VIETNAM TRAVEL

 

South Central Coast

Quang Ngai - Around Quang Ngai - Sa Huynh - Quy Nhon - Around Quy Nhon - Song Cau - Tuy Hoa - Beaches North Of Nha Trang - Nha Trang - Around Nha Trang - Phan Rang Thap Cham - Ninh Chu Beach - Ca Na - Vinh Hao - Mui Ne Beach - Phan Thiet - Ta Cu Mountain

NHATRANG

IDD Code: (+84) 58
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.
Information
BOOKSHOPS
Short/s Cafe Bar (Tell: 524 057; 1E Đ Biet Thu) Carries secondhand books, mostly in English
INTERNET ACCESS
Nha Trang has dozens of designated internet cafes all over town, and you can also get online in many hotels and travellers’s cafes.
MEDICAL SERVICES
Pasteur Institute (Tell: 822 355; 10 ĐTran Phu )Offers medical consultations and vaccinations. See p286
MONEY
Vietcombank (Tell: 822 720; 17 Đ Quang Trung, Mon-Fri) changes travellers cheques and cash advances. There's another Vietcombank (Tell:524 500; 5 Đ Hung Vuong) which has an ATM, and also exchanges and travellers cheques. There is a handy Vietcombank ATM (4 D Ie Loi) outside the main post office and another Vietcombank ATM ( 60 Đ Tran Phu) outside the Que Huong Hotel.
POST: Main post office (Tell: 823 866; 4 Đ Le Loi;6.30am-10pm) Post office branches 50 Đ Le Thanh Ton (Tell: 652 070; 09.7am-11pm); 1/29 Đ Tran Quang Khai (Tell: 522 099) '
TRAVEL AGENCIES
Khanh Hoa Tours (Tell: 526 753; 10 Đ Tran Hung Dao) Offers varous tour programmes, including boat trips. Mama Linh's Boat Tours (Tell: 522 845; 23C D Biet Thu) Known for its boat tour,Mama Linh's can also arrange trips around the proving the highlands. Sinh Cafe ( 10 D Biet Thu) Offers bargain basement local tour as well as open-tour buses.
Dangers & Annoyances
In Nha Trang there are many ways far your money to part company. We'veheard re- ports of thefts on the beach (pickpockets,and jewellery disappearing during an embrace), during massages (a third person sneaks into the room and removes money from clothes) and from hotel rooms (none of the ones listed in this hook, but you should still be cautious). Don't carry loo much on you, andl consider leaving surplus cash at the hotel reception. That way the hotel is responsible if it goes missing, although even this may not protect you from unscrupulous operators. At tourist sites unobservant foreigners may be overcharged - check the price on pre-printed tickets, check your change and don't pay more than a 2000 dong for bicycle parking. A persistent scam exists at the Long Son Pagoda, where you will be approached by children with pre-printed name badges (and occasionally older people) claiming to work for the monks. After showing you around the pagoda, whether invited to or not, they will then demand money 'for the monks' or, if that fails, insist that you buy postcards for 100,000d. The best course of action is to firmly let them know you don't require their services when they first appear. If they persist, tell them that you know they don't work for the monks and you're not about to give them any money - this should ensure a quick disappearance. If you want to give money towards the monks and upkeep of the complex, leave it in the donation boxes as you would in any other pagoda.
Sights
NHA TRANG BEACH
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 .
PO NAGAR CHAM TOWERS
The Cham towers of Po Nagar (Thap Ba, the Lady of the City; admission 4500d; (6am-6pm) 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.
LONG SON PAGODA
This striking pagoda ( 7.30-11.30am & 1.30-8pm) 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.
NHA TRANG CATHEDRAL
Built between 1928 and 1933 in the French Gothic style, complete with stained glass windows, Nha Trang Cathedral (cnr Đ Nguyen Trai & fi Thai Nguyen) stands on a small hill overlooking the train station. It's a surprisingly elegant building, given that it was constructed of simple cement blocks. A particularly colourful Vietnamese touch is the red neon outlining the crucifix, the pink back-lighting on the tabernacle and the blue neon arch and white neon halo over the statue of St Mary. In 1988 a Catholic cemetery not far from the church was disinterred to make room for a new railway building. The remains were brought to the ca¬thedral and reburied in the cavities behind the wall of plaques that line the ramp up the hill.
