Mud Baths and Beaches in Nha Trang

Our visit to Nha Trang in South Central Vietnam has now come to an end and we’re sorry to say goodbye to it! The weather has been beautiful, the beach is beautiful and the surrounding mountains are, you guessed it, beautiful! It reminded us very much of a Vietnamese Magaluf – long, sandy beach, an abundance of bars, bar crawls and travellers making the most of the cheap alcohol prices. To some people this may sound like a nightmare and so un-Vietnamese, but we were happy to find that there is more to this city than meets the eye!

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We arrived at around 6.30 in the morning after the WORST bus journey ever! Seriously – we thought the 12 hour Hanoi to Hue bus was a bit of a nightmare, but this beat that hands down. Once again our ‘beds’ were right at the back of the bus (where it’s most bumpy) and we had even less room as all five back beds were occupied. The driver seemed to be on some sort of mission – taking part in an invisible rally race, oblivious to the fact that he was driving a great big bus with human beings lying down in it!

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So after a back breaking, wide-eyed journey we got to Nha Trang feeling extremely tired and checked into the Backpacker House. As we were so early we had to wait 5 and a half hours for our room so decided to kill time on the computer, sorting out all of our photos from our last stop in Hoi An. Things are never simple however and we plugged in our camera only to find that all our of photos were gone!

In a slight panic we started Googling what to do and decided to download a data recovery program to see if that would work. We suspected that the disappearing photos were probably down to a virus, caught by using lots of random computers and internet cafes during our travels!

We didn’t get anywhere with the program we downloaded and so Richard went to walk the streets to try and find a repair shop (if such a thing existed here!). To my surprise, he came back in about 3 minutes saying that he had found a man across the road who reckoned that he could recover our photos and fix our camera in about 10 minutes! Hmm, very dubious as to whether or not her actually understood what was wrong we sauntered over there and to our surprise, he plugged the camera in, clicked a few buttons and said, “yes, your photos are here (all 1000+ of them), where would you like me to save them”? I honestly could have kissed the guy! All our pictures were there, right in front of us!

He transferred them to our USB stick then virus scanned and reformatted our camera’s memory card and hey presto, good as new! We were so happy and would have paid him anything if it meant getting our photos back. It highlighted to us how important it is to keep our photos safe so we’ve come up with these top tips for ‘Safeguarding your holiday snaps!’

After we had sorted out our precious pics we set about booking the next part of the trip and planning the rest of our stay in Nha Trang. That night we ate dinner in the hostel before heading round to its Red Apple Bar for our free welcome drink. We then walked around the ‘tourist street’ of the city and went to a great bar called ‘Why Not?”. It played some great tunes and we were soon joined by a couple of lads we’d met in the hostel computer room. We had a great time debating the differences between Northerners and Southerners (they were from the Lake District) and trading life stories before we were joined by another fellow backpacker Imri, a lawyer from New York.

A few drinks later we decided to ask a taxi driver to take us to a ‘local nightclub’. He brought us to a place about 5 mins away which was literally shaking with the loudest music we had ever encountered! It was a strange place – full of locals jumping up and down in time to the laser lights and expats chatting up the local girls. We made a hasty exit and went to a place which was much more up our street – the Sailing Club, right on Nha Trang beach.

The Sailing Club is a bit pricier than the street bars, but for good reason. It’s such a cool place – lounge chairs, pool table, dancefloor and low lighting. Great for just chilling out by day or by night!

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Day 2 in Nha Trang started with a bit of a ‘morning after’ cloud hanging over our heads, but we soon shook that off down at the beach. The beach here is gorgeous with crisp white sand stretching as far as the eye can see. The water is lovely and warm and there are a few watersports available here too, namely paragliding and jetskiing. One of the most renowned activities to do here is snorkelling and scuba diving (coupled with a boat trip) but unfortunately we couldn’t take advantage of that as Rich was still suffering from an ear infection! From the beach you can also see Vin Pearl Island in the distance – this is a luxury island resort reached via cable car (reportedly the longest cable car in the world) – as well as the mountains that surround the bay.

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After the beach we went to hire a moped (driving in Vietnam soon becomes second-nature despite the chaos!) and do our own ‘tour’ of the city. There are loads of ‘Easy Rider’ tours available here where you can get a local driver to take you to all of the sights, but we much prefer to do it by ourselves! We drove up to the Long Son Pagoda – a Buddhist temple complex in the town which is easily reached by moped. It was originally built in 1886 on a mountain nearby, but was moved to its current site in 1990 after a cyclone destroyed most of the buildings.

