I love the hustle and bustle of Saigon.
This city is a perfect mix of old and new, hip and old fashioned, craziness and tranquility. Here you’ll find Starbucks right next to an awesome $1 mom and pop noodle shop. It’s truly a pearl of the orient.
But sometimes the old beach nerve starts to itch, and I need some warm sand and clean air. Especially on days when the infamous Saigon traffic get’s under my skin. So when an opportunity appeared in April due to a Vietnamese holiday, I decided to take some action.
So what places are out there for a beach thirsty gringo?
Well there’s always Vung Tau just two hours away. I’ve been there and it’s great, but the water doesn’t have that blue paradise look I sometimes long for. Living in Thailand have spoiled me in that department. In addition I was eager to visit other beaches further along the coast.
So after consulting my beach knowledgeable friends, I narrowed down the choices to Nha Trang, Da Nang or Phu Quoc. All seemed great choices, but sadly I had to select only one.
Since I wanted other activities than the beach, Phu Quoc didn’t seem like a good option. Phu Quoc is an island that doesn’t offer much more than stunning beaches. Which is totally fine, but for this trip I needed something else beside beach time. In addition to that, I was looking for a smaller place which ruled out Da Nang, which is a larger city.
Nha Trang was a good compromise, and I ended up spending one week there. Since I had such a great time, I decided to write a blog post about things to do in Nha Trang.
Nowadays, Vietnam has some excellent low cost carriers. One of them is Vietjet which is also known as bikini airline. Wait a minute did you just say low prices and flight attendants dressed in bikinis!? Sign me up!
Well just to kill the buzz a little bit, they are actually not dressed in bikini during the flights. Just in the advertisements. The prices are low though!
When it comes to accommodation I’m usually an Airbnb junkie, but for shorter trips (1 to 3 days) I like to stay at hotels. I won’t use the kitchen and I’ll just need a bed to sleep in. With hotels.com I was able to find a great four star hotel for a reasonable price. And it was only a 5 minute walk to the beach. Sweet!
Finally the flight and hotel for one week set me back $400. For two people. And breakfast was included. Not bad!
So it turned out that Vietjet doesnt actually fly directly to Nha Trang, but to a smaller town called Cam Ranh. A 45 minute drive from Nha Trang. And just to confuse me even more, all the flight monitors at the airport said ‘Cam Ranh’. But no biggie.
A taxi from Cam Ranh airport will set you back around 500k VND. Not a lot compared to the taxi prices in the west, but if you’re on a budget there are cheaper options available. For example we used the shared minibuses. The staff is standing right outside the arrival hall and one bus fills up pretty quickly. So not much of a wait. We paid 50k VND per person and they drop you outside your hotel. Recommended.
The main beach is surprisingly called Nha Trang beach (doh) and our hotel was located just one block away. It’s a nice, long sandy beach stretching as far as the eye can see. The water is clean but can be rough at times. Take care if you’re not a strong swimmer.
The authorities have divided the beach into different sections named VIP and Standard. The VIP package gives you a better beach chair mattress, a free towel and a locker. The better option is only 40k VND more (120k vs 80k) so we splurged and went VIP. Yeah baby!
There’s plenty of good places to eat along the beach. Of particular note is Louisiane Brewhouse which makes their own craft beer. You can try a sample with 4 of their beers as seen in my photo on the left side. After 8pm they have live music. Recommended. Furthermore, I visited Sailing Club which had good food and nice beach views. Finally, the area between Tran Quang Khai and Nguyen Thi Minh Khai have a lot of restaurant. Most of them are very touristy though.
There does only seem to be one modern shopping mall in all of Nha Tranh. It’s called Nha Trang center and is located a bit further north along the beach.
Other good beaches in the area includes Doc Let and Long Beach, but unfortunately we didn’t have time to explore them. Next time!
Vinpearl is an island filled with all sorts of entertainment. For example luxury resorts, theme park and waterpark. To get there, you pay a one-time entrance fee (650,000 VND) and get all day access to the attractions.
The island is accessible using the world’s longest overwater cable car. The line looked huge when we arrived, but it moved pretty quickly. In addition to the cable cars, I think there’s also the option to take a boat there.
The actual attractions on the island seems mostly focused at kids. The rollercoasters and other thrill rides didn’t do much to me. However the waterpark was more fun and it had several exciting waterslides.
I was not impressed by the food options on the island. Maybe we were just unlucky, but I just couldn’t find anything decent.
So what other things to do in Nha Trang besides the beach life? Well the city does offers a few other things, but that being said, you should not go here if sightseeing is the main goal. The beach is the main attraction by far.
The most famous market in Nha Trang is Dam Market, and it’s located a bit north of the main beach area. It has a circular architecture, and inside you can find the usual souvenir stuff. This place is clearly focused on tourists. I enjoyed the second floor a bit more and there you can find clothing and other accessories. In addition there’s other buildings with merchandise that appears to be marketed more to the local people.
There’s also a famous night market in Nha Trang, but I didn’t had time to visit it. However I’ve heard mixed reviews about.
Po Nagar is the most famous temple in Nha Trang, and its located just north of Dam market. It’s a very old structure dating back to 700 AD. And they did a good job restoring the towers. The area is not very large and you can easily cover the whole thing in 30 to 60 minutes. The temple sits on top of a hill so the view is pretty nice.
Another religious site worth seeing is Long Son Pagoda. The temple features a large Buddha sitting on top of a hill, and is reached using a staircase.
Finally, there’s actually one catholic church in Nha Trang. It features some nice colored glass windows and good views. But if you’re familiar with the religious architecture in Europe, it’s not that impressive. In addition, the sight is overrun with noisy tour groups.
The weather was excellent and temperatures averaging 30 degrees Celsius. But be aware that even during the so called dry season, the weather can be a bit unpredictable. For example, the week before we arrived it was raining.
If you enjoy beach life, there’s a lot of things to do in Nha Trang. You’ll not be bored. I visited for one week and had a blast. However if you require a lot of other things such as world class sightseeing, a shorter stay here may be a better option. Vietnam offers much more and I’ll write about it in future posts.
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