LONG THANH GALLERY
Located in the buistling heart of the city, Long Thanh Gallery (126 Đ Hoang Van Thu; 830-11.30am & 1-6pm Mon-Sat) showcases the work of Vietnam's most prominent photographer. Long Thanh developed his first photo in 1964 and continues to shoot extraordinary black-and-white images of everyday Vietnamese moments.
The powerful images capture the heart and soul of Vietnam. Among his most compelling works, Under the Rain is a perfectly timed shot of two young girls caught in a sudden downpour, with a mysterious beam of sunlight streaming down on them. Afternoon Countryside is another rare scene - a boy dashing across the backs of a herd of water buffalos submerged in a lake outside Nha Trang. From the images captured to their processing, there's an honesty to his work. The tactile process of mixing his own chemicals and developing the photos in a makeshift darkroom in his simple kitchen is an integral part of it. 'Colour’ and 'digital’ are dirty words in his book - let alone 'Photoshop'. His work has been honoured at photographic competitions around the world, showing internationally in nearly 60 group exhibitions, as well as solo exhibitions in Germany, Japan, Australia and the USA.
NATIONAL OCEANOGRAPHIC MUSFUM
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
ALEXANDRE YERSIN MUSEUM
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,
KHANH HOA MUSEUM
This sleepy local museum (Tell: 822 227;16 Đ Tran Phu; admission free; 8-11am & 2-5pm Mon, Wed,Fri&Sun) features displays of Cham statues and artefacts of the ethnic minorities in the province. The Uncle Ho room features several of Ho Chi Minh's personal effects, such as clothing and the microphone with which he made his famous independence speech in Hanoi on 2 September 1945.
HON CHONG PROMONTORY
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.
Activities
BOAT TOURS
Khanh Hoa province's 71 offshore islands are renowned for the remarkably clear water sur-rounding them. A trip to these islands is one of the best reasons for visiting Nha Trang, so try to schedule at least one day for a boat jour- ney. Virtually every hotel and travel company in town books island-hopping boat tours. You can pay more for a less-crowded and more luxurious boat that takes you to more islands. Indeed, you'll have to do this if you want to get in much snorkelling.
Shallow water preverts boats from reaching shore at some of the fishing villages. In this case, you must walk sometimes several hun dred metres across floats. The floats were designed for Vietnamese people, and weightier-Westerners might get wet - balance carefully and take care with your camera. Nevertheless, ifs all good fun and a visit to these villages is highly recommended.
Mama Linh's Boat Tours (Tell: 522844;fax 522 845; 23C Đ Biet Thu) are the hottest ticket for island hopping, guzzling fruit wine at the impromptu 'floating bar', and deck-side dancing. Daily trips last from 8.45am until 4.30pm, and typically include stops on Hon Mun, Hon Mot. Hon Tarn and Hon Mieu - Tickets (US$6) are sold at the office, but you can easily book at your hotel for a dollar or two more. Of course all of this fun in the sun might not be the best environment for families with children (or for recovering alcoholics). It the cultural fanfare of the Mama Linh experience does not sound up your alley, there are other more orthodox boat tours around.
Con Se Tre ( 'E', /fax 527 522; 100/16 0 Tran Phu; (8am-6pm) offers tours to Hon Tre which include a visit to Vinpearl, a look around the village and lunch (US$15), and snorkelling trips to Hon Mun (one person US$41, two people US$44, group (per person $US12). They also charter speed boats (US$35 to US$50) and wooden boats (US$30 to US$45), including snorkels and a guide. If you're brave and a good haggler (use the rates above as a benchmark) you can charter a boat directly from Cau Da dock at the south end of Nha Trang. You'll need to get there early - by 10am all the boats are gone. Another attractive alternative is joining up with one of the local dive boats, most of which will take nondivers along for a discounted rate. The cheapest way to get out on the water is to take the regular local ferry to Vinpearl on Hon Tre (adult/child 40,000/1 5000d each way), leaving from Phu Quy harbour just past Cau Da dock. At the time of research, Vinpearl was building a massive cable car to span the 3 kilometres to the island. In the interests of environmental preservation, when booking a boat tour you might consider asking if the captain anchors his boat to a buoy, as opposed to dropping anchor directly on the coral. Of course, it's hard to know if you'll get a truthful or informed answer to this question.
