Picture warm sandy beach beneath your feet, majestic mountains, towering skyline and cobalt-blue waters and you’ve just painted yourself an image of Nha Trang – a coastal city on the South-Central of Vietnam.
A popular beach retreat among the locals, it is often overlooked by tourists for the other Vietnamese cities, save for the backpackers as well as affluent adventurers who call this place their playground.
From lavishing nature to cultural wonders of ancient ruins, perhaps it’s time to be in on this best-kept secret and book yourself your next dream vacation here.
Stretching over 6km of powdery white sand, the crescent-shaped Nha Trang Beach overlooks one of the most beautiful bays in the world – the Nha Trang Bay – and it is easily accessible by foot from the bustling heart of the city. Stroll along the the palm tree-lined promenade, have a picnic on the beach and idle the afternoon away people-watching.
Come sunset, retire from the beach and take the lift up to the Skylight Nha Trang. Located on the 45th floor of Havana Hotel, the rooftop bar presents an uninterrupted view of the entire city via the 360° Skydeck and is also home to the tallest lighthouse in Vietnam.
Alternatively, set out on a day trip excursion to Da Lat. Nicknamed “The Little Paris”, this charming French-colonial retreat offers a cool respite from the humid weather. Popular with outdoor and adventure enthusiasts, take part in the extreme sports of rock climbing, whitewater rafting, cliff-jumping, and abseiling.
A soak in the mud
After a full day at the beach, it’s time to get rid of the sand – by soaking in mud!
It may sound a bit odd but a mud bath is claimed to be an effective remedy against inflammations and skin problems thanks to its healing and therapeutic properties.
One of the well-known mud bath proprietors is the Thap Ba Spa which offers the cheapest treatments (VND200,000 for communal baths, approx. RM34) in town that comes with a mineral waterfall, swimming pool and and a hydrotherapy wall.
A quirky Vietnamese experience, what better way to get to know a country than by mingling with the locals. If privacy is an issue, opt for a private tub which runs from VND400,000 (RM68).
Po Nagar Cham
A recommended site for first-timer visitors, a visit Po Nagar Cham is a must to understand the cultural heritage of Nha Trang.
Built between the 7th and 12th centuries during the ancient Champa empire, the remnants of the temple once dedicated to the goddess of Po Nagar still serves as a functioning temple today – albeit to the Cham and Buddhists devotees.
All that is left of the building now are four east-facing towers typical of the Cham architecture. As it is a small complex, you could spend a bit of your time exploring the ruins.
(Places of) Worship wonders
The grandeur of French architecture is on full display at the Nha Trang Cathedral and harks back to the spread of Christianity in the 19th century.
Featuring stained glass windows, a square clock tower, and Gothic-styled interior, the cathedral still serves the local Catholic community. Hear the bells – which were cast in France in 1789 – tolling and witness the Mass being held daily between the hours of 5am and 6.30pm.
Elsewhere, the imposing white statue of Buddha can be seen on the foothill of Trai Thuy Mountain as it keeps watch over the city. To reach Long Son Pagoda, climb the 152 steps up to the peak and stop along the way to admire the intricate details of the temple and see the statue of a reclining Buddha.
The temple is not without its history. Having been struck by a cyclone in 1900, the temple was later rebuilt at the current location and is home to the Vietnam Buddhist Studies Foundation in 1936.
Sweet mother of Vinpearl Land
Voted the “most attractive amusement park” by Vietnam Tourism Association, Vinpearl Land boasts a theme park complete with thrill rides, Ferris wheel, a water park, and a luxury resort that are sure to satisfy both the kids and the kid-at-heart.
While at it, join the line to ride the world’s longest cable car sea crossing – it’s over 3km! – to make for a memorable day trip.
Not one to be missed by a thalassophile or party animals, the four-island boat trip is popular for several reasons: it features snorkelling at Mun Island, buffet lunch on deck, live music and dance performances, water sports activities, and even a floating bar!
Yup, you read that one right.
And all of that costs less than VND200,000 (RM34) including hotel pickup. Talk about being generous!
Fulfill your sense of adventure and go on a little detour to Ba Ho Waterfalls – 25km north of Nha Trang.
Better yet, rent a motorcycle and hit the coastal road to reach the place. Once there, pay VND20,000 (RM3.40) for the entrance fee and follow the painted arrows for a half-hour trek through the rainforest and dip yourself in the refreshing pool. Comprises a series of three waterfalls, Ba Ho provides the rest and respite from the beaches and bustling city.
To discover more of this underrated pearl, AirAsia now flies daily directly to Nha Trang from Kuala Lumpur.
For more information, visit their website.