by Xuan Hiep
|Room with a view: From a hotel balcony, the beach along Tran Phu Street looks like a band of silk flying in the wind.
(VNS) I fell in love with Nha Trang immediately when I first visited it many years ago, and the desire to revisit has never ceased, simply because I am an avid fan of ocean beaches. There is nothing more fascinating to do than to soak up the sunshine on the beaches, take trips to islands and learn scuba diving.
From its pristine sandy shores to its friendly people and local cuisine, the city has a lot to offer.
Lying in a sheltered bay protected by mountains, Nha Trang enjoys some of the most temperate weather in the country with a tropical climate and a long dry season from January to October.
|Local lunch: Bun ca (fish noodle) is one of Nha Trang specialities. — VNS Photo Xuan Hiep
With a population of around 400,000, the city manages to retain a small-town charm and atmosphere, even as it develops and modernises at a rapid rate. It is now home to a number of international hotel chains, resorts, shopping malls and quality dining venues.
Known as the top seaside resort city of the country, it is easily accessible by road, rail and air through the Cam Ranh international airport, about 30km from the city. There are now direct flights to Russia and South Korea.
A trip to Nha Trang would not be complete without a day lazing on the golden sands of its main beach. Stretching over 7km along the main street of Tran Phu, it is the epicentre of both local and tourist activities.
Anna Tran, 26, a Vietnamese-Australian, who was visiting Viet Nam for a vacation, said, "We can easily see beaches everywhere in Australia, but to me Nha Trang beaches touched my soul and heart at the first sight."
The city has many beautiful beaches, including Bai Dai (Long Beach), about 20km from the city centre. It's a wonderful stretch of white sandy beach with warm turquoise water that beckons you in for a swim.
In addition, Doc Let is another beach that should not be missed. This lovely stretch of beachfront is long and wide, with chalk-white sand and shallow water.
During my trip, I opted to stay at a hotel on Tran Phu Street that allowed me to have a marvellous view of the long beach along the street.
From the balcony, the beach appeared to be like a band of silk flying peacefully in the wind.
My four-day visit also gave me a chance to experience the life of the city even more deeply.
|King of the hill: Long Son Pagoda's giant Buddhist statue located at the top of a hill, looking over Nha Trang City. — File Photos
From the first light each morning, the locals awake and throng the beach to greet the rising sun. Young and old alike gather on the beach to swim, jog, practise tai chi and play badminton and football.
Getting around the city has never been easier. Located next to the main beach, the city's hub is lively and busy from morning till late at night.
You can go around easily by bicycle, taxi or motorbike-taxi, although the city is walkable, too. But I highly recommend hiring a motorbike to get around the city and neighbouring areas of the city. It's fun and cheap (VND100,000 (US$5) a day).
I recommend a visit to Long Son Pagoda. The most striking feature about the pagoda is the 9m high white statue of Buddha at the top of the hill.
Built in 1963, the pagoda receives thousands of visitors every year, and offers lovely views of the surrounding area.
You should also visit Hon Chong (Chong Rock). Hundreds of boulders are balanced atop one another in an area steeped in legend.
The biggest rock is at the tip of the promontory and is called Chong Rock, which is said to bear the imprint of a large hand from a fisherman-giant.
While there, you could also take a break from the hustle and bustle of the city and visit the islands on a day trip.
A highly recommended tour is a one-day tour to the four islets of Hon Mun, Hon Mot, Hon Tam and Tri Nguyen.
Another highlight of Nha Trang is the local food. The Vietnamese adore their food and their culinary skills are renowned across the world.
Some of the traditional dishes native to the region will delight your tastebuds.
The local favourite is bun ca (fish noodle), a delicious dish that exemplifies the Vietnamese love of local fresh ingredients, and combines them into a simple but tasty dish.
Bun ca consists of fresh noodles topped with a large steak or filet of white fish and small fish balls.
You should also try banh can, a small round cake made from rice-flour batter. The batter is poured into clay molds, baked above a charcoal fire and then topped with fried green onions.
All of your favourite dishes can be found within the main tourist area, and visitors have plenty of choice.
If that isn't your cup of tea, fear not. The city caters to all types of palettes and a wide range of international cuisine is on offer, including Italian, Indian, French, American, Spanish and Mexican.
As I toured the city during my stay, I noticed that many more expatriates were now living in Nha Trang.
But it didn't surprise me. People of all nationalities and from all walks of life have decided to make the city home because of its beautiful scenery, low cost of living and less frenetic way of life. — VNS