store. After our adventure in the mall, I found a mobile shop about 15 minutes away so we went there and they gave Nick a SIM card (which actually took extremely long compared to my usual experiences). We were both craving pizza so I found a pizza shop less than five minutes away and we ate there. The tables were the typical Vietnamese short tables with tiny stools, which made Nick look like he was eating in a doll house. I decided to try something different and go with a pork floss pizza because I had loved pork floss so much when I was in Taiwan. The pizza was really good too!

I’m going to have to find myself some pork floss when I get home! We decided to drive along the beach before heading back to the hostel. There was some kind of festival going on, and there was an open van with people in the back, playing music. Again, while we were driving down the street, everyone got so excited when they’d see us – it was so funny!

We got back to the hostel at about 9pm and then were finally able to shower (after wearing our wet clothes all evening) before hanging out with everyone else for awhile. That night, we actually stayed up quite late because it was our last night with everyone so we all stayed up and chatted.

Monday was our last day in Quy Nhon. Nick would be going to Da Lat next and I would be going to Ho Chi Minh City, but both of our buses would leave at 6:30 that night. That gave us plenty of time to relax on the beach and hang out in the common area before leaving. When we decided to check out, we were nervous about what the damage would be. Both of us were estimating 1.5 million dong each (and I thought even THAT was more than what we’d have to pay). However, we were in for a surprise when it came up to 2 million dong each ($121.36), so about 40 bucks per day!!!! The annoying thing was that they just gave us the number, but didn’t give us a detailed list of everything we had bought, like all of the other hostels had done. Finally, the hostel got a phonecall that Nick’s bus was on its way so they told us both to grab our bags and we walked to the highway, where the bus would stop on the side of the road. I had been trying to stay strong all day, but this goodbye had been the most difficult of my entire trip, especially after travelling together for the past ten days. About five minutes later, the bus arrived, Nick’s bag was put on the bus, we said goodbye, and the bus left, all in a matter of seconds. I just wanted to cry, but I was still with the hostel worker, who didn’t seem to understand that I didn’t want to talk about it. “How did you two meet? Where are you both from? Will you see each other again?” The questions weren’t helping at all… Finally, my bus arrived so I gave them my bag and got in my bed, which was a top bunk this time (no loving couple to sleep with either!). As soon as I got settled, the tears started pouring out and even though I was trying to go unnoticed, the bus worker heard me sniffle and kept looking over to see if I was okay. I gave him a small smile to let him know that I was okay with having a top bunk, and prepared myself for the 13-hour journey. However, I’ll save that for the next post. Love always

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