Nha Trang


Nha Trang has a split personality. One takes the form of a smaller Danang - a bustling Vietnamese city humming with commerce but blessed with access to a beautiful beach. The other is a Western resort town encompassing several blocks of hotels, tourist shops, bars and international restaurants. Entering this sheltered enclave you could be anywhere in the world, if it weren't for the constant hassling from xe om drivers, many of whom seem to moonlight as pimps and dealers. The city is indisputably beautiful, bordered by mountains, with the beach tracing an impressive long swoop along a bay dotted with islands. Topiary and modern sculpture dot the immaculately manicured foreshore. The only blight on the horizon is the Hollywood-style sign for the Vinpearl complex - an ugly scar dominating nearby Hon Tre Island. Nha Trang offers plenty to keep tourists occupied - from island-hopping boat trips and scuba diving, to mudbaths and historic sites. But the main attraction for most visitors is lounging around on deckchairs at a beach front bar and drinking cocktails in comfort.
Nha Trang Vietnam
The clear turquoise waters of Nha Trang's 6km beach are best enjoyed during the dry season -from June to early October. During heavy rains, run off from the rivers at each end of the beach flows into the bay, gradually turning it a murky brown. Most of the year, however, the water is as it appears in the tourist brochures. Even in the wettest months, rain usually falls only at night or in the morning. The best beach weather is generally before 1pm; the afternoon sea breezes can make things unpleasant until the wind dies back down around 8pm. Beach chairs are available for rent where you can sit and enjoy the drinks, light food or massages that the beach vendors have on offer. About the only time you'll need to move is to use the toilet or when the tide comes up. The two most popular lounging spots are the Sailing Club and Louisiane Brewhouse .

