So I thought I knew Vietnam. I've been coming for six years. Lived there for two. And seen just about all there is to see.
But then this week happened. Rather, Bai Tram happened.
Two days ago, I got in a car in Hoi An and was driven eight, mind-numbing hours down the Vietnamese coastline to a place straight out of a fiction novel. I shit you not. Certainly the lack of a great expectations contributed -- until recently, I had never even heard of Bai Tram, let alone known anything about it.
But I won't be forgetting what I experienced there anytime soon.
Technically, Bai Tram is seven thatched-roof villas fronting a private stretch of beach that extends for a full kilometer and is bookended by giant rock outcroppings. But truthfully it's much more than that.
It's near bustling Quy Nhon but far from it. Guests come here to remove themselves from the rest of the world -- to unplug and unwind. No one is forced to. The lack of any sound but that of nature has a way of sending the message loud and clear. Here's what the property looks like from a spot I was told is called Coconut Hill:
One of my favorite moments was the motorcycle tour I got from the resort's resident manager, Ieks Poppema, a Dutch Dennis Quaid if there ever was one. We went well beyond the gates of Bai Tram, over a long and rickety wooden bridge, past traditional fish farms and along a narrow winding road shaded by palms and lined by beach huts. Here's a look at the bridge, from over Ieks's shoulder:
Halfway across the bridge, we encountered kids on bicycles riding in the opposite direction. They were all wearing the same clothes and big smiles. Clearly, class was dismissed.
But the fun was only just beginning for me. Later the same afternoon, Ieks arranged for a local fisherman and his crew to take us out on this beauty:
We first visited a lobster farmer, who at one point led me underwater so that I could get an up-close look at his livelihood -- colorful Flower Lobster, swimming around in submerged rectangular cages about eight feet below the surface. When reeled up, the cages are covered in barnacles:
From there we cruised over to a coral reef, where we busted out the snorkel gear and surveyed that action. Eventually the skipper said goodbye to us about 50 meters from the shoreline. It was close enough. We could see clear to the bottom -- unusual for Vietnam, even at shallow depths -- and to Bai Tram Beach, as pictured here from under one of the palapas:
And so we swam, and then trudged up to the resort's bar and ordered an ice-cold bottle of Quy Nhon Beer. The perfect ending to a storybook day.
The Coldest Continent
2 years ago