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Travel Newsletter - 5 June, 2020
My first post-lockdown trip, a Bali metro system, the Spruce Goose, the micro-nation of Sealand.
A weekly newsletter of great travel reads and news by James Clark from Nomadic Notes.
Hello from Ho Chi Minh City. I was in Hoi An and Da Nang this week, which was my first post-lockdown trip. It was so good to travel again, so if you can’t travel yet, just know that is going to feel great when you finally can.
From my brief trip it looks like domestic travel in Vietnam is on the road to recovery. Flights are getting back to pre-pandemic domestic schedules, and I will be doing more travel while inside this domestic travel bubble. I should be able to get back to a weekly blogging schedule from next week as well.
Here is this week’s assorted travel reads and news.
Where I’m At: June, 2020 – Da Nang edition
Where I’ve Been
I’m happy to report that I’ve been somewhere this month, and here’s a summary of the previous month. For real time updates, follow me on Instagram at @nomadicnotes.
The start of May was about a week after lockdown was lifted, and the good news for Vietnam was that no community transmissions of the virus have been reported for over a month. All new cases have been returning citizens who are quarantined upon arrival. Vietnam has been a COVID-19 success story.
With the lockdown lifted, businesses got back to business. There are a lot of closed shops with “for rent” signs up where businesses have not survived the lockdown. With international tourism not on the agenda for the next few months, other tourism-dependent businesses may not survive either.
I got my visa extended for another 3 months, and I’m not even thinking of international travel at this point. I will have to consider what my next moves are when it comes to visa renewal in August. If it is possible to travel to Thailand or Cambodia by then, that might be an option.
With my passport returned to me I started planning domestic travels in Vietnam. The airlines are promoting cheap flights to get people flying again, and hotels are offering big discounts in an effort to revive the travel economy.
I picked Hoi An as my first place to visit as I wanted to see what it looks like without the crowds. To get there I booked a flight to Da Nang with Vietnam Airlines.
I used the check-in kiosk and I was asked if I had filled out a health declaration at tokhaiyte.vn.
I downloaded the app and filled in the required details. The app has a map of every reported case in Vietnam. When you open the app at the airport there are numerous red warning dots. When you click on the dot it tells you where and when the case was detected. Given that most cases in Vietnam have been from repatriated citizens it wasn’t a surprise to see so many cases here.
The domestic terminal was busy. People are getting back to business here, or perhaps returning to their home town after being stranded, or if they be like me they are people just itching to get travelling again. I looked at the domestic departure board and considered that these destinations will likely be my travel options for the next few months. I’m completely ok with that.
I may not look it in this photo, but I was delighted to be flying again.
Departing Tan Son Nhat I saw many aircraft parked with their engines covered, and at the international terminal there were two Vietnam Airlines aircraft at gates. Whether they were flying somewhere I didn’t find out, but usually most of the gates would be occupied by international airlines.
The flight to Da Nang was full, and on this trip I was meeting three other friends from Saigon who were all flying on different flights. They reported that all their flights were full as well.
The “wing shot” might be in the top ten most cliched travel photos, but I don’t care. I spent most of the flight looking out the window, grateful to be able to fly again. It was good to see Da Nang from an airplane window.
An Bang Beach
An Bang Beach is a beach suburb of Hoi An, about 5km from the old town area. I’ve never considered staying there before as I prefer to stay in the old town action. Hoi An is such an amazing destination in itself that my brain does not compute that it could also have world-class beaches just down the road.
For this trip I wanted to stay somewhere different in Hoi An, and I wanted a beach break to wash away the lockdown fug in my mind.
There is a bit of an expat scene happening here, with some great beachside cafes. If it wasn’t near Hoi An it would probably be more famous as a beach destination. I will have a trip report on An Bang.
I’ve been to Hoi An numerous times over the years, and each time I visited it’s been getting more crowded. It’s one of the overtourism hotspots of Southeast Asia. With almost no international tourists (apart from remaining expats like myself) it was a very different experience. I will post a report on Hoi An in the midst of the pandemic.
I’ve been a regular visitor to Da Nang over the last few years, and it continually amazes how fast things are changing here. Construction is still happening, and I noticed some new places that have started since my last visit. But there are a lot of closed places here that were relying on tourism. South Korea had become the biggest tourism market in Da Nang, with over 100 flights a week from Seoul at its peak in 2019. Now there are scores of abandoned Korean BBQ restaurants everywhere, and many hotels have not reopened.
For the last few trips I’ve been staying in the My An area near the beach, so that will be my next blog topic for Da Nang.
“A series of routes across Wales and Ireland will celebrate a shared Celtic heritage and offer a range of off-piste adventures close to home.”
“If you are an experienced hiker, a beer-lover and good on social media, you may be interested in applying for a job that will see you getting paid to hike the Appalachian Trail in 2021.”
Assorted Travel Reads
If you’ve been to Bali you would have experienced the traffic jams that clog up the narrow roads. To help ease traffic congestion there has been calls to build a railway. I’ve put together a factsheet on everything that is known about a potential Bali railway.
“Can a city whose history and culture drew tens of millions of visitors a year reinvent itself? The coronavirus may give it a chance to try.”
“A cynic seeks to rediscover the art of wonder in the West Mongolian mountains.”
“The largest wooden airplane ever constructed, and flown only one time, the H-4 Hercules (nicknamed Spruce Goose) represents one of humanity’s greatest attempts to conquer the skies. Henry Kaiser, steel magnate and shipbuilder, conceived the idea of a massive flying transport and turned to Howard Hughes to design and build it.”
“Narratively contributor Dylan Taylor-Lehman’s new book tells the full story of Sealand, the world’s most unusual and dramatic mini-country.”
“The truth behind the underground tunnels, the apocalyptic murals, and the giant blue demon horse.”
“Twilight falls in New York City's bohemian palace.”
“For a year, Matt Gaw hiked across the country at night – savouring the planets, the midnight light and the sense of earthly troubles shrinking into the universe.”
“John Gapper was expecting millions to descend on Japan to see the annual cherry blossom blooms. But this year, he had it to himself...”
@nomadicnotes at Instagram
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The Travel Newsletter by Nomadic Notes is a weekly newsletter of the best travel reads and interesting travel news, and random ramblings by the editor.
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- James Clark