DIVING
Nha Trang is Vietnam's premier scuba-diving locale. Visibility averages 15m but can be as much as 30m, depending on the season (late October to early January is the worst time of year). There are around 25 dive sites in the area, both shallow and deep. There are no wrecks to visit, but some sites have good drop-offs and there are a few small underwater caves to explore. The waters support a good variety of sort ana hard corals, and a reasonable number of small reef fish. A full-day outing including boat transport, two dives and lunch typically costs between US$40 and US$70. Most dive operators also offer a range of dive courses, including a 'discover diving' programme for uncertified, first-time divers to experience the thrill under the supervision of a qualified dive master. There are dozens of dive operators hustling for business on the streets of Nha Trang. The three we've listed below are all long-running operators with environmentally responsible diving practices. There are other reputable operators, but also plenty of cowboys. Re¬member, the cheapest may not be the safest. Blue Diving Club ( 65 Đ Tran Phu) Rainbow Divers ( 90A Hung Vuong) Run by Briton Jeremy Stein, Rainbow Divers is the standard setter for diving in Vietnam, operating out of five centres nationwide. This, its head office, also includes a restaurant and bar. Sailing Club Diving ( 72-74 Đ Tran Phu) & Octopus Diving (Tell: 521629; 62 Đ Tran Phu) These are two names for the same operation operating out of two different locations on the same street.
MORE WATERY FUN
Right on the beach front, Phu Oong Water Park ( D Tran Phu; admission 20,000d, (ockers 5,000d; 9am-5pm Sat& Sun) has hydroslides, shallow pools and fountains if salt water is not your thing. If salt water is your thing, check out Mana Mana Beach Club ( Louisiane Brewhouse, 29 Đ Tran Phu. Offering windsurfing, sea kayaking, wakeboarding and sailing lessons, Mana Mana uses state-of-the-art equipment and has access to some great surfing spots in Cam Ranh Ray. Do you think hot muddy water might be your thing? Thap Ba Hot Spring Center (Tell: 834 939; 25 NgocSon; 8am-8pm) is one of the most fun experiences on offer here. For 180.000d you can sit in a wooden bathtub full of hot thermal mud, or for 60,000d per person you can slop around with a group of friends in a larger pool. The centre also has private mineral baths (50,000d) and a large outdoor heated swimming pool complete with thermal waterfalls (free with a mud or mineral bath, 30,000d otherwise). To get here, follow the signpost on the second road to the left past the Po Nagar Cham Towers and take the twisting, bumpy road for 2.5km.
Sleeping
Nha Trang has over 100 hotels to choose from, from basic to sumptuous, and new ones are sprouting up all the time. Unsurprisingly, the most expensive are on Tran Phu, the waterfront boulevard. Yet a cluster of a dozen brand new minihotels has recently spawned in a laneway at 64 Đ Tran Phu, all offering similar air-conditioned rooms for around US$8 (fan-only, US$5). Most budget rooms offer hot water, private bathrooms, fridges and TVs, although air-con may be extra. In comparison, good-value midrange options are harder to find.
BUDGET
Mai Huy (Tell: 527 553; 7H Đ Hung Vuong; r US$5-7; Pronounced 'may we’ (or 'mais out!' if you're French), it's worth searching out this new family-run minihotel, hidden down a small laneway. At US$5 for a simple clean room with a fan, fridge, satellite TV and private bathroom with hot water, it's unbelievable value for money.
Sao Mai Hotel ( 99 D Nguyen Thicn Thuat; r USS5-8; With its pretty rooftop terrace adorned with potted plants, this friendly older place is a solid budget option.
56 Hung Vuong Hotel ( 56D Hung Vuong; r US$6-11;Although not quite as nice as the Phu Quy next door, this welcoming guesthouse is still a good choice. US$10 will secure you a large room with a balcony and sea view (albeit up several flights of stairs).
HotelAnHoa ( 648/6 Đ Tran Phu;rUS$6-11; One of the better options in the new, fabulously located, budget alley, rooms range from cheapies without windows or air-con, to larger pads with bathtubs and decks.
Hotel Nhi Hang (64B/7 Đ Tran Phu; r US$6-15; Another great budget alley option, with an almost identical set-up to An Hoa.
