A Cold Stormy 36hours in Nha Trang
Vietnam’s famed coastal wonderland, we were a bit unsure of what would greet us when we arrived in Nha Trang. Having heard mixed reviews, it sounded like the place to retire for a quiet beach holiday. When we arrived, a cold, blistery wind was blowing a gale, making the temperature significantly lower than what we have become accustomed to. It was about 20degrees and I was freezing!
Until the French Colonisation, Nha Trang was nothing more than a quiet seaside fishing village. The French decided this was an up and coming resort area, perfect for relaxing, and invested into the initial transformation that has lead to Nha Trang becoming a thriving resort hub.
We only had one full day here, which was plenty for us to explore the town. We found the beach quite underwhelming, perhaps the overcast day and storm surf was out of the ordinary, but it didn’t create the tranquil beach environment we were expecting. Beach aside, the township is quite similar to most other coastal towns we have visited. A few attractions, lots of tourists and a stretch of beach. We opted against hiring a scooter and consequently missed a couple of the Nha Trang ‘must see’ attractions, but we enjoyed a walking tour exploring the town.
A bit more prepared when we arrived in Nha Trang than Mui Ne, we at least knew the area we wanted to stay. Wandering down a small alley we stumbled across the Merlion Hotel. This was a great find, brand new, a nice room with a comfortable bed and best of all; it was the cheapest place we have stayed in for a while! The location was perfect for us, just across from the beach and central to majority of the bars and restaurants.
Sticking with our alley theme, we found a couple of alleyways the next block over from the hotel with street stalls serving noodle soup throughout the day. There were also a few budget restaurants in the area where we enjoyed a couple of local dishes.
The Louisiane Brewhouse is definitely worth a mention. A beautiful beachfront establishment, this brewery is famed for both their beer and international menu. Well out of our price range, we settled in and enjoyed a tasting tray of beers brewed on site before opting for a more budget friendly dinner option. The also have a lovely pool area that would be a great alternative to the beach if the weather permitted.
ACTIVITIES & ATTRACTIONS
We spent our day in Nha Trang on a trademark self-initiated walking tour. We saw a few key sites and enjoyed wandering the length of the beach and exploring a few different corners of the Nha Trang Township. After visiting a few landmarks we retired for the afternoon, relaxing in a café enjoying a beautiful Vietnamese coffee.
Po Nagar Cham Towers
Dating back to 817AD, the four remaining Cham towers (originally there were 8) are still a place of worship for local Buddhists. Set atop of a small hill, Po Nagar is visible from a distance. As with other temples of the time, active restoration works ensure the towers will continue to stand the test of time.
Long Son Pagoda
Significantly younger than the Po Nagar Cham Towers, the Long Son Pagoda was built in the 19th century as a place of Buddhist worship. There is a white Buddha at the top of the hill that provides a good look out point, and a reclining Buddha halfway down the hill. We were approached by a friendly young boy here, who started to follow us trying to engage us in conversation. Immediately wary, we started questioning him too, asking why he wasn’t at school. He quickly left us alone, but I have since read this is a common scam here, where the children demand money for the monks after showing people around the temple.
Nha Trang Cathedral
In a stark contrast, the Nha Trang Cathedral boasts French Gothic architecture on a grand scale. An intricate design with stained-glass windows it was quite strange exploring these grounds straight after the Long Son Pagoda. Such contrasting architecture to practice two different religions.
PEOPLE & CULTURE
We didn’t get the opportunity to experience too much of the culture here as the area we stayed was full of tourists. Even when we were walking around the city it was difficult to see anything too culturally rich, aside from when we were at the places of worship and even these were crowded with tourists. What was interesting was the obsession the men have with checkers. There seem to be men having coffee and playing checkers on ever corner. Quite different to the way men interact at home.
WHAT WE LEARNT
We have been spoilt for choice with beaches after living in Wollongong for the past few years. I think this has made it hard for us to appreciate some of the beaches throughout Cambodia and Vietnam as we have such high expectations. It’s becoming more and more apparent, Australia and New Zealand are beautiful countries and consequently we expect a lot from the landscapes of other countries.
While we splashed out for the tasting trays at the Louisiane Brewery, we spent minimal amounts on the activities so it balanced out well. We were surprised by the cost of food and beverages, although, it makes sense considering this is the main beach area for tourists in Vietnam.
We are a bit unsure of what our plan is from here. We are considering a motorbike tour but are a bit unsure to go for a long 6 day tour to Hoi An or a 3 day tour back to Nha Trang and then catch a bus to Hoi An. Once we arrive in Dalat and have the opportunity to chat to the Easy Riders I think it will be easier to make a decision.