With a view to exploring the area in depth and with possible investment in mind, three of us, my friend Long and a local tour guide Thong, took to the road and by speed boat to discover everything Nha Trang has to offer – the city, islands, beaches, restaurants and night clubs as well as the many gorgeous bays of Khanh Hoa Province.
Having travelled to Nha Trang a number of times already, for both business and leisure, occasionally with families or friends, I have stayed at various properties such as the Evason Ana Mandara with its idyllic beachfront location and ease of access to the city.
My two boys love visiting Vinpearland with its fun activities and my wife and I have escaped a few times to Six Senses Ninh Van and most recently to An Lam Villa Beach. This visit gave us the opportunity to enjoy some of the many new luxury travel experiences now open to sophisticated holidaymakers in Nha Trang and we based ourselves at the newly opened 5-star Amiana NhaTrang.
The coastal city of Nha Trang, in Khanh Hoa Province in Central Vietnam, lies on the trans-Vietnam highway, 1,278km from Hanoi and 448km from Ho Chi Minh City and is a gateway to the former French retreat of Dalat, in the central highlands, just 2 hours away by car. The city can be reached from Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City by air to Cam Ranh airport, 30km from town, or by train from Danang or Ho Chi Minh City.
Khanh Hoa Province has three famous bays: Nha Trang Bay is a premier beach resort with a long sandy beach and many bars, restaurants and dive shops along Tran Phu Boulevard, with many offshore islands ideal for snorkeling and diving; Van Phong has a long white-sand beach and lagoons and a deep seaport for industry and Cam Ranh is an off-limits naval base.
On the map, Nha Trang is in the central of Southeast Asia, Truong Sa archipelago offshore is so close the Nha Trang mainland, is just new hundred miles far aways and belongs to Khanh Hoa Province, Vietnam.
For many years Nha Trang has been a popular holiday destination for Vietnamese and international travelers, with its 7km of white-sand beach overlooking the bay, perfect for swimming in its quiet, calm waters and taking day trips out to the islands.
The islands of Mot and Mun are marine protected areas and are preferred places for scuba diving and snorkeling. Yen Island is lush and green and this is where the nests of the salangane birds have been harvested for years to make the traditional “birds’ nest soup”.
Nha Trang experiences sun year round, with an average temperature of 23°C due to mild northern winds. The rainfall is less than anywhere else in the country and the area is rarely threatened by storms as it is protected by the Truong Son Mountains and Ca Pass.
Cam Ranh Bay – Mountains meets sea
On the way to town from Cam Ranh airport you pass beautiful Long Beach and here there is a sign indicating that Hyatt and Marriott hotels are to be built. The sign of things to come.
Just 60km south of Nha Trang, the new road is lined by mountains on one side and the sea on the other, passing by many floating villages. Cam Ranh Bay is a deep sea port for a naval base with some tourism facilities.
From Cam Ranh Bay we enjoy the dramatic scenery and we can already see new resorts being constructed along the new road. So far there is only one Amanoi resort in Nui Chua National Park, on the border between Khanh Hoa and Ninh Thuan Province.
Nui Chua National Park, overlooking the sea, covers an area of about 30,000 hectares on land and sea with the highest peak, Co Tuy, 1,039m above sea level. Travelers can trek through the forest to reach the lake and then continue down to Thung Beach. Must-see destinations are the sea turtle rescue site at Thit Beach and the giant ancient coral reef dating back 2 million years in Otter Cave.
We take a boat trip out to Binh Ba Island to enjoy the delicious, fresh lobsters from a small local restaurant.
Van Phong Bay – the sand dunes and endless beach
Just 100 km and a 2-hour scenic drive from Nha Trang, past deserted beaches and fishing villages, the sand dunes and endless beach at Bai Na are even better than Mui Ne.
We had lunch in a very friendly family-run restaurant in Mui Do, facing the lagoon, serving the freshest seafood and vegetables. It wasn’t easy to find but it was worth it when we did.
Whale Island is accessed from Dam Mon jetty if you wish to escape for a few days and stay in the only lodge on the island. We decided to just cruise for an hour or so, sailing past small islands, lovely beaches and fishing villages. We are told there is even pearl production in the bay.
The land of agarwood incense and salanganebirds’nests
Just 15 minutes from Cau Da harbor by speedboat, Mieu Island has a bustling local market selling vegetables and fish, the pungent smell of fish sauce (nuoc mam) very strong. In the Whale Temple, locals come to pay their respects so that the whale will protect them at sea and bring them good luck. We take a 30-minute walk across the island to the Tri Nguyen Aquarium
One hour away are Mot and Mun islands, popular with snorkelers and scuba divers of all levels of ability, because of the rich marine life in the Hon Mun Marine Park. As time is short we observe the brightly coloured fishes from a glass-bottomed boat, which is also perfect for non-divers.
Dam Bay is a tranquil lagoon which is home to fishermen and farmers. Coconut palms dot the deserted beach.
As we cruise through the bay we discover another paradise at Tre Beach, a wild beach with tropical coconut trees. We are accompanied by Robin Loc, so called because he has escaped the rat race to live close to nature on the island.
In just 30 minutes he has caught fish for our lunch, which he serves up with forest vegetables and cold beers under the shade of a cabana. The setting is idyllic and Robin Loc plays his guitar and sings a few songs as the sea laps on the shore. Such simple pleasures and so hard to say goodbye as we head back to Nha Trang.
During our last day relaxing at our hotel, Long and I discuss what we have seen. There is still so much untapped potential in this beautiful location and he believes that he could expand his successful operation in Halong Bay, where he operates a fleet of five luxury boats, to Nha Trang Bay, one of the most beautitul 29 bays in the world.
Emperor Cruises are inspired by the opulence of the imperial reign of Bao Dai and with so many smart international hotels and resorts already here, because of its central location, future expansion of the airport to receive international flights and the seaport to large luxury cruise ships would open up so many opportunities.