Pho Bien( 64/1 Đ Tran Phu; r US$8-12; The best of the budget alley minihotels, some of the cheapest rooms have views and large balconies, if you can handle a few flights of stairs.
Blue Star Hotel ( 180 BietThu;rUS$8-15;This humble hotel offers all the usual facilities and has nice seaviews from the upper floors. Corner rooms have great big balconies.
Thien Long (50fi Nguyen Thi Minh Khai; US$10; At the nicer end of budget, this new minihotel has comfortable rooms with balconies and good facilities.
Phu Quy Hotel ( 54 0 Hung Vuong; r US$6-20; Pronounced Foo-Wee, the highlight of this minihotel is its rooftop terrace - it has awesome views and is great for dining, sunning or hanging around in a hammock. All the rooms are quite comfortable, and for US$10 expect a balcony, bathtub and sea view. Other reliable budget options:
Ha Minh Hotel (Map p284; ĐT: 521 048; 30 Đ Hoang Hoa Tham; r USS5-7,A basic family-run place with small rooms and clean sheets.
Yen My Hotel (22 Đ Hoang Hoa Tham; r US$5-8; The rooms are small and basic, but guests enjoy free internet and satellite TV.
Hotel Phuong Ngoc (56B Đ Nguyen Thien Thuat; r US$5-20; The more expensive rooms are overpriced, but at $5 for a fan room, the cheaper ones are better value. 62 Tran Phu Hotel (Tell: 525 095; fax 525 292; 62 Đ Tran Phu; r US$8-20;This older, state-owned, motel-like facility is set around a large courtyard/ car park, right across from the beach. The newer wing at the rear has clean, basic rooms, with sheets liberally decorated with cigarette holes.
My Long Hotel (26A Đ Nguyen Thien Thuat; r 150,000d; The rooms have all the usual facilities and are reasonably dean, but it is the lovely staff that are the drawcard here.
MIDRANGE
Our pick Perfume Grass Inn (4A Đ Biet Thu; r US$10-25; The best rooms at this inviting inn have wooden floors, wood-panelled walls, and bathtubs. Even the bright, comfortable US$10 fan rooms have great sea views. The nice folks running the place offer free internet access and breakfast.
AP Hotel (Tell: 527 544; fax 527 268; 34 Đ Nguyen Thien Thuat; r 200,000-400,000d;This wonderful new minihotel has had an expensive fit-out not in keeping with the cheap rates. The electrical appliances are impressive, especially the computers provided for the free internet service. Cheaper rooms are windowless, but the pricier options have king-size beds, huge bathtubs and balconies with sea glimpses.
Nha Trang Beach Hotel (4 Đ Tran Quang Khai; r US$13-23; The multistorey Nha Trang Beach Hotel has a cool granite lobby and friendly, efficient staff. Despite its central location, it's refreshingly quiet in the upper floors, where most of the rooms have great views and internet access.
Rainbow Hotel ( 10A Đ Biet Thu; rUS$15-30; The Rainbow's been newly renovated, although they've still kept the daggy old linen. It's good value for the price, with some seaviews.
La Paloma Hotel ( 1 Đ HonChong;rUS$15-35; This is a commendable little family-run oasis, well out of the tourist ghetto, on the northern out skirts of town. Fronting the hotel is a pleasant outdoor dining area in a palm garden, where meals (included in the price) are served family-style. The friendly owner offers guests free jeep rides into town.
Vien Dong Hotel (
1 Đ Tran Hung Dao; s 275,000-400,000d, d 330,000-440,000d. ste 550,000-650,000 d;Long a travellers' favourite, the biggest drawcard of this large old place is its swimming pool complex, with a pool big enough for laps and a smaller one for splashing about. The rooms aren't flash but they're clean enough.
La Suisse Hotel ( 3/4 Đ Tran Quang Khai; r US$18-30, ste S40;Down a quiet yet central street, till; hotel is friendly and spotless. Room number; ending in 01 boast gorgeous wrought-iron balconies, but all are pleasingly comfortable,
Bao Dai's Villas (Cau Da village; rUS$25-80;There can't be too many places where the former lodgings of an Emperor fall into the midrange category. Built in the 1920s, Emperor Bao Dai's Villas are set on a hillside close to the south edge of town. The only possible reason to stay here is historical interest, or the peace and quiet afforded by the park-like setting, The prices are quite out of touch with the facilities provided. More austere than opulent, any trace of Imperial grandeur has long disappeared from the massive, high-studded rooms. There's a private beach below and two good restaurants, one with fine bay views.
