A few years ago, a friend urged me to take a holiday in Quy Nhon.
"Just come and enjoy the peaceful life and fresh air,"
he said. At the time, I thought the city was not very appealing, so I hesitated
to go. But after my visit last month, my opinion of the place has radically
Quy Nhon, in recent years, has begun appearing on destination
lists at travel agencies, particularly for travellers seeking a holiday spot
beyond the well-trodden tourism towns of Mui Ne or Nha Trang.
The change that helped spur the city’s newfound prosperity
began in 1998, when city officials decided to build a road along the coast via
Ghenh Rang Hill which circles the Cu Mong Pass, making the city more accessible
to southern provinces.
Having decided to take my friend’s advice, we began our trip
from Phu Yen Province, travelling along a long coastal road with beautiful
We could see Quy Nhon from a distance, and the lights of the
city at night gave us the impression that it was far more developed than we had
Stopping on Ghenh Rang Hill, we arrived at the site of the Quy
Hoa Hospital, which treated leprosy patients 70 years ago.
At the time, when leprosy was considered highly contagious, the
patients had to live a highly isolated life and could not venture out into the
Han Mac Tu, one of the most talented Vietnamese poets of the
1940s, was treated for leprosy for four years, dying at the hospital at the age
Today, the so-called "hell on Earth" has changed
remarkably; the hospital still treats a variety of illnesses, including leprosy,
which is now curable.
On the hospital grounds is a statue garden that honours
internationally-reknown physicians, and a nearby beach caters to tourists.
Not far away from Quy Hoa Hospital is the enclosed Ghenh Rang
tourism area, which charges an entrance fee of VND8,000.
Inside is Han Mac Tu’s tomb, which was moved here in 1957, 17
years after he died, thanks to his close friend, the well-known writer Quach
When we arrived, we met Dzu Kha, a fan of the talented but
ill-fated poet, who has lived most of his life nearby and often gives readings
of Han’s famous poems.
Kha, his face sunburnt and leathery from sitting outdoors all
day, said his only wish was to maintain Han Mac Tu’s legacy and "make his
poems come alive".
history: Twin towers, built during the Champa period, stand
at the gate to Quy Nhon City.
space: The beach where Queen Nam Phuong, wife of the former
King Bao Dai, frolicked in seclusion.
By carving Han’s poems on wood souvenirs to sell to tourists
or organising poetry festivals, Kha plays a small but significant role in the
area’s cultural life.
A dozen metres away from the poet’s tomb is a beautiful beach
with many huge stones.
Before 1945, the beach was a favourite spot of Queen Nam Phuong,
the wife of the last Vietnamese feudal king Bao Dai. Whenever she visited, the
beach was hers alone and no one was allowed to enter.
After we left Ghenh Rang, we walked into the city centre via a
wide street resembling the famous Tran Phu Boulevard in Nha Trang. It runs along
the sea for nearly 10km until it reaches the Thi Nai Bridge, which links the
city with the Phuong Mai Peninsula.
The city, which seems to embrace the sea, has many green spaces.
Every morning and afternoon, local residents swim or walk in
parks along the coast, or in summer fly kites on a former helicopter pad that
has been transformed into a giant green square downtown.
As I watched the peaceful scene, I wondered how big cities like
HCM City and Ha Noi could create some public spaces like Quy Nhon.
In Viet Nam’s southern- central region, visitors can see
architectural evidence of the Kingdom of Champa, which occupied the area from
the second century AD to the early 1300s.
A twin tower, located on Tran Hung Dao Street, 3km from
downtown, is unique in that it is the only one not built on a hill, the most
common spot for Champa buildings.
Quy Nhon, which got its name about 400 years ago, prospered
under the Tay Son Dynasty when the Thi Nai Port was built. In 1898, King Thanh
Thai by imperial decree declared the area to be the heart of Binh Dinh Province.
At the time, the city was one of the busiest commercial towns in
the central provinces, and hosted many foreign traders.
New economic centre
Today, the city, which is 1,065km from Ha Noi, 690km from HCM
City and 176km from Pleiku, has an excellent transportation system, with
well-developed seaports, railways and airports.
While National Highways 1A and 1D link the city with the north
and the south, National Highway No 19 connects Central Highlands provinces and
northeastern Cambodia. National Highway No 14 leads to southern Laos and to
Today, Quy Nhon is one of three major tourism and commercial
centres in the southern-central region, along with the coastal cities of Da Nang
and Nha Trang.
Its landscape is diverse, and includes forests, alluvial plains,
lakes, rivers and an island. The Phuong Mai Peninsula covers 100 sq.km,
one-fifth the size of Singapore, while Thi Nai Lagoon is 50 sq.km.
Tourism facilities in the city have improved greatly, with two
luxury resorts, including the five-star Life Resort on Ghenh Rang Hill and the
Hoang Anh Gia Lai in the city centre.
Three four-star hotels, the Sai Gon–Quy Nhon, Hai Au (Seagull)
and Hoang Yen (Serin), are also popular with travellers.
The city’s most important advantage is its deep seaport, which
can welcome 30,000-tonne ships. Next year, five million tonnes of goods are
expected to be handled at the port, with the number tripling in 10 years.
In late 2006, the longest bridge in Viet Nam, 2.5km in length,
opened, linking Quy Nhon and the Phuong Mai Peninsula via the Thi Nai Lagoon.
The bridge will help kickstart growth in the 12,000ha Nhon Hoi
"Thi Nai Bridge has awakened the potential of the Phuong
Mai Peninsula," Vu Hoang Ha, the provincial Party Secretary and former
chairman of Binh Dinh People’s Committee, said.
The peninsula is well known for wind power, while the lagoon is
a good place for deep sea port development.
"The Nhon Hoi Economic Zone on the peninsula will be the
key to boosting the regional economy," he added.
The economic zone will include industrial and processing zones
for agriculture, marine and forestry processing; an oil refinery; factories for
electronics and apparel; a deep-sea port; storage facilities; a marine industry;
tourism sites; and urban and residential areas.
Total investment for the zone is expected to reach US$100
million next year.
To attract local and foreign investors, the province has issued
many incentive policies, with highly favourable conditions.
To date, 20 projects with a total investment of nearly
US$1billion have been registered with the economic zone.
The Sai Gon Invest Group (SGI), a leading industrial and
processing zone developer, which owns 20 zones in the country, has poured VND1
trillion ($55 million) to build infrastructure on an area of 630ha.
"With our long experience in industrial and processing zone
development, we believe that with huge economic potential and determination from
provincial leaders, the Nhon Hoi Economic Zone will begin to develop soon,"
said Dang Nhut, vice chairman of the SGI management board, during an interview.
Under the national plan to boost the economy in the central
region by 2020, the Prime Minister has asked authorities to hasten investment
and construction in key economic zones, including Nhon Hoi.
The Nhon Hoi zone is expected to be connected with neighbouring
zones, including Chan May in Thua Thien–Hue Province, Chu Lai in Quang Nam,
Dung Quat in Quang Ngai and Van Phong in Khanh Hoa.
The zone, which is also near the border economic zones of Duc Co
and Bo Y in the Central Highlands province of Kon Tum, will play a major role in
elevating the central region to the status of its more illustrious northern and
Blessed with an abundance of natural resources, Quy Nhon is a
city on the move. I had assumed that the sleepy town of the past was not a
tourism destination, but I had been pleasantly proven wrong. And I have my
friend to thank. — VNS