Nha Trang: Vietnam’s Most Popular Beach City
Originally, we had no interest in stopping in the coastal city of Nha Trang. Both our guidebooks had mentioned that it was a crazy party city, and we weren’t really interested in that too much. But because all the open bus tickets stopped here, we decided to stay for just one night to enjoy the beaches. Even better, the night bus from Hoi An meant that we’d arrive in Nha Trang at 6am; with the buses leaving from Nha Trang to Mui Ne (our next stopping point) at 7am, that’d give us an entire day to enjoy Nha Trang. Not a bad deal for paying for just one night at a hostel.
We had decided to splurge on the hotel for our one night in Nha Trang. Since it was just one night and we have really underspent our housing costs on the trip, we decided to book a $36 hotel with a view of the ocean. The hotel is called Sun City Hotel and was rated decently on sites like hostelworld. We arrived to the hotel at 6:15am, were not able to check-in right away, and we dealt with a pretty rude and sarcastic reception staff. We were told to come back a bit later, around 10am to check-in. From outside the hotel, there was a much larger hotel sitting right in front of the Sun City Hotel, which we imagined limited the views. Because of the rude staff member and the lack of view, we started looking around for others. We found a highly recommended hotel called Perfume Glass Hotel, and found the worker there to be extremely kind and helpful, with a decent view of the ocean, and a cheaper price of $25 per night. We decided to go with that one instead. When returning back to Sun City Hotel, a new staff member was there and said we could see the view of the room if we wanted. She even explained to us before seeing the room that it wasn’t the best view. She was understanding when we said we were going to stay somewhere else. Who wants to see the back of another hotel, anyway?
Nha Trang is actually much nicer than I expected. The interesting part about Nha Trang is that it is absolutely full of Russian tourists and expats. For whatever reason, Russians love the beaches in Vietnam. The beaches are nice, but the beaches in Thailand are much, much nicer. To my understanding, it’s probably because of the relationship of the Russian and Vietnamese government. Either way, it was funny to see almost every foreigner in the city to look very Russian. There were more Russian signs and menus in the city than in English, the first place where I had seen that before. Hopefully Putin doesn’t get ahold of this place.
Our hotel set us up with a moped rental for just $5 for the day, so we cruised through Nha Trang and up the coast north of the city. We passed fishing villages and got onto a road that felt similar to Highway 1 in California and the Great Ocean Road in Australia. The road winded along the coast while giving impressive views of the South China Sea. The only difference is that this road had 4 lanes and very little traffic. It was the perfect road for joy riding on a scooter for the day. The only negative is that the weather was drizzly all day, meaning that swimming in the ocean wasn’t the most desirable.
For lunch, we stopped at a local restaurant in a small village about 2 miles north of Nha Trang. Because the menu was only in Vietnamese and Russian, I had no idea what I was ordering. I pointed at something on the menu and hoped for the best. Out came a salad of green papaya, carrots, and other vegetables mixed with some kind of seafood; it was a white, almost clear type of seafood which looked like tentacles. Biting into it was not chewy as I expected but a kind of crunch. Not knowing what it was, I did my best to eat as much as possible. The taste wasn’t bad, but the unknown did make it difficult to finish. I ate about 2/3 of it before having to force myself to stop. Later in the day, we saw another menu that was in Vietnamese and English, and we found that it was Dried Jellyfish Salad. Never thought I’d be eating jellyfish! If I had known at the time of eating it that it was jellyfish, I think it would’ve been easier to eat. The unknown really made it tough!
At night, we took the moped to a highly recommended restaurant, called Lac Canh, in the small back roads of Nha Trang. It was one of our favorite types of restaurants, the type of restaurant that brings out a small charcoal grill with raw meats and vegetables and allows the customer to grill their own. For whatever reason, cooking food at the table is just a whole new satisfying experience. The food is hot when you eat it, you can take your time and eat at your own pace, and you are part of the process. The slices of chicken and pork were marinated in an Asian sauce, and the vegetable platter included okra, potatoes, carrots, onions, and pineapple. At the price of $6 per person, it was a bit of a splurge for our $7 per day budget; but it was well worth the price.
We woke up early the next morning to watch the sunset at 5:45am. With our hostel just a block from the beach, it was a quick walk to watch the sun come up over the sea and the islands in the distance. The people in Nha Trang seem to be very active in the morning. Already at 5:45am, the sidewalks are busy with people jogging, doing Tai Chi, and simply enjoying the sunrise.
After eating a nice Western breakfast compliments of our hotel (a great part of staying at that specific hotel), we headed to the bus station to jump on a bus to Mui Ne. Although the weather was rainy for our only day in Nha Trang, we really enjoyed the city and seeing the surrounds by moped. Because of the weather, I think it was enough time there. If the weather had been better, another day or two would’ve been perfect to take advantage of the long sandy beaches.