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


IDD Code: (+84) 56
Surrounded by great beaches, ancient Cham temples and other interesting sights, it's in explicable that Quy Nhon (Qui Nhon, pronounced Wee Ngon) is not firmly on the tourist trail. Yet this is what adds to its appeal. With few foreigners in sight, the peripheral market in hassling tourists is yet to establish itself. You'll find precious few touts, hawkers, beggars, pimps or dealers and it's quite possible to walk down the street without anyone yelling after you 'Hello! Yo!You!' The capital of Binh Dinh province and one of Vietnam's more active second-string sea-ports, this is a great spot to sample some fresh local seafood. It's perfectly located to break the long journey from Hoi An to Nha Trang with plenty to keep you occupied for a week,if lazing around on the beaches isn't enough. During the American War there was con siderable South Vietnamese, US, VC and South Korean military activity in the area. The mayor of Quy Nhon, hoping to cash in on the presence of US troops, turned his official resi dence into a large massage parlour. The large slums of tin-and-thatch shacks that sprang up around the city, built by refugees dislocated by fighting, have now largely gone. There's a historical connection between Quy Nhon and New Zealand dating back to the early 1960s, when funds and staff from New Zealand were provided to the provincial hospital and later to aid refugees. The strong links continue today, with New Zealand's Volunteer Service Abroad (VSA) involved in projects in health, fisheries management, agriculture and rural development, and the New Zealand Vietnam Health Trust providing training and specialists for the local hospital. At any one time around half of the small expat community in Quy Nhon are Kiwis.
Quy Nhon is on the coast, 10km east of Hwy lA's Phu Tai junction. The main part of town is on an cast-west orientated peninsula, shaped like an anteater's nose. The tip of the nose (the port area) is closed to the public. The municipal beach is on the peninsula s south coast, curving around to face east.
Binh Dinh Tourist (Tell: 892 524; fax 891162; 10 Đ Nguyen Hue) For local tours.
Dich Vu Internet (Tell: 811 262; 57 Đ Nguyen Hue; per hr2000d)
Main post office (Tell: 812 700; 197 Đ Phan Boi Chau;6.30am-10pm)
Kiwi Connection/Kiwi Cafe ( 18D Nguyen Hue) Free tourist information, bike and motorbike hire, local maps and connections with English-speaking drivers.
Viecombank (Tell: 822 266; 148 Đ Le Loi) On the corner of Đ Tran Hung Dao; has a 24-hour ATM. Further ATMs can be found outside the Hai Au Hotel (489 Đ An Duong Vuong) & the main post office (197 Đ Phan Boi Chau).
The long sweep of Quy Nhon's beachfront extends from the port in the northeast to the hills in the south. Beautiful to look at, it's not the cleanest place to swim. In 2006 a fishing village was cleared from the centre of the beach, cleaning up one of the least hygienic areas - a lack of basic sanitation meant you had to watch your step. At the top end, the nicest section is near Barbara's Backpackers, where a grove of coconuts lines the road. At dawn and in the evenings this area is packed with locals practising Tai Chi. Further up the beach, at low tide one of Quy Nhon's more peculiar sights reveals itself - a US Army tank, half submerged in the sand where it was abandoned by its departing owners. In the distance you can see a giant statue of Tran Hung Dao giving the Chinese the finger on the far headland. Heading south, a striking socialist-realist War Memorial dominates a small square. From here, buildings encroach on the wa-terfront for a kilometre before opening out to a parklike promenade, punctuated by large hotels, stretching to the south end of the bay. At night the bright lights of the squid boats give the illusion of a floating town far out to sea.
This, small museum (Tell: 822 452; 28 Đ Nguyen Hue; admission free; 7-11am & 2-5pm summer, 730-11am & (1.30-4.30pm winter) features exhibits on regional history. The entry hall focuses on local Communism, including an interesting silk print (Zuy Nhat, 1959) showing a fat French colonist sitting aloft mandarins, in turn supported by bureaucrats, and cruel bosses, with the struggling masses supporting the whole lot. The room to the left has a small Natural History section and some Cham statues, while the rear room has the bulk of the excellent Cham collection. The room to the right of the entrance is devoted to the American War, with local relics such as the "Spittoon of Heroic Vietnamese Mother Huynh Thi Bon'. A disturbing section captioned in English details various US and South Korean atrocities committed in the area.
