Greetings from Koh Chang and happy new year! Here is the first edition for 2020 of Where I’m At – my monthly summary of where I’ve been and site news.
Where I’ve Been
Here’s a summary of where I’ve been in December. Follow me on Instagram for where I’m at right now.
From Ben Tre I went to Tra Vinh as part of my mini Mekong break. Tra Vinh would probably get more visitors if it was a bit easier to get to, or at least on the way to somewhere else. As it stands it remains as a nice reward if you make the effort to get there. Here is my trip report on Tra Vinh.
As the biggest city and main hub in the Mekong Delta, the chances are you will be drawn in by Can Tho’s gravitational pull if you are doing a Delta trip. I’ve been here before to see the floating market, so this time I wanted to see what city life is like here. I will post a trip report about Can Tho. I’ve also completed a guide on where to stay in Can Tho.
As another year draws to a close with seemingly no end in sight to the HCMC Metro construction, I wondered how bad is the delay when compared to other metro systems in Asia. I did some research and crunched some numbers, and it turns out that Saigon is about average. here is the comparison of cost and construction times of first metro lines in Asia.
I visited Danang in March so I wasn’t expecting a second visit for 2019. December in Danang isn’t the best time to visit as it gets cool and rainy on this part of the Vietnam coastline. I came back as there was a useful flight to my next destination, and there were some projects that needed further investigation for my Future Danang series.
The beach between Danang and Hoi An is quickly filling in with mega resorts and hotels. There is no guide to what is going on so I’ve been researching what is planned. One project that grabbed my attention was South Beach Danang. This project looks so unbelievable that I had to go and see the sight with my own eyes.
I hired a bike and drove down the coast, and I was wondering if I would find it without the address. I needn’t have worried as the road frontage is 750 metres long.
I’m told that it’s not likely to be built, but I wanted some “before” photos for historical archives just in case it goes ahead.
Another big project that was proposed recently was for a metro system to connect Danang and Hoi An, along with some other metro lines in Danang city. This has been pitched by a South Korean consortium, as South Koreans now make up by far the largest percentage of visitors to Danang.
There hasn’t even been a feasibility study, yet one developer has already taken it upon themselves to market their property as being on the future Danang – Hoi An metro line.
Danang feels a bit like Dubai in the mid-2000’s – it’s the wild west. I mentioned in my post from 2018 that I am interested to see what Danang looks like in 20 years. This is what I was talking about.
I met some nomads and travellers here on this trip as well. It’s now getting to the point where people schedule as much time here as in Hoi An, where previously people just went straight to Hoi An.
There is a lot happening south of Hoi An, so that will be investigated on my next trip.
Earlier this year I was happy to see that AirAsia had begun direct flights between Danang and Chiang Mai, so that seemed like a good opportunity to work an itinerary between two of my favourite cities. The Vietnam aviation sector has boomed this year, with flights increasing by 12 percent from last year. It feels like the early days of Ryanair and easyJet in Europe, when regional cities were being connected directly for the first time. And now you can fly from Da Nang to Chiang Mai.
I have a number of friends living in Chiang Mai, and December in Chiang Mai is about as perfect as it gets for weather. The mornings are cool (sometimes even cold), and then it warms up to the usual hot days (about 30c). It’s also before burning season, so the skies are blue and the sunset behind Doi Suthep make you sigh.
On Christmas morning I watched the sunrise from Doi Suthep, which has become an annual tradition organised by my friend Dustin. He was one of the early bloggers I met here when I first came to Chiang Mai. I also caught up Dan from the TMBA Podcast.
Getting to Koh Chang meant getting a bus from Bangkok, so rather than try and do it all in one day I made a stop in Bangkok for a few days. Any excuse to revisit Bangkok is ok by me. It was good timing as the MRT Blue Line extension had just opened. It’s now possible to travel to Chinatown and the old city by metro, so I checked it out and will do a review.
If I visit Chiang Mai for Christmas next year then it becomes a tradition. One thing that has become a tradition is to go to a beach on New Years Eve. The previous years have been in Pattaya, Otres Beach, and Nha Trang. I like to do my end of year review by the sea. I also don’t like the mad crush of people in big cities and what is known to alcoholics as amateur night (when once-a-year drinkers get drunk).
I was last in Koh Chang in 2011 and I don’t remember much about it. I forgot that it’s a mountainous island with just a few beaches clinging to the west coast. It doesn’t have an airport (Trat is the closest), and it’s too far from Bangkok to make it a useful quick trip. These factors keep the big crowds away, but there are enough people here to have all the amenities of a relaxing beach holiday.