Nha Trang has long been a popular destination for both local and international tourists. Its long sandy beach lined with coconut palms is the stand out attraction of this large coastal city located on Vietnam’s south central coast. Entire days can quite easily be whiled away relaxing in the sun, chasing a tan, recovering from a hangover or simply de-stressing. In fact, a beach city like Nha Trang can be a very therapeutic place.
It is tourist friendly. In Hanoi, the tourist patch is the Old Quarter. In Saigon, it is district 1 and the strip along Pham Ngu Lao. In these areas, many of the local folk can speak English reasonably well. This makes information about tourist services, onward journeys and local places of interest easy to obtain. Nha Trang also has it’s traveler’s zone, where boat trips can be booked, motorbikes can be rented, flights and onward bus and train journeys arranged and all manner of western and international cuisine ordered and enjoyed. Located along and parallel to a few blocks of beachfront, the place to stay in Nha Trang is in the small district known as Biet Thu. Mini-hotels and guesthouses abound in this area and the beach is never more than a five minute walk away. More up-market accommodation in high rise hotels is available further up the beach road if you don’t mind a long walk or a taxi ride at the end of the night.
A night spent in one or more of Nha Trang’s great bars! The jewels in the crown of the bar scene here are the Nha Trang Sailing Club and the Louisiane Brew house, two long established watering holes right on the beach. The former is a stunning complex of restaurants, bar and nightclub, where drinks after a hard day on the beach can be followed by a meal and some jiving on the dance floor. For many, it is the last stop of the night. The latter is a beer lover’s paradise, open all day but not so late into the night. Four different beers are brewed on the premises and can be enjoyed on the brew house’s waterfront beach lounges or by the pool. Away from the beach, Crazy Kim’s, Guava, Shorty’s and the Why Not Bar all have their own unique atmospheres.
Eating options in Nha Trang are various. Indian, Italian, Japanese and other international cuisines are pretty well represented here. But, by the seaside, the choice is obvious. Prawns, squid, lobster and fish are on display outside restaurants throughout the tourist area. Customers can select exactly the creature they want to dine on and watch it flipped onto the barbeque. However, better seafood experiences can be had where the locals eat. One such place is Bien Tien Hai San, a restaurant about three kilometers along the main beach road north of town. In fact, there are many seafood eateries out this way which are worth a visit. Other local specialties, available away from the tourist strip in the streets around the main market, include fried rice-flour pancakes (banh xeo), fish noodle soup (bun ca) and fresh roll-your-own spring rolls (nem nuong). Going hungry in Nha Trang is not even remotely possible.
Apart from the above-mentioned sedentary activities of sunbathing, drinking and eating, Nha Trang does have a few more active pursuits on offer. Diving is big here, with a few operators competing for underwater business. All day boat trips to the surrounding islands, with frequent stops for swimming and snorkeling are also popular with the young backpacker crowd. The Cham Towers across the river are also worth a visit if history and architecture are of any interest.
Despite all of the possibilities, whenever I go back to Nha Trang I find myself gravitating toward the beach by day, the street food and seafood at meal times and the bars by night.