Adventures of an American Seoul-Sister

Adventures and Observations of an American Seoul-Sister

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Hoa's Place at China Beach

China Beach is my favorite place in Vietnam, and one of only two places in the country I would consider revisiting.  I stayed at Hoa's Place, a stone's throw from the beach itself.  Hoa's Place is a small guest house with the ambiance of an international hostel.
Don't miss the sign to Hoa's Place (Hai Hoa).

On staff is Hoa, the warm and friendly host.  Hoa is a survivor of the Vietnam War.  As a child of 12, he struggled with the constant threats of war and hunger.   When American soldiers took over his local beach for their R-n-R retreat, he was lured by the steak and potatoes into joining a civilian corp and given a gun at that tender age.  He fought in support of the America throughout the war in order to feed his mother and siblings.  Hoa also found a new family among the American soldiers whom he remembers fondly through stories that he shares with his visitors.  Though joining the Americans in VietCon territory has ostracized him from his Vietnamese neighbors for life, Hoa has still managed to rebuild a rich and happy life in his China Beach home.  Honestly, Hoa is the nicest and most genuine person I met in all of Vietnam (and the only one that didn't try to hose me for money). 


Hoa's wife offers a small menu of diner-esque foods throughout the day in the open-air dining room.  In the evening, a large Vietnamese meal is shared family-style among the staff and guests.  Beer is stocked in a large cooler, and guests take of this cooler at will.  Rooms are $5 a night or $8 with A/C.  There are surf boards, boogie boards, and motorbikes for rent.  All expenses are recorded in a notebook and tallied up at the end of the stay.  I stayed for a couple of nights, having pressing matters to attend to back in Hanoi, but I would have liked to have stayed much longer.  In fact, Hoa's is so wonderful and relaxing that guests often find themselved signed up for two or three nights but staying thirty or forty nights instead. 

Hoa's Place

A main reason for this extended stay is China Beach.  That lovely paradise is a two-minute walk from Hoa's Place.  I got to enjoy this last vestige of heaven-meets-earth in near seclusion and in perfect weather.  The beach stresses for miles in both directions.  Miles of pale yellow sand, unlittered.  Miles of cool, almost warm, ocean water (perfect until about 4 pm when schools of tiny stinging jellyfish float shoreward).  The beach is positively...vintage.

The short walk to the beach. 

Kris on China Beach

Most times, the entire expanse is empty save for an hour at sunrise when the locals converge for their group exercise routine and for an even briefer time when kids let out from school and take a quick swim to cool off.  A short way off the coast, a few local fishing boats float.  Otherwise, the beach is empty.  For a while, I was self-proclaimed Queen of China Beach and no one opposed.  

Local kids cooling off.   Locals swim in their clothes.

Local fishing boats are small, round, woven baskets.
Long live the Queen!

I recommend visiting China Beach soon in order to enjoy it in this utopic state.  All along the stretch of beach, dozens of resorts are planned that will surely and sadly change the face of China Beach forever.  With hope, however, Hoa's Place will remain unchanged.  When you go, remember to bring a small photo to glue into Hoa's guestbook.   

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