We cab to Than Son Nhat airport -- amazing how these names resonate with those of us who grew up listening to nightly news reports during the 1960s -- and board the fifty-minute flight.
We land at Cam Ranh airport, built by the US Air Force during the war, and our ride is there to take us the half-hour trip into Nha Trang city, to Thien Truc guesthouse.
A short walk down our alley, through the Yen Sao street market, cross the street and we are on the beach.
When we mention Nha Trang, someone always mentions Russians. And yes, there are a LOT of Russian tourists here. In fact, most shop and restaurant signs are in Russian and Vietnamese, as are the menus. We learn to ask for an English version.
Nha Trang is very much a holiday resort town. The beach is magnificent and crowded with tourists from everywhere. During this holiday week there are many Vietnamese families and, yes, there are thousands of Russians, but there are also families from China, Korea, Japan, Australia and many other places.
walk through typical
At first we aren't sure if we are going to like it here. We really aren't resort people and lying on the sand baking in the sun holds no appeal for either of us. Pushing through mobs of tourists on the sidewalks and dodging touts offering massages and cheap jewellery isn't really our favourite either.
Within a day or two, we find a favourite restaurant where we quickly are adopted as honourary family members. We go to the beach for a swim each morning before the sun gets too hot and the crowds too thick and we spend more than one lovely afternoon sitting on a second floor terrace, drinking Saigon Special and watching the world pass on the street below.
Everywhere are little sidewalk food vendors, selling local food, primarily to local people. The curious thing is the furniture: the chairs and tables are all about half size. The local people perch on these tiny chairs for hours, drinking tea and chatting with each other. Neither of us think they look very appealing and we wonder how we would be able to stand up again after an hour in that position.
The beach, itself, is truly spectacular and is set in what is considered to be one of the world's most beautiful bays. Offshore islands offer protection from the swell of the South China Sea although the first day we are there the surf is very heavy and swimming is discouraged. By the next day, the weather has changed and everyone is in the water.
The City has built very nice tree-shaded walkways all along the strip between the beach and the street, with benches and outdoor exercise apparatus.
As we are checking in to Thien Truc Guesthouse, our hostess reminds us that this is New Year's Eve and there will be fireworks to watch at midnight. We haven't been awake that late in weeks so we expect that we will miss the display. Not likely! At the stroke of midnight, we lurch up out of a sound sleep, certain that either the Americans or the Russians are bombarding the city again for old times sake. We sit up in bed and look out our fourth story window to discover we have a ringside seat for one of the most spectacular fireworks displays we have ever seen. The sky is lit up without a break for nearly twenty-five minutes. The Year of the Monkey is kicked off in fine fashion.