Waylaid in Nha Trang

As you know we were waylaid in Nha Trang due to my morning sickness which was really pretty bad over the last week. I mean it's no big deal really; it's just par for the course with pregnancy. But when we set out the other morning it was just virtually impossible to progress with me having to “pull in”, as it were, every few minutes. I was really in a pretty miserable state so we phoned our lovely guest house in Nha Trang which we'd checked out of less than an hour before saying that we'd be coming back. To their delight. Because they had missed Luca who is treated like royalty here. Seriously. I may have mentioned it before but he is treated like a mini-celebrity everywhere we've been in Southeast Asia. With strangers high-fiving him, coo-ing over him and photographing him. And Vietnam is no exception and in this family friendly, and generally friendly, guest house it's particularly the case.

We stayed at the Ha Van hotel, just a few minutes walk from the beach, which is run by a young Vietnamese/ French (or possibly Québécois?) couple and a host of very helpful and friendly Vietnamese staff. Mainly female. All of whom love Luca. From dusk to dawn he is fawned over, coo-ed at, tickled and playfully teased. A very tasty breakfast is served on the rooftop of the Ha Van and it is here that the daily adoration begins. Every breakfast includes a generous and interesting selection of in-season fruit to include; melon, pineapple, bananas, dragon fruit and lychee but we always leave laden down with bags or baskets of extra fruit bestowed, usually in exchange for a kiss on the cheek, to Luca. The chef is particularly fond of him and always prepares him not just one, but two boiled eggs to take away with him too.

Luca enjoys the attention and playing and is very at ease with the staff chatting away to all of them. Telling them all about the minutia of a 3 year olds days; things like how he fell and cut his knee and going swimming at the beach, etc. His audience seem to think that his incessant chatter is really cute. The street vendors on the way down to the beach all know him by sight and shout "Hello Boy" to which he always waves and says "Hello" back in a kind of a way that suggests this is just normal attention for a 3 year old in his every day life. You know - the usual. No big deal. When himself and Phil were going to the shop the other day a girl pulled up on a motorbike and said: "Hello Luca". She then went on: "I'm from the restaurant". She was one of the waitresses from one of the restaurants here that we ate in one night and she had remembered him. I wonder if he'll find it hard to blend back in to relative obscurity when we leave Asia?

We've all really enjoyed our stay in Nha Trang but will, once again, try to leave tomorrow.... We have a friend who shall remain nameless (but you know who you are Edward Boilson) who motorbiked along Highway 1 a few years ago and said that he ended up waylaid in Nha Trang too. He actually left it once, progressed half an hour away and turned back. So morning sickness cycling challenges notwithstanding there is an allure to this place. Maybe there are some hidden Homeric Lotus Eaters amongst the population here, I don't know, but it is a very easy place to linger for some reason. Everywhere is within walking distance - the beach and a very wide selection of great cafes, bars and restaurants. The livin', as they say, is easy. There's something of a French air to it. But more Biarritz perhaps than St Michel? An old Vietnamese man walks up and down the beach everyday looking to practice his French with Francophones. He had just left a couple of young French guys the other day and headed towards us and posed the question, in French, whether or not we spoke French. To which I replied, proudly, in French of course, that we did but that we weren't French. Anyway we didn't make the grade for some reason. He just walked on by us. I would have loved an opportunity to ask him if he had learnt his French during the French occupation of Vietnam. There are lots of brilliant French restaurants here too. The real deal. French owned, run etc. And in one such restaurant the other night, "Refuge" we all spoke exclusively French all night with the owner as did all of the customers who were all Vietnamese. I loved it of course. But our no. 1 Restaurant vote has to go to "Lanterns" where the Vietnamese fare is divine, reasonable and, what is more, the restaurant supports the local orphanage to include funding university for the children who get a university place. You have to go along early for dinner to secure a table. On our first night there (our second attempt to get a table though) we sat beside an Australian family who were just leaving as we arrived and they said to us that they had just had possibly one of the best meals of their lives there - for 15 Aussie dollars. They recommended the ginger chicken and sauteed water spinach, which I ordered and Phil had the claypot fish which were all yummy. Luca had a penne pesto worthy of an Italian trattoria. And it was very reasonable too. Our entire delicious meal for the 3 of us, drinks (smoothies for Luca and I and beers for Phil) and desserts, etc. came to the equivalent of about 12 Euro.

But all good things come to an end. As well as all bad things. Our time here is looking spent now as my morning sickness has abated over the last couple of days. So we've packed up the panniers and our bikes and Highway 1 awaits. So it's off to explore more wonderful places we go... tomorrow. Hopefully.


