Welcome to Little Moscow, Nha Trang
My arrival in Nha Trang was far from ideal, once again getting kicked off the bus on a strange dark street at 4:30am. The taxi drivers swarmed outside waiting for sleepy tourists to disembark. Its difficult to find time to put on my shoes before being bombarded with questions asking about where I’m staying or if I need a ride. These nice gentlemen charge hundreds of thousands of VND for a long ride that should be no longer than two minutes and 20,000 VND (1$). Simply put, It’s a trap and it happens at every destination. This time was noticebly bad.
I quickly learned in Vietnam to walk to my hotel, usually no more than 1 Km away from the bus stop. Of course at 4:30 am nothing is open anyway, so I took my pack to the beach to await the morning sunrise. Like a magical spell, the morning sun shone a new light on this beautiful city.
It’s amazing how fast a beautiful stretch of sand and the sound of crashing waves can turn an unpleasant night into a tranquil morning, and a busy city into a calm oasis.
The City of Nha Trang
Is a constantly developing resort town, built on the Rubbles of thousands of Russian tourists flying in on all inclusive vacation packages. The street signs, menus and hostesses at the clubs are all Russian. As a Backpacker this is unfortunate simply because the entire beach side of town has been commercialised with awful and overpriced westernised restaurants (mainly bad Italian food) and really doesn’t possess any traditional Vietnamese culture or charm.
However once outside the main beach front, there are places too see and plenty of local neighbourhoods free of tourists. Here are some of my highlights over my three days and three nights:
Thap Po Nagar
A 7th century Cham temple located a mere 50 minute walk from my hostel stands high on a hill looking out above the surrounding city. The temple is named after ‘Yan Po Nagar’, the goddess of the medieval Champa Kingdom that peaked in the 10th and 11th centuries. There are three towers: Small, medium and large and many ‘steles’ (Stone Slap Monument) recording the history of the towers as they were damaged, vandalized, rebuilt or changed hands over the ages from emperor to foreign rulers and so on. This tumultuous history emphasises the importance and durability of the temple towers and pillars.
Long Son Pagoda and Hai Duc Pagoda
This peaceful temple is located roughly 30mins walk outside the beach waterfront of Nha Trang. The temple was built in 1886 but suffered damage from both natural typhoons and historic wars.
It is very quiet despite the school just outside the gate. Inside the temple is a shrine, however it was the paintings and murals on the high ceiling that drew my eye. The images depict scenes of Buddhist meditation and longevity.
Outside the temple are stairs to the temple bell and a statue of Buddha lying down on the mountain side. A little further on the top, and formerly the original location of the temple, sits Gautama Buddha on a lotus blossom.
Warm, sunny and spacious, Nha Trang beach is beautiful! The water is the perfect temperature for cooling down just a bit after soaking in the sun.
Upon my early morning arrival, I was fortunate enough to see the locals take a quick 6am swim in the ocean before setting off to start their work day. Reassured the water was clean, I spent two days lounging on the beach and jumping over the decent sized waves splashing ashore. You can rent bogey-boards, beach chairs and order drinks at one of the many huts along the beach. It’s a good place to recharge before setting back on the backpackers trail.
The Bakery ‘Vinh Thanh’
My first taste of Vietnam sweets was amazing! The colourful pastry bakery made me regret I had waited until week three to indulge. Cakes, buns, muffins, breads and rolls of all kinds ranged from 2,500 to 14,000 VND each. For 1USD or 22,000 VND I picked up three delicious pastries: A lime cake roll, a coconut icing cake and a red bean roll. Yum yum yum!
For $5.50 USD/ night in a six person form with Wi-Fi and a good breakfast I had a cool place to stay and hangout. I was lucky as too meet some great travellers there. We drank beer on the balcony and relaxed in the air conditioned room. The new owner, as of January 2016, are kind and helpful! It used to be a party hostel True Friends Inn, under new ownership the hostel is a little calmer as it is a family run business.
Backpacking Vietnam from top to bottom is a big task, especially as travel visas range from as little as 15 days to three whole months. Some travellers have more time than others to see the sights. Nha Trang is quite beautiful, however I wouldn’t recommend it to Backpackers short on time.