March 22 Sunday -- This was a free day to do as we pleased. There were three places that we thought were worth a visit. The Dendro receptionist arranged a taxi for $20 for three hours. The first stop was the Oceanographic Research Institute of Vietnam. For $1.50 each we were treated to many colorful sea creatures. The facility isn't real fancy but it was interesting and they have a fabulous collection of specimens in jars.
The next stop was our only disappointing experience in Viet Nam. As soon as you walk through the gates of the Long Son Pagoda and monastery you are greeted by teenage or older “girls” welcoming you and repeating that there is no entry fee. It turns out it can be quite expensive to leave, however. After taking our picture by the sleeping Buddha they blocked my way until I agreed to “donate” $10 for post cards that I didn't want or need. They were also trying to get Roger to buy some cards. These girls said they are orphans living at the monastery and going to school at night. If so, I recommend a change in the curriculum. We were relieved to get away from them and started up the stairs to the large sitting Buddha. At which point we were accosted by a "monk" who grabbed us by the arm and placed us in front of a shrine, borrowed our camera to take our picture, showed us his “mother’s" tomb, then blocked our exit until we gave him $20. I felt like we were robbed. When we got back to the hotel we mentioned this to the staff and they said it has happened to them, as well. The next day we told Bruce Lee and he said that he would report it. This type of scam is frowned on since it leaves a bad taste in visitors’ mouths and the country wants and needs the money that tourism brings.
By the time we got to the last stop we had lost our enthusiasm but walked up to the Ponagar Cham Tower where we had a good view of the city. It cost us $1.25 and no one molested us.
A long rest in the afternoon gave us time to get over our morning's disappointment. The evening was much better. For an early dinner I had a fried chicken dinner with mashed potatoes and gravy, Roger ate a Hawaiian pizza and we had a couple of beers at the Brewhouse. All for $25. A stroll along the walk in the park was relaxing and allowed us to do some people watching. It was another evening of family fun, exercise, social time and an unexpected cultural show. The Sailing Club provided a wonderful seaside spot to drink some beer as the sun was setting.
As we walked to Hotel Dendro a young woman on her evening walk engaged us in conversation. She works at the Oceanographic Institute and lit up when we said we had been there that day. The park area covers several miles and is the gem of this city.
March 23 Monday -- It was a glorious day. We walked to the post office about 1.5K away to mail three post cards back to the US for 45,000 VND. A few blocks away was the Nha Trang City Center shopping mall which provided some ac and an iced tea. From there we crossed over to Central Park and walked the promenade, stopping to relax and people watch while enjoying the the breeze, sun, and fresh sea air. There is a building that looks like a lotus bud. Curious, we went in to find a display of the Sanna Company that uses nests from the sanaganes swift in products. We had drunk a beverage a couple of days before and I was interested in exactly what it is. The display shows how they harvest the nests.
It took a couple of hours to get back and we figured it was time for a cold beer as we passed Ponagar Club and Restaurant. (1.50 each)
Later we went back to Ponagar for a pizza sandwich and cold beers ($7.50) before our evening stroll. There are so many activities at any one time it is difficult to figure where to stop and watch. This evening we picked kites and watched as fathers taught their toddlers how to get them started and keep them flying.