The Cham towers of Po Nagar were built between the 7th and 12th centuries, although the site was used for worship as early as the 2nd century AD. To this day Cham, ethnic Chinese and Vietnamese Buddhists come to Po Nagar to pray and make offerings, according to their respective traditions. This site has a continuing religious significance, so be sure to remove your shoes before entering. The towers serve as the Holy See, honouring Yang Ino Po Nagar, the goddess of the Dua (Liu) clan, which ruled over the southern part of the Chain kingdom covering Kauthara and Pan Duranga (present day Khanh IIoa and Thuan Hai provinces). The original wooden structure was razed to the ground by attacking Javanese in AD 774 but was replaced by a stone-and-brick temple (the first of its kind) in 784. There arc inscribed stone slabs scat-tered throughout the complex, most of which relate to history or religion, and provide insight into the spiritual life and social structure of the Chain. Originally the complex covered an area of 500 sq metres and there were seven or eight towers, four of which remain. All of the temples face cast, as did the original entrance to the complex, which is to the right as you ascend the hillock. In centuries past, a person coming to pray passed through the pillared meditation hall, 10 pillars of which can still be seen, before proceeding up the steep staircase to the towers. The 28m-high North Tower (Thap Chinh), with its terraced pyramidal roof, vaulted interior masonry and vestibule, is a superb example of Cham architecture. One of the tallest Cham towers, it was built in AD 817 after the original temples here were sacked and burned. The raiders also carried off a linga made of precious metal. In AD 918 King Indravarman III placed a gold mukha-linga (a carved phallus with a human face painted on it) in the North Tower, but it too was taken, this time by the Khmers. This pattern of statues being destroyed or stolen and then replaced continued until 965, when King Jaya Indravarman I replaced the gold mukha-linga with the stone figure, Uma (shakti, or a feminine manifestation of Shiva), which remains to this day. Above the entrance to the North Tower, two musicians flank a dancing four-armed Shiva, one of whose feet is on the head of the bull Nandin. The sandstone doorposts are covered with inscriptions, as are parts of the walls of the vestibule. A gong and a drum stand under the pyramid-shaped ceiling of the antechamber. In the 28m-high pyramidal main chamber, there is a black stone statue of the goddess Uma with 10 arms, two of which are hidden under her vest; she is seated and leaning back against some sort of monstrous animal. The Central Tower (Thap Nam) was built partly of recycled bricks in the 12th century on the site of a structure dating from the 7th century. It is less finely constructed than the other towers and has little ornamentation; the pyramidal roof lacks terracing or pilasters, although the interior altars were once covered with silver. There is a linga inside the main chamber. Note the inscription on the left-hand wall of the vestibule. The South Tower (Mieu Dong Nam). at one time dedicated to Sandhaka (Shiva), still shelters a linga, while the richly ornamented Northwest Tower (Thap Tay Bac) was originally dedicated to Ganesh. To the rear of the complex is a small museum with a few mediocre examples of Cham stonework; the explanatory signs are in Vietnamese only. The towers of Po Nagar stand on a granite knoll, 2km north of central Nha Trang on the banks of the Cat River. To get here from central Nha Trang, take Đ Quang Trung (which becomes D 2 Thang4) north across the Ha Ra and Xom Bong Bridges. Po Nagar can also be reached via the new Tran Phu Bridge along the beachfront road.
This striking pagoda was founded in the late 19th century and has been rebuilt several times over the years. The entrance and roofs are decorated with mosaic dragons constructed of glass and bits of ceramic tile. The main sanctuary is a hall adorned with modern interpretations of traditional motifs. Note the ferocious nose hairs on the colourful dragons wrapped around the pillars on either side of the main altar. At the top of the hill, behind the pagoda, is a huge white Buddha (Kirn Than Phat To) seated on a lotus blossom and visible from all over the city. Around the statue's base are fire-ringed relief busts of Thich Quang Due and six other Buddhist monks who died in self-immolations in 1963. The platform around the 14m-high figure has great views of Nha Trang and nearby rural areas. Ar you approach the pagoda from the street, the 152 stone steps up the hill to the Buddha begin to the right of the structure. You should take some time to explore off to the left, where there's an entrance to another hall of the pagoda. Genuinely desperate-seeming beggars congregate within the complex, as do a number of scam-artists. The pagoda is located about 400m west of the train station, just off Đ 23 Thang10.
Housed in a grand French-colonial building in the port district of Cau Da at the fai south end of Nha Trang is the National Oceano-graphic Museum ( 1 Cau Da; adult/child 15,000/7000d; (6am-6pm). Attached to the Occanographic Institute founded in 1923, signs direct you around the tanks of colourful live marine life and the 60,000 jars of pickled specimens that make up the collection. There are also stuffed birds and sea mammals and displays of local boats and fishing artefacts. Most of the signs have English translations, so a guide is unnecessary
Dr Alexandre Yersin (1863-1943) founded Nha Trang's Pasteur Institute in 1895. He was probably the Frenchman most loved by the Vietnamese. Born in Switzerland, he came to Vietnam in 1889 after working under Louis Pasteur in Paris. He learned to speak Vietnamese fluently, and spent the next few years travelling throughout the central highlands and recording his observations. During this period he came upon the site of what is now Dalat and recommended to the government that a hill station be established there. Yersin also introduced rubber and quinine-producing trees to Vietnam. In 1894, while in Hong Kong, he discovered the rat-borne microbe that causes bubonic plague. At his request. Dr Yersin was buried near Nha Trang. Today, the Pasteur Institute in Nha Trang coordinates vaccination and hygiene programmes for the country's southern coastal region. The institute produces vaccines and carries out medical research and testing to European standards. Physicians at the clinic here offer medical advice to around 70 patients a day. Vietnam's two other Pasteur Institutes are in HCMC and Dalat. Yersin's library and office are now an interesting museum (Tell:822 355; 10 Đ Tran Phu; admission 26,000(8-11am & 2-4.30pm Mon-Fri, 8-11am Sat). Items on display include laboratory equipment (such as his astronomical instruments), books from his library, a fascinating 3-D photo viewer and some of the thousand or so letters written to his mother! The model boat was given to him by local fishermen with whom he spent a great deal of his time. Tours of the museum arc guided in French, English and Vietnamese, and a short film on Yersin's life is also shown,
The narrow granite promontory of Hon Chong offers views of the mountainous coastline north of Nha Trang and the nearby islands. The beach here has a more local flavour than Nha Trang Beach, but the accompanying refuse makes it a less attractive option for swimming or sunbathing. There's a gargantuan handprint on the massive boulder balanced at the tip of the promontory. According to legend, a drunken giant male fairy made it when he fell while spying a female fairy bathing nude at Bai Tien (Fairy Beach), the point of land closest to Hon Rua. They fell in love but the gods intervened, sending the male fairy away. The lovesick female fairy waited patiently for him to return, but after a very long time she lay down in sorrow and turned into Nui Co Tien (Fairy Mountain). Looking to the northeast from Hon Chong Promontory, the peak on the right is supposed to be her face, gazing up towards the sky; the middle peak is her breasts; and the summit on the left (the highest) forms her crossed legs. About 300m south of Hon Chong (towards Nha Trang) and a few dozen metres from the beach is tiny Hon Do (Red Island), which has a Buddhist temple on top. To the northeast is Hon Rua (Tortoise Island), which really does resemble a tortoise. The two islands of Hon Yen are off in the distance to the east.



