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Nha Trang | The Flipside of Oriental Vietnam

In Nha Trang, chatoyant skyscrapers stump the beautiful tiled roof pagodas, cyrillic script fills the menu pages burying the diacritic filled alphabets and the woodsy soviet fragrance drowns the ethereal scent of burning incense.

The Russians are definitely a dense population in the tourist census of Nha Trang among many others who have found their way to the beach capital of Vietnam. As they are expectedly high spenders and party-loving people, more recreational facilities have become available where most other international tourists and affluent locals also benefit from. Budem (cheers) to that!   
Nha Trang is one of the cities in Vietnam that had grown out of its Champa history. It is historically known as Kauthara, an empire founded by the Chams in 7th century. They built massive and wealthy principalities in south central Vietnam until its dissipation to wars and foreign colonization in the early 19th century. Traces of its power are evidenced by the ruins of its huge brick-laden temples along this side of the country.
The major tourism draws of Nha Trang are its beaches. Along the famous Nha Trang Bay is a 6-kilometer city beachline that are most often than not, filled with beach bums either for a good swim, a tan or just lazing around. Across the city line are islands decked with luxury resorts and amusement parks best crossed on a scenic cable car rides. Vinpearl and Ana Mandara are the most famous ones. Snorkeling and diving are among the well-loved tourist activities.
The happening street of Tran Phu is probably one of the loveliest seaside streets in all of Indochina. Posh hotels, chic cafes, fancy restaurants and pocket gardens line the glittering soft yellow coast. At night, Tran Phu shines even more as neon marquees and laser beams illuminate the streets for a nightlong of party!
Shopping is not much of a scene here as most of its few treasure troves like the Cho Dam Market are more for the Slavic-speaking shoppers who can well afford without bargaining. Don’t wonder if the Vietnamese hawkers in their smattering of Russian would ignore your huddling. As Nha Trang has put itself into the international tourism circuit of Vietnam, many of its restaurants come also in intercontinental choices. Some are good, some are so-so but all are pricey.
Contrasting to its vivid modernity are a few traces of its ancient past. The city’s landmark is 1886 Long Son Pagoda where a large statue of a white Buddha sits atop Trai Thuy Mountain. Going far older is Po Nagar Tower built by the Champa in 781 on the summit of Cu Lao Mountain. Aside from its historical value, it is also the best spot to catch a panoramic view of the city.
There’s no denying that Nha Trang’s touristy character can sometimes be intimidating or unappealing to those seeking bucolic sceneries. But the beach is so long, the bay is too wide and the islands are quite a number so you can certainly find a spot that suits your fancy. While it may be on a fast commercial spin, moving around Nha Trang is always at your desired pace. From ancient to contemporary, from highlands to islands, from chicken pho to beef stroganov, Nha Trang is filled with options.
  • Nha Trang is accessible by train and direct buses from anywhere in Vietnam.
  • It also has an international airport (where most arrivals are chartered flights coming from Russian cities and Incheon, South Korea).
  • Nha Trang is normally included in the open bus ticket itinerary, whether you purchased it in Pham Ngu Lao in Saigon or the Old Quarter in Hanoi.
  • Luxury hotels are along Tran Phu, the beach boulevard area.
  • Mid-range hotels and budget inns are just along the back street of Tran Phu called Hung Voung.
  • Getting around Nha Trang is best taken on foot as the sights within the city are just within reach. However, going to Po Nagar Tower needs to be on a motorbike or taxi.
  • Other sights in Nha Trang include Bamboo Island, National Oceanographic Museum, Hon Chong Promontory and Thap Ba Hotspring.

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