Phu Quy2 Hotel (1Đ TueTinh;rUS$28-70; This flash, multistoreyed hotel is the new sister to its popular budget namesake in the centre of town. The attractive, modern design carries into the rooms, with wooden floors, good quality linen and some amazing views. Also worth checking out:
44 Tran Phu (Tell: 523 445; fax 526 395; 44 Đ Tran Phu; r 70,000-800,000d;In a prime beachfront position and housed in a stately French colonial building, this should be one of the best hotels in town. However, on our visit we encountered surly staff, and the decor is frugal. The upper-end rooms are cavernous but fail to meet their glamorous potential.
Dong Phuong 1 Hotel ( 101-103 Đ Nguyen Thien Thuat;r in old wing USS6-10, in new wing US$ 10-30; There's a shabby charm to some of the rooms here - like the one with the image of a naked woman in the tiles above the bathtub, or the penthouse pad opening on to a massive terrace with sea views.
Dong Phuong 2 Hotel (96A D Tran Phu; r US$12-20; Big, blue Dong Phuong 2 has great views, but ifs starting to show Us age.
Hal Yen Hotel ( 40 0 Tran Phu; r 338,000-455,000d, ste 520.000d; It's getting a bit old, dirty and smelly, but Hai Yen is still notable for its swimming poof (shared with the Vien Dong Hotel), prime location and balony sea views.
TOP END
Asia Paradise Hotel ( 6 Đ Biet Thu; r USS46-78,steUSS99-124;Thisnew business-style hotel has elegant decor, comfortable beds and friendly switched-on staff and is scrupulously clean. Extras include a .small rooftop pool, gym and spa centre.
Sunrise Beach Resort (12-14 Đ Tran Phu; s US$ 140-200, d US$155-225, ste US$230-550; The colon-naded balconies make it look like a giant wedding cake, belying the simple elegance of its interiors. The rooms are suitably luxurious, with all the frills - robes, slippers, safes, hairdryers, wi-fi access etc. If you're in a suite you can indulge in a Jacuzzi on a balcony overlooking the beach. Other facilities include a baby-sitting service, spa and fitness centre and three excellent restaurants (specialising in Japanese, Vietnamese and international cuisine).
Ana Mandara Resort (ĐTranPhu;villa USS236-438, ste US$450-513; A gorgeous complex of open timber-roofed beach villas, this exquisite resort is hands-down Nha Trang's classiest accommodation offering. The decor is simple and elegant, and luxuries include two excellent restaurants, two swimming pools and a serene spa area. Although shut off behind high hedges, special nights bring the food of the street into the resort, with local women invited in as guest cooks. A free weekly cocktail evening on the beach allows guests and hosts to mingle.
Eating
Nha Trang has the widest range of international restaurants of any Vietnamese city outside of the big two. In particular, there are a number of eateries on D Tran Quang Khai catering to the significant French expat community. Excellent Vietnamese restaurants dot the tourist area, but for a more authentic experience, head to the local restaurants outside of the ghetto. The street stalls cook a vast array of seafood - don't be surprised to walk past tanks of live lobster and crabs.
VIETNAMESE
Cafe des Amis (Tell: 521009; 20 Đ Biet Thu; dishes 7,000-40,000d) A popular cheapie focussing on seafood and vegetarian fare, the walls are covered with interesting works by Vietnamese painters.
Lac Canh Restaurant (Tell: 821 391; 44 Đ Nguyen Binh Khiem; dishes 10,000-85,000d; lunch & dinner) A Nha Trang institution, Lac Canh is one of the busiest local eateries in town. Here beef squid, giant prawns, lobsters and the like are grilled at your table.
Cyclo Cafe( 5A Đ Tran Quang Khai; mains 12,000-52,000d) Run by a local couple, the Cycio Cafe has an intimate atmosphere, great service and excellent Viet-namese and Italian dishes.
Our pick Pho Call (Tell: 525 885; 76 Đ Hung Vuong; dishes 15,000-25,000d) You can watch the food being cooked at this clean, modern eatery. The meals are absolutely delicious, and the set menu - comprising soup, rice and a hotpot - is outrageously good value at 20,000d.