The beauty of Nha Trang's largest and closest offshore island is now marred on the city side by a huge Hollywood-style sign advertising Vinpearl. Complex International - a new compound of restaurants, nightclubs, shops, kids' rides, hotels and an amphitheatre. The wealthy Ukrainian-Vietnamese owners have now started work on a cable car stretching 3 kilometres from Vinpearl to the mainland.
All the tourist literature touts Hon Mieu (also called Tri Nguyen Island) as the site of an outdoor aquarium (Ho Ca Tri Nguyen). In fact, the aquarium is an important fish-breeding farm, where over 40 species offish, crustacean and other marine creatures are raised in three separate compartments. There is also a cafe built on stills over the water. Ask around for canoe rentals. The main village on Hon Mieu is Tri Nguyen. Bai Soai is a gravel beach on the far side of Hon Mieu from Cau Da. There are a few rustic bungalows (US$6) on the island. Most people will take some sort of boat tour booked through a hotel, cafe or Khanh Hoa Tourist. Impoverished and less-hurried travellers might catch one of the regular ferries that go to Tri Nguyen village from Cau Da dock.
Hon Mun is situated just southeast of Bamboo Island and is well known for its snorkelling;
Sandwiched neatly between Ebony Island am Hon Tam is tiny Hon Mot; it's another great place for snorkelling.

Also known as Salangane Island, this is the name applied to (who lump-shaped island visible from Nha Trang Beach. These and other islands off Khanh Hoa province are the source of Vietnam's finest swiftlet (salangane nests. There Is a small, seclude beach here. The 17 km trip out to the island takes three to four hours by small boat from Nha Trang.
Suoi Tien (Fairy Spring)
The enchanting little spring seems to pop out of nowhere. Like a small oasis, the Fairy Spring is decorated with its own natural garden of tropical vegetation and smooth boulders. You'll need to rent a motorbike or car to reach the spring- Drive south on Hwy 1 A for 27km to Suoi Cat, turning right (west) at the blue and white 'Huong Lo 39' sign. After 5km you'll see a sign directing you to the spring.
Cam Ranh Harbour
The gorgeous natural harbour of Cam Ranh Bay is 35km south of Nha Trang and 56km north of Phan Rang. With the opening of the excellent new airport road, beautiful Bai Dai (Long Beach), forming the northern head of the harbour, has become much more accessible. Largely unspoilt, the government has been encouraging development - although at the time of research the one major completed resort had long been languishing unopened in search of a buyer. Driving the beach road, reminders of the American War come in the form of abandoned tanks peering out of the sand. The military still controls access to much of this area but are starting to work with tourist operators. Nha Trang's Mana Mana Beach Club has negotiated access to some of the best surf breaks in Vietnam. To get here you can take the airport shuttle bus. although you'll need to time your visit around flight times. A one-way journey in a taxi will cost about 150,000d, but you'll be able to negotiate something considerably cheaper, including waiting time, with a motorcycle driver.

Source: lonely planet



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