The coastal city of Nha Trang is Vietnam’s oddball. Depending on their interests people love it or avoid it. It is Vietnam’s go-to place for Russians, parties and beaches. The center is busy with many high-rise buildings growing, but there are still some older quarters left. Another reason for people to go there is the diving and snorkelling around the nearby islands. Due to the weather conditions this is only a summer activity (bad visibility in winter). We would have missed it out and rather spent 15 hours on a train to Ho Chi Minh city, but a Couchsurfing friend from Japan happened to be there on holiday. Therefore, we decided to stop there for one night and catch up with her.
We got the daytime train from Da Nang because the track along the coast is scenic with some great views. This meant we didn’t arrive in Nha Trang until 9pm but still managed to meet up with our friend. She had found some other friends there and true to the phrase ‘When in Rome…’ they wanted to go out partying. Since we were a bit tired and Zoë didn’t feel very well we decided not to go clubbing but meet them again in the morning.Our hostel was nice and not far from the beach. At $4 per person we were impressed to find free snacks in the common area, free tea time every afternoon in the lounge followed by free beer in the rooftop bar. Even a breakfast buffet was included!
Our friends picked us up and together we raced to see a catholic church near the train station before it closed. We got there on time and it was nice to be in a church for a change rather than a temple. Even though it was only 10am it was already very warm. This was the first church we have seen that did not have glass windows all round. It had stained glass windows behind the altar and some plain ones higher up the nave. The bottom rows of openings were covered with patterned metal screens. Since it was just after christmas, they also had a very funky looking nativity next to the altar.
Afterwards our friends wanted to drive out of town to see some temples since they had already seen everything in the city. Since we hadn’t we opted to enjoy the sunshine and walk along the beach. We could have gotten the ropeway across to Hon Tre island to visit VinPearl amusement park. This is a huge theme and water park with many slides, a very long lazy river and rollercoasters. Like most theme parks entry wasn’t particularly cheap and by the time we would have gotten there it would have been too late to enjoy it properly.
The beach was very nice, long and sandy. Even though it wasn’t very windy, there were big waves crashing in and breaking about 20 meters before the beach. Despite getting wet a few times, we really enjoyed not doing very much and enjoying the sunshine. Along the beach are a few bars, restaurants and parks and even an outdoor gym which we took full advantage of. After a few hours of walking barefoot in the sand, some big smoothies and a decent workout in the park gym we returned to our hostel. We made it back just in time for some tea and biscuits before heading upstairs for some free beer.
Once our friends returned we went out for dinner. Our hostel recommended a Vietnamese restaurant around the corner but it was all full and our Russian guys turned around and left and did not want to wait. With only a faint idea as a backup, we wandered down along the seafront. When it turned out that they could not find the place they were looking for we went for the next best local restaurant; mainly because we had a train to catch and did not have all night to find a good place to eat. The place was big with lots of red plastic chairs but not enough staff. The menu was big but also expensive. We settled for some traditional and simple dishes which then took forever to arrive. Our drinks took even longer. Had we been on our own we would have turned around and left as soon as we saw the turtle dishes on the menu. Overall the food was bad; the worst meal we had in Vietnam in fact, and way overpriced. At least we had time to talk.
Our friend got on a later sleeper train so at least they had the time to reconcile themselves with a nice pudding. We briefly returned to our hostel, grabbed our bags and walked back to the train station.Had it not been for our CS friend, we would have stayed on the train and not stopped in Nha Trang. It is full of (Russian) tourists and lacks the soul we found in other towns and cities in Vietnam. It is very modern and is really just a beach town where people go to roast in the sun or party. We certainly would not have been sad to miss it out.