White sand, azure waters and plenty to see and do, Dorothy Veitch reports from the best beach resort in southern Vietnam.
1 The Main Strip
Nha Trang on Vietnam’s south coast has quite a beach – a 6-kilometre crescent-shaped swathe of golden sand lapped by clear turquoise waters. Long popular with backpackers, it’s gradually transforming into a bustling resort town that’s being likened to those found on the French Riviera. You won’t see A-list celebrities mooring their yachts off Nah Trang (yet) but there’s potential.
2 Scuba Diving
Divers credit Nha Trang with good visibility (around 10 metres) and zero current. There are numerous interesting sites to sail out to including Madonna Rock, where you dive down 20 metres to enjoy a couple of narrow swim-throughs and explore a small cave. Alternatively, you can dive up to 16 metres right from the beach, where the clear waters pulsate with cuttlefish, octopus and lionfish.
3 Full Moon Parties
A hot new contender for South East Asia’s best beach party destination, Nha Trang kicks into high gear once the sun sets. Start your evening on the rooftop at Skylight Nha Trang for inventive cocktails and stunning views of the resort, and then head to Sailing Club Nha Trang, right on the beach, for club beats that go on past dawn
4 The Theme Park
Take a cable car to Vinpearl Land, a Disney-inspired theme park for rides and attractions aplenty. There are several sections to explore, including an outdoor water park (the main event), outdoor and indoor arcade centres, an aquarium and shopping street. Mermaid shows, fl ash mobs and traditional Vietnamese dance performances are put on in the late afternoon.
5 Rice Paddies
Drive just 30 minutes west of the resort to see the beautiful terraced rice paddies (and villagers in conical hats) that Vietnam is well-known for. Before you head back, stop by Memento Country Home, a charming boutique resort with stilt-style lodges, and rest up in the shady garden with a long cool ice tea.
6 Surfer Culture
Nha Trang Beach is a blast but if you want to get further off the beaten track, drive 30 minutes south to Bai Dai. There’s a long sandy beach and not much else – apart from rolling waves ripe for surfing, particularly from September to April. To rent a board or learn to surf, make your way to the northern edge of the bay.
7 Gothic Architecture
Overlooking the town from a lofty hillside, Nha Trang Cathedral was built in the early 20th century in the French Gothic style, and it still serves the local Catholic community. Made entirely of stone, it boasts beautiful stained-glass windows and an elegant clock tower. Vietnamese influences are felt in the neon lighting – pink on the tabernacle, red outlining the crucifix, blue on the arch and a white halo for the St Mary statue.
8 Temple Ruins
A legacy of the Champa Kingdom – the Chams ruled southern Vietnam from the 2nd to 15th century – Po Nagar Cham Towers is still a thriving spiritual centre. It comprises two well-preserved temples built for Shiva and Parvati, and a shrine to their son Ganesha. Women pray to a 10-armed black stone Parvati statue; men ask Shiva to grant them their hearts’ desires.