With a beautiful beach, an endless supply of fresh seafood and a string of hopping bars in the evening, you simply can’t go wrong in Nha Trang, says Van Cong Tu
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 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 highly therapeutic place.
It is tourist friendly. In Hanoi, the tourist patch is the Old Quarter. In Ho Chi Minh City, it is District 1 and the strip that runs along Pham Ngu Lao. In these areas, many of the local folk can speak English reasonably well. This means information on tourist services, onward journeys and local sights is easy to obtain.
Nha Trang also has its traveller’s zone, where you can book boat trips, rent motorbikes and pick up tickets for planes, trains and automobiles to your next destination. 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. This is worth bearing in mind, because a night or two of your holiday will inevitably be 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 Brewhouse, two long established watering holes right on the beach.
The former is a stunning complex with restaurants, a bar and a 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, you will find a number of popular bars, such as Crazy Kim’s, Guava, Shorty’s and the Why Not Bar, which all have their own unique atmospheres. There are eating options galore in Nha Trang with Indian, Italian, Japanese and other international cuisines well represented. But, by the seaside, the choice is obvious: seafood. Outside restaurants throughout the tourist area, you will find fresh prawns, squid, lobster and fish.
Customers can specify which creature they want to dine on and watch it flipped onto the barbeque. However, you can find better seafood experiences where the locals eat. One such place is Bien Tien Hai San, a restaurant about three kilometres 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 business underwater. All-day-boat trips to the surrounding islands with frequent stops for swimming and snorkelling are also popular with the young backpacking crowd. The Cham Towers across the river are also worth a visit for those hungry for history and architecture.
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. It’s a failsafe routine that I thoroughly recommend.