Like Kylie or Madonna, Barbara has achieved such a level of renown in Quy Nhon that she needs only one name. She's a one-woman, font-of-all-knowledge on things Quy Nhon, where Barbara's Backpackers and Kiwi Cafe are ex-pat institutions. Barbara Dawson (she actually does have a last name) first arrived in Quy Nhon in 1995, teach-ing English in a local high school and administering New Zealand's VSA project. She started her tourist business the Kiwi Connection in 2002, opening Barbara's Backpackers and briefly branching out into a second property, Barbara's on the Beach, before the Vietnamese Army took a shine to it and took it over. When she's not got her tourism hat on. she stilt acts as a liaison for the New Zealand Vietnam Health Trust. If you want to find out anything about Quy Nhon, Barbara's trusty tourist folder lists al! the major sights, practical information and even listings of rival hotels and restaurants. She has bikes and motorbikes for rent and can introduce you to reliable English-speaking drivers for tours around the area.
This remarkable pair of Cham towers (admission 2000d; 8-11 am & 1-6 pm) sits within the city confines in a little park. Steep steps lead in to the former temples, which are open to the sky. Atypically for Cham architecture, they have curved pyramidal roofs rather than the usual terracing. The larger tower (20m tall) retains some of its ornate brickwork and remnants of the granite statuary that once graced its summit. The dismembered torsos of garuda (griffin like beings) can be seen at the corners of the roofs. To get here, take Đ Tran Hung Dao away from the centre and turn right into the lane after number 900 (Đ Thap Doi). The towers are down the first lane on the right, about 100m from the main road.
It's hard to miss the 17m-high Buddha (built in 1972), heralding Quy Nhon's main pagoda -set back from the road next to 143 D Tran Cao Van. Founded in 1715 by a Chinese merchant, the monks who reside here preside over the religious affairs of the city's relatively active Buddhist community. The pagoda was repaired in 1957 after being damaged during the Franco-Viet Minh War. Mosaic dragons with manes of broken glass lead up to the main building, flanked by towers sheltering a giant drum (on the left) and an enormous bell (right). Inside, in front of the large copper Thich Ca Buddha (with its multicoloured neon halo) is a drawing of multi-armed and multi- eyed Chuan De (the Goddess of Mercy); the numerous arms and eyes symbolise her ability to touch and see all.
Quy Nhon's second most active pagoda,Tam An ( 58 B Ngo Quyen), is a charming little place is attracts mostly female worshipers, although it's open to all.
BUDGET: Barbara'sBackpackers ( 180 Nguyen Hue; dm 40,000d, r US$6-10; An old- school backpackers with considerable cham but less in the way of facilities, Barbara’s friendly establishment is Budget Heaven Directly across from the beach, this slightly rundown but deliciously '70s building crazy tiles, wood panels and a dramatic cur staircase. The great-value four-person dorm sits atop a large balcony-like rooftop with views. It has its own cold-water shower i separate toilet, but no air-con. A private re with a fan and shared bathroom costs IK while the US$10 room includes a bask suite and air-con, but no fridge or TV.
Anh Yy Hotel (Tell 847 763; 8 Đ An Duong Vuong 120,000-200,000) This new, family-run mini- hotel has clean rooms with tiny en suites some great sea views.
Quy Hotel (Tell: 813 567; fax 812188; 9 Đ Chu Van An;r 120,000-250,000d;The decor is wild in older establishment, where the bathroom are like little houses inside the rooms; a rickety bamboo bridge leads to a lovely rooftop terrace.
Hai Yen (Tell: 822 480; 104 Đ Hai Ba Trung; r 1511-200,000;The nicest of the budget accommo-dation. What the family that runs this p lack in English they more than make up in friendliness and service. All the rooms different, so look at a few before deciding.Some are nearly suites, with a sitting area private balcony.