TrucLinh2 (Tell: 521089:210 Biet Thu; dishes 15,000-83,000d; lunch & dinner) With three restaurants dotted around the neighbourhood, popular True Linh offers a festive garden setting for diners. In the evening you can choose fresh seafood from a table in front of the restaurant and enjoy a beer while you wait.
Khanh Kat (Tell: 826657; 22 Đ Tran QuangKhai;dishes 15,000-89/000d) The hotpots are excellent at this pleasant little indoor-outdoor restaurant with linen tablecloths. While the cuisine is mainly traditional Vietnamese, you'll find some Chinese and Italian dishes.
Tin Duc ( 1/30 Đ Tran Quang Khai; dishes 20,000-50,000d) A friendly, family-run place next to a small pagoda. Tin Due serves a vegetarian-friendly selection of local favourites, as well as pizza and pasta.
Then there's Dam Market ( D Trang Nu Vuong), which has a colourful collection of stalls, including vegetarian (com chay) in the covered semicircular food pavilion.
VIETNAMESE VEGETARIAN
Two places serving excellent vegetarian food of the I-can't-believe-it's-not-meat variety are Au Lac (Tell: 813 946; 28C Đ Hoang Hoa Tham; meals 10,000d) and Bo De (Tell: 810116; 28A Đ Hoang Hoa Tham; meals 10,000d), neighbouring restaurants near the corner of D Nguyen Chanh.
FRENCH
Mai Anh (Tell: 815 920; 1/21 Đ Tran Quang Khai;mains 20.000-70,000d; lunch & dinner) Describing its menu as 'French grand cuisine' Mai Anh is the place to go for fillet steak served in a rich cognac or cream-based sauce. For 200,000d; you can indulge in a nine-course set menu 'to be shared with darling from a single plate', including a bottle of red wine.
Selene (Tell:526 813; 1/4 Đ Tran Quang Khai;mains 35,000-60.000d; breakfast, lunch & dinner) Run by a French-Canadian, this cute little eatery is adorned with colourful local art and serves a mixture of French and Italian cuisine. The pasta is particularly good.
Our pick Le Petit Bistro (Tell: 527 201; 26D Đ Tran Ouang Khai; mains 45,000-180,000d; The best of the French restaurants, Le Petit Bistro has a fantastic wine selection, as well as sourcing quality cheese and charcuterie. A testimony to the great food and wine is the number of French ex-pats who gravitate around this at-mospheric little place.
INTERNATIONAL

Same Same But Different Cafe (Tell: 524 079;111 Đ Nguyen Thien Thuat; mains 12,000-50,000d);breakfast, lunch & dinner) A good travellers' cafe, this place serves Vietnamese and Western food (including vegie dishes and tasty muesli for breakfast) at reasonable prices.
Thanh Thanh Cafe (Tell: 824 413;10 Đ Nguyen Thien Thuat; meals 15,000-75,000d) Another travellers' cafe, serving wood-fired pizza, Vietnamese dishes and other standard backpacker fare, Thanh Thanh has a pretty terracotta patio surrounded by plants. It also does deliveries.
Bombay (Tell: 524 399; 12 Đ Biet Thu; dishes 22,000-50,000d) This humble Indian restaurant with plastic chairs has plenty of tasty vegetarian and tandoori options.
Turkish Cuisine Kebab Restaurant (Tell: 525328:24B Đ HungVuong;mains40,000-100,000d; breakfast( lunch & dinner) If you're craving a kebab, this is quite possibly the only Turkish restaurant in Vietnam. It also serves pizza and pasta. Hookah pipes add to the atmosphere.
El Coyote (Tell: 526 320; 76 Đ Hung Vuong; Mains;40,000-103,000d; breakfast, lunch & dinner) This Coyote does authentic Tex-Mex food including delicious fajitas served on a sizzling plate. The owner has perhaps the most curious ethnic roots in town: he's a mixture of French, Vietnamese, Lao and Cheyenne Indian.
Louisiane Brewhouse (Tell: 521 948; 29 Đ Tran Phu; mains 50,000-130,000d); breakfast, lunch & dinner; Best known for its microbrewery and decadent beachside pool. Louisiane also serves wonderful food and an oddball selection of Moldovan wine. The menu features a mixture of Thai and European favourites, as
well as excellent Vietnamese dishes - try the traditional fish salad served with rice paper and herbs. The cakes and pastries (10,000d) are superb.