The pagoda has had to be restored several times during the last century – many of the new buildings were destroyed during the Vietnam War. The current pagoda is dedicated to all of the monks who died protesting against the US supported Diem regime – there are memorial plaques all over the temple complex, each representing a monk who committed suicide. A sobering sight when you think about it.

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The star attractions of the Long Song Pagoda site have to be the giant Buddha Statues. Halfway up the hill is a massive sleeping Buddha, with Swastika’s carved onto its feet. This symbol (although taboo and stigmatized in the West as a Nazi symbol) signifies auspiciousness and good fortune within Buddhism. At the top of the hill is the white statue of the Buddha Guatama – the supreme Buddha.

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Later that evening we decided to sample Nha Trang’s local dish Nem Nuong (grilled pork wrapped in rice paper) but had to hunt out a restaurant that served it. Unfortunately, the nice looking restaurants down the road didn’t seem to have it on the menu and we were directed to an empty café round the corner. After ordering, a plate of luke-warm pork was placed on our table within about 3 seconds, followed by a host of other undesirable looking ingredients such as leaves, sticky noodles with some black stuff stuck to it and dirty rice paper! Hmm, I’m sure this dish isn’t supposed to look like this! We reluctantly wrapped a few bits of pork in the dodgy looking rice paper and ate it, soon wishing we’d just gotten up and left.

Very disappointed with our ‘taste of Nha Trang’, which we were certain would have been delicious if eaten at the right place, we got up to pay – only for the owner to try and rip us off by charging us for an extra dish we hadn’t ordered and the hand wipes that they’d put on our table! Well, we didn’t pay. We had to go to another restaurant to order some actual dinner after that otherwise we’d have gone hungry that night!

Our last day in Nha Trang was one of pure indulgence – we drove up to the Thrap Ba Hot Spring Centre, about 20 minutes drive from the centre by motorbike and booked in for a private mud bath session. The centre was brilliant and made the most of this areas natural resources. We treated ourselves to a mud bath, followed by mineral water hydrotherapy and hot mineral water bath before relaxing in the hot and cold mineral water swimming pools and sitting under a waterfall!

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The spring centre is a definite highlight of Nha Trang and we’d recommend everyone who visits to go there! There are a range of treatment options available, all taking place in beautiful surroundings. You can stay in the swimming pool for as long as you want and there are two restaurants there too for you to have lunch.

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Once we had spent as long as we possibly could being spoilt we hopped back onto the moped and headed back to town, stopping at another attraction on the way – the Po Nagar Cham Towers. This is a Cham temple complex about 10 mins drive back towards the city centre, situated on a hill beside the Cai River.

The towers were built between the 7th and 12th centuries and were originally used for Hindu worship. Today, the site is still religiously significant, but instead is used by Chinese and Vietnamese Buddhists to pray and make offerings. Only four of the original towers stand today, including the largest one, dedicated to the wife of Hindu god Shiva, Lady Po Nagar.

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Most of the complex was being renovated whilst we were there but we were still able to see the intricate detail of the temple carvings as well as the Buddhist alters that now exist inside each tower. It was obvious that this place isn’t just a tourist attraction and that it is still actively used by worshippers. We were able to witness ordinary people come and pray, as well as a group of women sat in front of the main tower, performing a prayer chant.

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Once we had taken back the moped we had rented we rounded off the day with a final visit to the gorgeous beach, before getting some shopping done for our forthcoming bus trip to Mui Ne – a small beach resort en route to Saigon, which would be our last coastal stop in Vietnam!

We thoroughly enjoyed Nha Trang after being slightly apprehensive that it was nothing but a ‘party town’ – fully equipped for tourists to get stupidly drunk, get pestered by pub ‘PRs’ and fool around on the beach until the early hours. Yes, all of this does happen here, but it’s easily avoided and there is so much more to do and see if you just make the effort!

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2 Comments

  1. December 27, 09:53 #1 Nicolas

    Hi Guys,

    Very nice blog! Should you be travelling back to Nha Trang, be sure to stay at the Ha Van hotel, Nha Trang favorite budget hotel!

    Cheers,

    Nicolas
    Ha Van hotel
    http://www.in2vietnam.com


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