Hello, Highway 1

We have spent a few wonderful days in Nha Trang. It has the most stunning 6km long beach and, having spent a month in chaotic, loud and rainy Saigon, chilling out on a peaceful stretch of white sand has been very welcome indeed. We've done very little with our days apart from laze on the beach, read our books and eat some delicious Vietnamese food. It's been blissful. 

It's a good thing we liked Nha Trang, as we have found ourselves back there! We hit Highway 1 this morning, heading north from Nha Trang, but only made it 10km or so down the road before having to turn back. Poor Linda had a terrible bout of morning sickness. Not pleasant, while on a bike, in the heat, on Vietnam's main Highway and still 45km from our destination. So, we stopped for a cold drink, refreshed ourselves, pondered our options and decided to turn back. So, another day or two on the beach in Nha Trang, about which we're certainly not complaining, and then we'll head off again on a morning that Linda is feeling well.

I know of no other person who would attempt to cycle a fully loaded bike while 3 months pregnant, let alone do so in Vietnam. Pregnancy would be seen by most as a very good reason to stop travelling and put away the bikes, but not by Linda. On the contrary, she's still eager to cycle all the way to Hanoi! She is a remarkably strong person and I'm extremely proud of her.


Allambie orphanage would like to take this opportunity to say a BIG Thank You to everyone that donated to Linda, Phil and Luca’s appeal on their blog – “Grow a Garden for Allambie”.

The money that you all raised has given Allambie Orphanage the most beautiful roof garden. We now have plants, an eating area and the most lovely wooden swing.

Allambie Orphanage has been up running now for 6 months. We have 6 children and for the first time, they feel safe, loved and all have a future to look forward to. With your help and support, we will be able to change more children’s lives for the better.

The kids and me are also trying to grow our own chillies with the help of Linda’s guidance. The roof garden has given the Allambie kids and I an area that we come and relax and talk together. The kids love it and the roof garden is used every day. The older children often do their school lessons with their teacher s out on the roof and I often find Nhi up there in the evening swinging away and listening to her music.

The children are looking after the plants but at the moment it is rainy season here and so the plants are getting watered well. Chuyen is looking after Luca’s chilli pot and I know Chuyen misses him a lot.

Until these children came to Allambie, they were in an orphanage that was overcrowded, dirty and they were lucky if they got one meal a day. They had nowhere to go apart from rooms that had iron bars on the windows and very little day light.

Now with your help and support, they have a family home and a roof garden where can they really breathe. The children are now all going to good schools, have 3 meals a day, are healthy and for the first time in their lives, feel loved, wanted and safe.

Finally, Linda, Phil and Luca we miss you all very much and you will always be apart of the Allambie family. We truly hope to see you all again.

Thank you

Suzanne Thi Hien Hook


Yesterday was our last day at Allambie. We went over for a lovely lunch during which we were presented with a special  keepsake of a cup adorned with lovely messages from Suzanne and all of the children. The attempts by Phil and I to "wrap and roll" Vietnamese style during our meal met with much amusement (Chuyen prepared Luca's one for him) - but while our rolls filled with pork, Thai sweet basil and veg may not have been aesthetically up to annamite standards they sure tasted good.

We all then retired upstairs to enjoy a cuppa up on the "new" roof garden which really is a truly special and peaceful space thanks to everyone who donated. It's turned out exactly as we'd hoped; a calm oasis both within the house and within the city. We are very sad to be saying Goodbye to all at Allambie but honestly feel as though we are leaving a great legacy behind. So thank you once again to all who donated and helped us to effect that truly wonderful bequest.

As we parted from them all the skies darkened over as if to reflect our mood. A monsoon downpour ensued. But I wasn't then and, for the rest of our time in Vietnam I won't be again, bothered by the rain. I'll simply think of how all of the plants up on that roof are getting great nourishment. As are all of the children who are housed by Suzanne at Allambie; emotionally as well as physically. Everyone in life needs and deserves at least one person to love them and look out for them and that's exactly what Thiet, Sa, Nhi, Chuyen, Truc and Mung have now in their "Mummy". We look forward to keeping in touch  to follow all of their adventures. As well as the progress of the garden of course.

We now have one month left on our Visa's so we are taking an overnight train tomorrow evening from Saigon to the coastal town of Nha Trang from where we will cycle, along the coast and Highway 1, to Hanoi. We are really excited about seeing more of, and learning more about, this beautiful country. And we are excited too about the future and what it'll bring in particular because of a precious little person who will be cycling along with us and continuing our journey with us through Vietnam and indeed the rest of our lives. We are delighted to share the news that Luca is expecting a baby brother or sister in January 2012. They say a picture speaks a thousand words so I'll leave it to Phil's camera to do just that and sign off for now. Have a great weekend everyone.

A very happy Mummy to be (who can now re-appear in full length photos now that the news is out!) x