Everyone warned me that Nha Trang is a dump. But, being hard headed as ever, I was determined to see for myself and try to find a few redeeming features of the stop-over city in central Vietnam. This quest was in vain and I seriously feel bad for wasting my sisters trip in Vietnam for several days in this not-so-nice city. If you can skip Nha Trang, do it! But, most bus routes along the dragon-shaped country of Vietnam go through Nha Trang. Here’s how to make the most of a stopover in Nha Trang.
I found Nha Trang to be overrun with rude tourists, overpriced compared to Saigon and lacking any sort of unique culture. There’s nothing charming or fascinating about this place. The beach seemed man-made with coarse sand and more plastic than seashells littering the shore. The few vegan places I was eager to try were all utterly disappointing–I’d order one thing and they’d just bring me whatever they felt like, repeatedly! However, sometimes a trip to Nha Trang is unavoidable so here are a few ideas of things you can do during a stopover!
STROLL ON THE PROMENADE
Grab a coffee from Iced Coffee (Google Maps) and take a short stroll down the promenade. Stop by to see the lotus-flower shaped, rose-hued, Trầm Hương Tower (Google Maps). Yup, that’s about it. The beach is gross but if you must…
TAKE A PICTURE ON THE BEACH AND LEAVE
Well, that’s exactly what we did. The beach was gross but I needed a picture in a thong bikini for my InStyle article so my sister graciously snapped shots as I posed like a thot. These bottoms are from Target, and I love them. They’re just the right amount of coverage for me. Wearing colaless bikini bottoms isn’t bold or brave or brazen. This thick bod of mine is the real deal, it’s a vessel that’s taken me to over 50 countries. I’m going to continue to sun my bun and share bikini-clad pics.
START YOUR MORNING AT THE LONG SON PAGODA
Walk 1 ½ miles and pay a visit to the beautiful massive white Buddha at the Long Son Pagoda (Google Maps). The big Buddha was erected in 1889 and is nearly 80 feet tall and overlooks Nha Trang from a lovely hill that’s dotted with a few other Buddhist monuments.
The typical rules apply for visiting this sacred space as far as proper clothing attire and behavior but there were also several signs around that warned visitors that laughing was strictly forbidden.
VISIT THE CHAM TOWERS OF PO NAGAR TEMPLE
Hop in a Grab taxi and head to the Po Nagar temple Cham Towers (Google Maps) for a dose of ancient history. It’s less than a dollar to enter and boasts a lovely little museum with some information and artifacts. I’m actually reading a fantastic novel now based on the history of the Champa people, “Temple of a Thousand Faces.” At Po Nagar, only four towers remain, but there were once at least eight here, each dedicated to a different Hindu God. They were built before 800 B.C.E so they’ve lasted for nearly 3,000 years–astonishing!
SPEND THE AFTERNOON AT THE MUD BATHS
This is really the only reason to actually come to Nha Trang as there are more impressive Cham ruins and massive Buddha statues elsewhere in Vietnam–like near my beloved Hoi An!
We decided to go to the Thap Ba Hot Springs (Google Maps). These are the original local hot springs in Nha Trang and are significantly cheaper and easier to reach than others in the area. Don’t waste your time and money with a mud bath tour–just go on your own, it’ll be cheaper and you’ll be able to relax at the spa as long as you’d like. We expected it to be crowded and dirty but it was actually really lovely. So much so that we decided to keep the camera away and just enjoy some sister bonding time! We opted for a private mud bath and covered every inch of our bodies in the cleansing mud before dipping into hot mineral springs and swimming under a slight sprinkle of rain in the cool and hot swimming pools.
HAVE DINNER AT A CAFE THAT GIVES BACK
Frances of So The Adventure Begins recommended that we dine at Lanterns (Google Maps) while in Nha Trang. A percentage of proceeds from the upscale cafe benefit an education project for disadvantaged local children. We had an assortment of veggie dishes that were really delicious including spring rolls and an eggplant clay pot. Our waitress was really lovely and chatted with us about local life as she wanted to practice her English language skills. She complimented our broken Vietnamese but was amazed that we tried to communicate in her native language and she even taught us a few new words.
GO FOR DRINKS AT THE DARLING ALPACA HOMESTYLE CAFE
Because everyone knows alpacas are better than llamas! Alpaca Homestyle Cafe (Google Maps) is seriously insta-worthy and boasts great food–mostly western options like pasta and Mexican cuisine. Better yet are their drinks!
They even had my favorite, paloma, which is a tequila cocktail with grapefruit. This is a great place to spend the evening as they have board games and coloring books.
NHA TRANG LOGISTICS–HOW TO ARRIVE & WHERE TO STAY
Most travelers stop over in Nha Trang along their bus routes from either south or north Vietnam. It’s also possible to fly–check prices of flights, buses, and trains on 12Go.Asia. If you fly to Nha Trang note that the airport is about an hour away–longer than the actual flight from Saigon! Apparently, there are shuttle options at the airport but we missed them and booked a Grab taxi.
We stayed at the budget-friendly yet modern New Century Hotel. It’s pretty basic but is centrally located. Reserve accommodation in Nha Trang on Booking.com for the best deals! Nha Trang is very safe but it’s better to be extra cautious and have insurance from World Nomads just in case something goes wrong.
Have you been to Nha Trang? Did you do something amazing that we missed out on?
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