Welcome to part 3 (kinda) of the 5 part (or more) Upside Down Heart Tour series where we made several stops in Vietnam before checking out the temples of Ankor Wat, Cambodia and finishing up with one-night-in-Bangkok where the world was our oyster. Yeah I said it… Check out our thoughts on Hanoi here, Halong Bay here, Hoi An here and here plus there’s a growing page dedicated to the tour right here. I told you it wasn’t quite a five-parter… Let’s continue to Nha Trang. . .
Nha Trang, situated half way down Vietnam’s south east coast, is one of Vietnam’s premier beach resorts. This long coastal city is populated mostly by International tourists so you can therefore expect to find fully stocked bars, quality restaurants and large-than-life hotels that spring for the sky like sunflowers towering high. The whole skyline looks very Benidorm-esque and is far from the paradise of some of the more tranquil, tucked away, beaches you can imagine are further along Vietnam’s coast. Nha Trang is a commercial hub and clearly very focused on money-making with an emphasis on the almighty dollar; ironic really as the population is largely/mostly/almost completely Russian, evident in the shops, road signs and bar touts that cover this beach resort.
Getting To Nha Trang, Vietnam
We had flown in to Cam Ranh Airport (for Nha Trang) from Da Nang (Hoi An) which took about an hour and fifteen, costing us just £40 each. There is a popular train link that covers the 524km route that comes in slightly cheaper at £24pp, but its going to take you in approx 7-10 hours longer depending on the train; £16 is a tiny price to pay to enjoy 8 hours of extra sunshine (or in our case grey skies)! On our arrival we fought our way through about 10 (illegal) taxi drivers in search of the driver that Hotel Apus had arranged for us. After 20 minutes of nothingness, with the taxi drivers constantly hawking us, we conceded that the driver didn’t look like he’d be arriving anytime soon. We dismissed the illegals and headed for an official green taxi rank and enjoyed watching the staff fight it out over our custom. Not the best of starts, but it was far from the worst taxi we’d ever had. We were excited to arrive in town after the beautiful hour-long coastal drive from the airport.
This was the mid-way point of our 15-day adventure, a chance to chill out and enjoy some sunshine and R&R before moving on to more exciting Vietnamese adventures in Ho Chi Minh City aka Saigon. Arriving at Hotel Apus for our 3-night stay, we found ourselves quite central to a bunch of bars and within walking distance of the beach; however the most prominent thing we found was how different Nha Trang was to anywhere else we had seen in Vietnam- or even Asia. We had arrived in Nha Trang from the old, northern, ex-communist parts of Vietnam and the contrast was jarring; it was like a completely different country. Any trace of family owned businesses, locals working as a community or culture-seeking holiday makers gently taking in the pretty sights has long since vanished. Nha Trang is a consumerism its purest form; bold, brash and in your face. A far cry from our past 7 days in this beautiful country experiencing Hanoi and Hoi An. We did expect this to be the case but we were lured in anyways by its affordability, accessibility and the chance to enjoy some tanning-time. Although Nha Trang is instantly different from its neighbours, do not let this affect your opinion on this charming nation; every country has its Blackpool or its Benidorm… the place is built for tourists and in this instance at least, it is built largely by tourists.
Exploring Nha Trang
There isn’t a huge amount do to and see in Nha Trang besides beach, food and drink. In fact during our stay we only took a dozen or so photographs (very unlike us!!). It’s a holiday resort and should be approached as such. There was far too little to do to warrant a long stay but there was just enough to keep you entertained for a mini-break in between a trek along Vietnam’s east coast with a few more modern, westernised facilities.
Our hotel room was small, but the 18th floor of our tower block was home to a rooftop pool with some beautiful views of the coastal town and a breathtaking view to the horizon. The local area is awash with high-rise hotels and yet there are still more in the works judging by all of the active construction sites. Speaking to locals (and tourists alike) it seems that a lot of Russian money is pumped into the area (lots of backhanders going on here… particularly when unfinished sites are completed by the government only to be given back to the initial contractor upon completion!). Similarly, you can expect lots of the local bars and restaurants to be Russian owned. Our home for the next 3 nights was located next to Pi Ta, a delicious Ruski-owned Greek kebab restaurant (#1 on Tripadvisor) which provided us some really quality, hearty portions of moussaka, kebab and chips. The food across Nha Trang was generally much more Westernised and the quality of food (and particularly meat) felt much more like home but with tasty Vietnamese prices. Each night there would be a new watering hole to discover however we felt slightly uncomfortable in the Russian-owned outlets and opted for the few English friendly spots.