Sailing Club ( 72-74 D Tran Phu, mains 50,001;185,000d; breakfast, lunch & dinner) One of the most popular hangouts in Nha Trang, the Sailing; Club has three distinct restaurants. The wide terrace on the beach serves excellent Vietnamese cuisine. It's also good for people watching during the day and ocean breeze at night. On the street side, the Indian ocean Italian restaurants have a garden setting, the latter serving divine desserts.
Good Morning Vietnam (Tell: 522 071;19; Đ Biet Thu; mains 54,000-105,000d) The Nha Trang; branch of this Italian-run chain does gooi pizza, pasta and salads. It also screens DVDs; upstairs at 5pm and 8pm daily.
Drinking & Entertainment
Sailing Club (Tell: 826 528; 72-74 ĐTran Phu) The hippest place in town, this popular, Aussie run, open-air beach bar is where most of the party crowd ends up at some point ir the evening. It's best known for thumping music, wild dancing, flowing shots, pool and general mayhem. You can escape the madness (well, sort of) outside on the large beachside terrace.
Louisiane Brewhouse (Tell:521 948; 29 Đ Tran Phu; True to its name, the shiny copper vats herald good news for beer drinkers a! this upmarket restaurant cum microbrewery However, it's the deckchair-ringed swimming pool and beautiful beachfront that make this one of the best places to laze away the Nha Trang days.
Crazy Kirn Bar (19 Đ BietThu) Run by the ebullient Kimmy Le, this great party spot is also home base for her commendable 'Hands off the Kids!' campaign, which works to prevent paedophilia She's now set up a permanent classroom for vulnerable street kids in an upstairs corner of the bar. Part of the proceeds from the food, booze and T-shirt sales go towards the cause, Sign up at the bar if you're interested in volunteering to teach English. Crazy Kirn's has regular themed party nights, great music, good pizza and wicked cocktail buckets. Kirn's life is about to get crazier - by the time this book hits the streets her new Crazy Kim Spa & Gym should have opened down the road at 1D Đ Biet Thu.
City View Cafe (Tell 820 090; 18 Đ Tran Phu) A great place to start the evening with a sun-downer. the garden bar on the rooftop of the Yasaka Saigon Nhatrang hotel has the best views in town.
Guava ( 17 Đ Biet Thu)Cool, clean-lined and atmospheric, this lounge bar is super-stylish but never seems particularly busy. Outside is a patio shaded with trees; inside, pillow-laden sofas and a pool table. The substantial 'hangover breakfasts' are conveniently served all day.
Zippo (Tell 521117;34F Đ Nguyen Thien Thu) This friendly little bar has a free pool table and happy hours that stretch from 8pm to 11pm.
Shorty’s Cafe Bar (Tell 810 985; 1E Đ Biet Thu) If you're looking for an earlier start to the happy hour. Shorty's extends from 6pm to 10pm. There's a free pool table here as well -along with a book exchange if you're after a new read.
Shopping
Nha Trang has emerged as a reasonable place to look for art and local craft. A number of tourist-friendly shops can be found in the blocks surrounding the corner of Đ Tran Quang Khai and Đ Hung Vuong.
XQ (64 Đ Tran Phu; 8am-8pm) You're presented with a glass of green tea as you wander around this peaceful little craft village, where you can watch the-artisans at work in the embroidery workshop and gallery. The embroidery 'paintings' may not suit everybody's taste, but the painstaking detail is fascinating.
My Village (Tell 524 825; 4L Đ Hung Vuong) There's some nice lacquer-work, furniture and other souvenir-friendly art and handicraft in this little shop in the heart of the tourist precinct.
AMart (Tell:523 035; 17A Đ Biet Thu) Everyday supplies available at this handy minimart Also worth checking out are the hand-painted T-shirts done by a friendly local painter named Kim Quang (Tell: 0983-884 5397), who you can find between 2pm and 9pm working from his wheelchair at the Sailing Club (opposite).
Getting There & Away
AIR
Vietnam Airlines (Tell 526 768; 910 Nguyen Thien Thuat) connects Nha Trang with HCMC three times a day, and Hanoi and Danang daily.