AuCo-BenBoBien ( 8 & 24 Đ An Duong Vuong; r 160.000-300,000. The same family runs these two hotels s the same name a block apart, made even more confusing by one of them sharing the s street address as the Anh Vy Hotel. Number 8 is the slightly nicer of the two, looking a Vietnamese take on San Francisco's iconici houses. Narrow stairs with carved woo dragons on the balustrades lead to clean rooms with tiny bathrooms but great! views and balconies. Number 24 has tries facilities and prices but is even more kit with fake trees dominating the lobby
Saigon Quynhon Hotel ( 24 Đ Nguyen Hue; s US$35-50, d US$45-60, ste US$100-400;This flash new hotel, well positioned on the waterfront, has surprisingly reasonable rates. The rooms have all the bells and whistles, including safety boxes, plush carpets, fluffy bathrobes, free wireless internet and seaviews.
Resort Hoang Anh Quy Nhon (1 Đ Han Mac Tu; s US$80-110, d US$95-140, ste US$200; Occupying a beautiful stretch of golden sand at the southernmost end of the bay, it's cruel that the water's not clean enough for swimming - although the enticing large swimming pool is Just compensation. This stylish resort has a grand reception opening on to the water, a fitness centre, a tennis court and well-appointed rooms with nice linen and seaward balconies.
LifeResort ( Ghenh Rang, Bai Dai Beach; (US$152-175, ste US$198;This Dutch-owned resort, set on a beauyiful beach 18km south of the town, seems to have got every detail right. A subtle Charn influence carries through the architecture and interior design. The spacious, bright room are un-fussily elegant, with sturnning open-pLan bath rooms. You can indulge in a spa treatment, Tai Chi on the beach, snorkeiling or lake a boat to the resort's little offshore island. The wonderful staff offer friendly service and speak excellent English - one can only hope they're paid com-mensurately to the prices. The restaurant's food and wine selection is exceptional.
Eating & Drinking
Kiwi Cafe ( 18 Đ Nguyen Hue; mains 15,000-30,000d;breakfast, lunch & dinner) The choice of ex-pats and tourists alike, this place has a welcoming vibe and serves delicious Western-style food. The smoothies are excellent, and breakfast includes Kiwi favourites such as French toast with bacon, bananas and maple syrup. It's also the best place for a drink in town, with the bar open later than most and interesting conversation easy to come by.
Que Huong (Tell: 812 123; 125 Đ Tang Bat Ho; dishes 30,000-40,000d) This friendly eatery spread over two floors has a good down-home vibe, serving everything from seafood and meat to snake and frogs.
Thu Hong (Tell: 821176; 189 Đ Tang Bat Ho; dishes 30,000-40,000d) A small family place, serving a good fish soup.

2000 (Tell:812787;10 Tran Doc;dishes,4000-90,000d lunch & dinner) There's no denying the freshness of the seafood, as you walk past the large tubs of live crabs and fish downstairs. A table on an upstairs balcony provides a little distance from the rowdy main dining room of this popular boo'zy joint, Try a seafood hotpot or some ot the massive steamed prawns.
Dong (Tell:824 877; 26 Đ Nguyen Lac; dishes US$3 10,lunch & dinner) Another of a cluster of popular seafood restaurants along the tiny lanes ot Tran Doc and Nguyen Lac towards the centre of the bay. Keep heading upstairs for a slightly quieter meal.
Tinh Tam (141 Đ Tran Cao Van; mains 5000-I0.000d), Right next to Long Khanh Pagoda, this place serves extremely good vegetarian meals in basic surrounds.
Bun (79 Đ Hai Ba Trung; meals 7000d) A humble place which does great pho, served with lots of fresh herbs and a pastry stick.
Seaview Cafe (Tell:820 100; 24 Đ Nguyen Hue) On the 8th-floor rooftop of the Saigon Quyhon Hotel, this is a great place to grab a coffee or a sundowner and enjoy the amazing views. There's also free wi-fi. Quy Nhon has lots of delicious street food all around the town centre. If you've got a sweet tooth, check out the tasty bakery items and ice cream at Kem Ngoc Nga (Tell: 821 562:326 Đ Phan Boi Chau).
