Viet Nam News
by Gia Lộc
For a brief moment, I thought I’d been transported to the majestic Big Sur Highway in California: stunning scenery, shimmering blue water, a rugged, rocky coastline and pristine beaches as far as the eye could see.
But we were a world away from that famed stretch of highway.
Together with business colleagues, my husband, daughter and I were travelling by car on a 500km-long trip from HCM City to our destination: the resort city of Nha Trang in south-central Khánh Hòa Province.
We had hit the road at 6:30am sharp in HCM City to ensure that there was enough daylight for our planned detours along the way, which included well-trodden tourist sites as well as unspoiled landscapes.
All of us were already familiar with well-developed Nha Trang, known internationally for its lively atmosphere full of restaurants, bars and beach life.
So we were eager to visit nearby Ninh Thuận Province, one of the driest areas of the country with long hours of sunshine.
We had heard that the province had remained largely untouched and that it had world-class coastal scenery.
After hours of driving and a few stops along the way, we finally reached the 106-km Ninth Thuận Coastal Road, which opened to traffic just last year.
The road, which winds through the Chúa Mountain range, is bordered by majestic forested hills on the left and long stretches of sandy beaches on the right.
Local authorities had decided to build the road, which links the province’s Thuận Bắc District bordering Khánh Hòa and Thuận Nam District in Bình Thuận, to take advantage of the tourism potential of the area.
In recent years, the number of tourists in Ninh Thuận has risen annually by 16 per cent. Last year, more than 1.4 million tourists visited.
As we passed by salt fields in Thuận Nam District, we decided to stop at orchards to sample the area’s grapes, which had a lovely sweet and sour flavour.
Along both sides of the road in the district, we noticed fields of sheep. Our city children, who had never seen the animals, were so fascinated that they did not want to return to our car.
The farmers explained to us that the fleece of the sheep was not sufficiently white and thick to use as wool, so the animals were raised for meat.
The sheep fields became famous after being included the film Dấu Chân Du Mục aired on VTV3 channel in 2014. The film featured the nomadic people who sometimes live in the province.
As we drove along the coastal road, we were astonished by the breathtaking beauty of the area and the luminous green and yellow colours of the trees on the mountain range.
On this section of the road we stopped at the Rái (Otter) caves, Bình Tiên beach and Bình Hưng Island, all highly photogenic sites.
Home to otters, the Rái caves are small openings along the rocky coastline. Many large rocks of different shapes and sizes, worn smooth for hundreds of thousands of years by sea waves, surround the caves. Nearby are coral reefs under the transparent blue sea.
When we arrived at the caves at noon, we had unfortunately missed the sunrise, which is said to turn the sea and rocks an otherworldly red colour.
Our friend, Phạm Nguyễn Quang Duy of HCM City, who loves this area, had told us about Ninh Thuận before our trip. He had travelled by motorbike to the area even before the coastal road was built.
He recommended that on a future trip we stay at Bình Hưng Island, a serene place off the coast known for its delicious seafood.
The region’s beauty has become more well-known in recent years, with many actors and actresses coming here, especially to the Rái caves, Bình Tiên beaches and sheep fields, to take wedding photos.
Duy and his wife still cherish their memories of their visit. “We came here, too, for our wedding photos. How wonderful they are!” – VNS