Boozing Our Way Around
Due to the weather being a bit overcast (but still 30+ degrees) we spent most of our time in Nha Trang relaxing near home or finding a new bar to cozy up in.
On our first full day we headed down towards to beach to find ourselves stumbling (literally!) into the lovely Louisiane Brewhouse. The Brewhouse is situated on a spot of beach near the middle of the strip and houses its own brewery, restaurant, pool area and sun loungers. We perched up here and enjoyed some interesting Passionfruit and Pilsner beers as well as some fruity rum cocktails. Vietnamese beer (Saigon in particular) does a perfectly good job- and the local rum and rice vodka certainly work perfectly well, but this tasted more like home. Service was great and we enjoyed a light lunch; I’d recommend a visit if you’re in town as it’s the perfect place to relax by the beach with all the conveniences of being at a hotel resort. If your hotel doesn’t have the benefit of a pool then this kid-friendly (ergh) pool will probably suffice for a day or two.
Day two saw us tackle the long walk along the beach and stopping for cocktails along the way. Our end goal was the Sheraton’s 28 story Altitude Bar. These plans were, unfortunately, scuppered as we found that it was closed for our 3pm visit, only opening up in the evenings. We toddled back in the direction we came and opted to drink in the Intercontinental Hotel’s Lobby Bar which actually looked far superior. The bar has floor-to-ceiling windows providing a panoramic view across the beach (great for people watching!) as well as having a stylish, minimalist vibe with fantastic bucket chairs and five-star service. We stayed for pizza and cocktails after considering the afternoon tea option; which I would definitely recommend. We watched countless streams of rich Asian tourists check into this £300pn hotel and wondered what it was that they actually get up to in Nha Trang. Perhaps the best hotels offer the ‘total resort experience’, meaning you’re only exploring Nha Trang when crossing the street to the beach… otherwise, we cant really see what draws them here? For the Russians, sure… it’s a home from home with added sunshine plus cheap food and drink… but for the rich Asian market… we’re confused at what this could offer in terms of entertainment… Evidently these people were living on a different planet to us with our £30-per-night, wander-the-steet-for-food attitude… we were clearly looking for different things from this break.
Day Three on the booze (clearly there is nothing much else to say about Nha Trang… sorry!) and we wake up to find that our awkwardly timed 5pm flight was delayed. We left our baggage at the hotel and were checked out by 11am; hoping to score a local lunch and keep sweat-free until we left for the airport. We opted to pop by the nearby Nha Trang Beach Club; which in fact turned out to be our favourite watering hole of them all. Typically, the only day when our swimsuits were locked away was the day that the sunshine was the most glorious. When we sat down at a beach-side table we informed the staff that we were here for the long haul and not to rush with our food or drinks; we were planning a chilled 3-4 hours. The staff assisted accordingly and helped us move seats to avoid the sun, dragging around fans at our request to circulate the air and keep our armpits wet-patch-free. As it turns out, the later it became the more delayed our flight was… but no complaints from us- we were in the right place for a plane delay. Several cocktails and fajitas later we picked up a leaflet that showed that the Beach Club also ran club nights on Fridays and Saturdays that involved music, dance, drinks, fire shows and games right there on the beach- that looked and sounded like fantastic fun. But there as no time left. We paid our bill and waved goodbye to Nha Trang.
Bye, Bye Nha Trang
So, it took 1500 words to tell you that there is actually not much to say about Nha Trang. It’s fine for some sunshine or food and drink and provides a perfect mini-break to split up a long journey but beyond that there is no need to visit. Could we have done without it? Probably. Did we need a few days of nothingness so we felt fresh enough to continue our Upside Down Heart Tour? Definitely. So I suppose Nha Trang served its purpose.
Onwards and upwards (or should it be westwards and downwards?) to Ho Chi Minh City next, the capital of Southern Vietnam, a city brimming with stories, history, culture and museums. We couldn’t wait to get the next leg of the trip started and to get this show back on the road!!
Hopefully this little uneventful blog helps you plan your own Vietnamese adventure. Will you stop by Nha Trang? Or do you have other beachy plans? Although we didn’t accomplish much here, it was a well-earned break and still formed part of the story of our adventures in Vietnam. We left Nha Trang with fully recharged batteries and went on to have an absolutely wild time in Ho Chi Minh City- so stay tuned for the next Upside Down Heart update, coming soon!
Read all the blogs from the Upside Down Heart Tour HERE, today. Do it. Now. Do it. Go on..… thanks.