BUS
Lien Tinh bus station (Ben Xe Lien Tinh; Tell: 822192;Đ 23 Thang 10) is Nha Trang's main intercity bus terminal, 500m west of the train sta-tion. Seven daily buses head north to Quy Nhon (65,000d, 51/2 hours), with at least two continuing to Danang (120.000d). Regular buses head south to Phan Rang (24,000d, 21/2 hours), with a dozen continuing on to HCMC (110,000d, 11 hours) and a similar amount heading into the highlands to Dalat (60,000d, seven hours). Nha Trang is a major stopping point on all of the tourist open-bus tours. These are the best option for accessing Mui Ne, which is not served by local buses. Sinh Cafe runs a comfortable coach at 7.30am, reaching Ca Na before 1 lam and Mui Ne just after midday. It stops here for lunch before continuing on to HCMC (arriving 5.30pm). It also runs services to Dalat (six hours) and Hoi An (11 hours).
CAR & MOTORBIKE
Road distances from Nha Trang are: 235km to Quy Nhon, 523km to Danang, 104km to Phan Rang, 250km to Mui Ne, 448km to HCMC. 205km to Dalat and 205km to Buon Ma Thuot.
TRAIN
The Nha Trang train station (Tell: 822113; Đ Thai Nguyen; ticket office 7-11.30am, 1.30-5pm & 6-10pm) is down the hill west of the cathedral. Destinations include Danang (203,000d, 81/2 to 121/2 hours, seven daily), Tuy Hoa (44,000d, 21 hours, five daily), Thap Cham (35.000d, 11/2 to 21/2 hours, eight daily) and HCMC (160,000d, seven to 121/2 hours, nine daily).
Getting Around
TO/FROM THE AIRPORT
In the last few years Nha Trang's airport has moved from the centre of town to Cam Ranh Bay, 36km to the south. A shuttle bus runs the route (return/one way 45.000/25.000d), leaving from the site of the old airport (near 86 D Tran Phu) two hours before scheduled departure times. The journey takes 40 minutes. If you can't be bothered with waiting around that long, taxis are a speedier option (30 to 40 minutes), but be sure to agree a price in advance. It should cost in the vicinity of 150,000d or US$10, although we've heard of people being scammed for double this.
BICYCLE
It's easy to get around all of the sights, including Thap Ha, by bicycle. Most major hotels have rentals for around 20,000 d per day. Watch out for the one-way system around the train .station, and the chaotic roundabouts.
TAXI, CYCLO & XE OM
Nha Trang has an excessive amount of all three. The xe om drivers are the most consistently annoying, although like taxis all over the world they seem to disappear when you actually want one. A motorcycle ride anywhere in the centre shouldn't cost more than 10,000d. Be careful at night, when some less reputable drivers moonlight as pimps and drug dealers.
CONSIDERATIONS FOR RESPONSIBLE DIVING
The popularity of diving is placing immense pressure on many sites. Please consider the following tips when diving and help preserve the ecology and beauty of Vietnam's reefs. Do not anchor on the reef, and take care not to ground boats on coral. Encourage dive operators and regulatory bodies to establish permanent moorings at popular dive sites. Avoid touching living marine organisms with your body or dragging equipment across the reef. Polyps can be damaged by even the gentlest contact. Never stand on corals, even if they look solid and robust. If you must hold on to the reef. touch only exposed rock or dead coral. Be conscious of your fins. Even without contact, the surge from heavy fin strokes near the reef can damage delicate organisms. When treading water in shallow reef areas, take care not to kick up clouds of sand. Settling sand can easily smother the delicate organisms of the reef.Practise and maintain proper buoyancy control Major damage can be done by divers descending too fast and colliding with the reef. Make sure you are correctly weighted and that your weight belt is positioned so that you stay horizontal. If you have not dived for a while, have a practice dive in a pool before taking to the reef. Be aware that buoyancy can change over the period of an extended trip: initially you may breathe harder and need more weight; a few days later you may breathe more easily and need less weight. Resist the temptation to collect or buy coral or shells. Aside from the ecological damage, taking home marine souvenirs depletes the beauty of a site and spoils the enjoyment of others. The same goes for marine archaeological sites (mainly shipwrecks). Respect their integrity;some sites are protected from looting by law