Enclosed by mountains on three sides and sloping down to a golden sand beach on the fourth, Nha Trang is a major local tourist hub, for the simple reason that it’s both typically Vietnamese and quite strikingly and starkly beautiful.
The beach side of Nha Trang is tailor made for tourists. Cruise off the coast and you’ll come across 19 different (largely uninhabited) islands, all of which are amply taken advantage of by tour operators running everything from scuba diving (Vietnam's prime spot for diving) to the ‘party boat’, which is accompanied by a (perhaps optimistic) lazy boat, and can turn into on seriously messy day out. If you prefer something a little more chilled out, Nha Trang spas clock in at a mere $4 for the chance to engulf yourself in ripe smelling mud, enjoy a massage or chill out in the naturally heated hot springs.
You could actually comfortably spend your entire time in Nha Trang just dipped in various kinds of water – there’s even a tour company that runs a (not always successful) whale watching tour – but there are some more than worthy land-based sites, too. Long Son Pagoda is home to plenty of Buddhist iconography, including a huge brass Buddha sat on a lotus leaf, and another that’s cleverly highlighted with natural light. The temple’s star attraction is a third Buddha statue, a white, lotus-balanced one that can be seen across most of the city. The entire complex is designed in memory of the monks who died fighting an old Vietnamese government, and is highlighted with intricate little details that make repeat visits and countless photographs all but essential.
Then there is the Cham Towers, a rustic old site reminiscent of a mini Angkor Wat, and notable for the chance to escape the resorts on the gentle walk around the sight – which takes you into the heart of genuine Vietnamese poverty – as the towers themselves.
Most of all, though, Nha Trang is crammed full of the kind of natural beauty that probably had you heading for Vietnam in the first place, combined with a heavy party ethos. Dive in and enjoy!