On the seaside town of Nha Trang, time slips into oblivion at the Le Cabanon Bar & Restaurant. Located on the vibrant Hung Vuong Street lit by neon lights, this bar and restaurant attracts a mix of cosmopolitan diversity.
Nha Trang is said to be the scuba diving mecca of Vietnam and its popularity with international tourists is soaring as evidenced from the many hotels that cater to every budget – From the backpackers’ inn at any back lane you turn into to the luxurious Evason Ana Mandara.
This city, spreading over an area of 251km2, borders South China Sea by the east. Along the coastal stretch, vendors selling fruits or hot steamed food including lobster may try to part you and your dollar.
For the solo traveller, Nha Trang is the perfect place because of its small size and developing tourism industry. At the Sailing Club on the beach beside the infamous Louisiane Bar, singles are spotted slouching on the couch with their iPads while gulping concoctions like the chili-strawberry martini.
The full-moon beach party held every Saturday except during low season is one of the crowd pleasers in this small and relatively quiet town. Attracting local and foreigners, mostly in their twenties – who sway their bodies to the loud, although not-so-trendy music sampled by various DJs.
Do not leave Nha Trang without trying one of the seafood restaurants that displays a smorgasbord of live seafood. For a reasonable price, these marine creatures are prepared and cooked to your liking. One of my favourites is the crab cooked with ginger and tamarind sauce.
If you still can’t get enough of the local cuisine, the Sheraton Hotel and Spa constitutes a cooking school where you can embark on a whirlwind cyclo ride to the local market before lesson begins.
History has it that the founder of the Cham state, Lady Po Nagar, originated from the Khanh Hoa province. The Cham people are an ethnic group in Southeast Asia concentrated in central Vietnam.
Perhaps the best example of the Cham architecture is the Po Nagar Cham Towers perched on a little mountain. From here, you can get a picturesque view of this capital of the Khanh Hoa province.
If you wander down left from the Po Nagar Cham Towers, an alley fronted by vendors selling fresh flowers leads to a small wet market. There is panoply of such markets in Nha Trang but it would be tough luck trying to find some souvenirs.
In the inner city of Nha Trang, there is an open air market – Cho Dam – that sells practically everything: electronics, clothes, kitchen utensils, dried food and of course, Vietnamese handicrafts. The fresh produce such as seafood, fruits and vegetables are separated from these dry goods.
If Narcissus were in Nha Trang, he would not have given the Thap Ba Hot Spring Mud Bath a miss. Dipping one’s body in warm mud in wooden tubs for two, four or eight, it felt like a catalyst rekindling fond memories of friendship or for many, courtship. Most tour companies offer packages for this attraction, completed with a return journey to your hotel.
With all these attractions enough to keep you on your feet while not soaking up the sun on the long stretch of beach, residents in and around Southeast Asia do not have to travel too far to escape the hustle and bustle of the city streets.
- Bi Lee