When we plan these trips from home we book the accommodations and flights before we leave Canada. We have a plan for traveling from one town to another but we generally book buses, trains and transfers once we arrive in the country. It’s generally cheaper and some options are not available from outside the country.
We were going from Mui Ne north to Phong Nha-Ke Bang National park. There is no train station in Mui Ne but there is one Mong Man which is not too far away. The closest train station to Phong Nha-ke Bang is in Dong Hoi. There is a train which starts in Ho Chi Minh City which stops in both places. We tried to buy a ticket from Mong Man to Dong Hoi but for reasons I still can’t explain you can’t do that.
We had to buy a ticket from Nha Trang to Doung Hoi which would get us to Doung Hoi but Nha Trang is over 200 km from Mui Ne so we had to use the overnight sleeper bus to get to Nha Trang. This was not in the original plan and we spent some time on line trying to find a place in Nha Trang were we could leave our bags for the 12 plus hours we would be spending in Nha Trang before our train. We eventually found a place that did motorcycle trips and appeared to store bags for $2 US each.
You book the overnight sleeper bus through an agent and the bus picks you up at the side of the road. We were booked on a 1:00 am bus so we found ourselves standing out on the side of the road at 12:30 am with our bags in the dark. The road had some street lights and although it was almost 1:00 am there was quite a bit of activity. We were happy to see the bus arrive on time. It’s a five hour trip on a highway which is in good shape. Unlike our first sleeper bus trip we did not have booked seats and we ended up crammed into the back seat of the bus with three other people (avoid this seat if you can).
Unfortunately the bus arrived early and we found ourselves standing by a bus stop at 5:15 am in the hotel district of Nha Trang. We were immediately approached by taxi drivers wanting to take us to various hotels but as we knew nothing about them we politely said no. Our plan was to drop our bags at Easy Rider which appeared to have a baggage storage service and eat breakfast but it was 5:15 am and nothing was open.
We started to walk away and a guy from a hotel across the street that was open to the street called out to us asking if we wanted a room. We negotiated a $15 US room to use until 3:00 pm. It turned out to be one of the smarter things we have done. We got some sleep, took a shower and went off to explore Nha Trang. We found breakfast across the street along with the best cup of coffee we had found so far on the trip even if it did cost more than a beer.
Nha Trang is on the coast and the central waterfront area has a number of modern hotels.
The beach front area has been developed and has parks, and a big beach area with restaurants and beach chairs for rent. The ocean is a beautiful blue and there are many small islands which you can see from shore. Other than the rental beach chairs the beach and waterfront is public so it is easy to wander around. The surf was high and the beach was closed. Crossing the street was a bit of an adventure but it was a nice walk along the water.
We walked to Po Nagar Cham Towers built between the 7th and 12th centuries the towers are still used for worship.
The site was full of Asian tourists when we were there. We were almost the only western tourists. The younger generation were everywhere taking selfies.
We walked back to the hotel and took a taxi to the train station for 30,000 VND.
We tried to buy snacks at the train station but we did not find much. The train was actually early and it left a few minutes ahead of schedule.
Trains in Vietnam have soft sleepers and hard sleepers. Soft have small compartments with 4 bunks (2 upper and 2 lower) hard have 6 to a car with 3 bunks on each side. We booked a soft sleeper but we were not able to get an upper and a lower. We had two uppers and we were in a compartment with an older Vietnamese couple who were having a wonderful time. They had snacks set out all over the place and they talked non-stop. They only stopped when they fell asleep.
Harold and I were sort of trapped in the upper bunks while they had their picnic below. Definitely get at least one lower if you can!
We ordered dinner on the train for 35,000 VND it was alright, rice with a meat we could not identify. No one came for the leftovers so we were not sure what to do with them in our bunks. The bathrooms were kind of gross and I have fairly low standards…
The steward did come to get us when we arrived at our stop. We had a phone with a data plan so we knew where we were. Unfortunately we could not see out the windows from the top bunk so we did not really get a great view. We arrived at Dong Hui at 9:00 am the next morning. The closest station to the park.