Lon Market (Cho Lon, ĐTang Bat Ho) In the dead centre of town, you'll find everything you d expect from a Vietnamese market - from truit and meat, to clothes and hardware. Co-op Mart (Tell: 821321; 7 Đ Le Duan) This huge new development is supposedly a supermarket but, like a traditional market, sells a little bit of everything. The only difference between this and Lon Market is that prices are marked and there are check-outs. Nguyen Nga Centre (2 Đ Tang Bat Ho) The shop attached to this centre for disabled children sells lovely homemade weavings, handicrafts and clothing, with the money going towards run-ning the centre and giving the students an income. Shedding US$50 here will provide you with a huge bagful of interesting gifts to take home. Don't be put off if the gate's closed - it's kept shut to ensure none of the kids wander off.
How does a young woman end up responsible for a school for 250 disabled students. 100 of which live on site? For Ms Nguyen Thi Thanh Nga it all started in 1990 when her younger sister severely injured her leg in an accident. While caring for her sister, the awful plight of disabled people in her poverty-stricken homeland really hit home. In 1993, having just left high school herself, Nga leapt into action - starting vocational handicrafts training (knitting and embroidery) for 10 young people with disabilities. Thirteen years later her school has stretched to two buildings and has programmes in literacy, sign language. Braille, computer skills, dress-making, handicrafts, ait and music - for children with impaired hearing, impaired sight, intellectual or physical disabilities. An early intervention programme means that there is residential care for infants ranging from one to six.
Apart from the buildings, the centre gets no financial support from the government, it is completely dependent on donations and the money made by the sale of handicrafts. A contract with Intrepid Travel producing satchels embroidered with the slogan 'Say no to plastic bags' is one way the older kids can earn some money, with a percentage going to the running of the centre. If you're not financially able to make a donation or buy stacks of goodies in the shop, there are still a number of ways you can contribute. Consider bringing a bagful of old clothes or toys with you. Perhaps someone in the family has a stash of old baby clothes in the attic. How about that old laptop gathering dust since your last upgrade? Look at it this way - you can use the hag you've emptied out to fill up again with new gear in the tailor shops in Hoi An! If you've got experience in working with disabled children, or you're happy to muck in practically, volunteering might be an option. Make sure you email or phone first to see whether you can be of use. Walking around the centre with Nga, It's obvious how much the kids love her. This beautiful, passionate young woman works here seven days a week. This is her life.
Getting There & Away
AIR: Vietnam Airlines flights link Quy Nhon with HCMC daily (515,000d) and with Danang three times per week (365,000d). There's a Vietnam Airlines booking office (Tell:825 313; 55 Đ Le Hong Phong) offering a minibus transfer (25,000d) for airline passengers between the office and Phu Cat airport, 36km north of the city.
BUS: Quy Nhon bus station (Ben Xe Khach Quy Nhon, Tell: 846 246,- Đ TaySon) is on the south side of town. The next major stop north is Quang Ngai (60,000d. 31/2 hours), with 11 daily buses heading on to Danang (65,000d) and one to Hue (110.000d). Heading south there are regular services to Tuy Hoa (50,000d, two hours) and on to Nha Trang (65,000d), with four heading all the way toHCMC(155,000d). Quy Nhon is a great access point for the central highlands. There are plenty of buses to Pleiku (45,000d, four hours, 18 daily), of which five head on to Kon Turn (50,000d, five hours) and at least one to Buon Ma Thuot (85,000d) and Dalat (110,000d). It is now possible to get a bus all the with to Pakse in Laos, crossing the new border north of Kon Turn (250,000d, 12 hours, four per week). Lao visas are not available at this border.
Road distances from Quy Nhon are: 677b to HCMC, 238km to Nha Trang. 186km to Pleiku, 198km to Kon Turn, 174km to Quang Ngai and 303km to Danang.
The nearest the Reunification Express trains get to Quy Nhon is Dieu Tri, 10km from the city. Quy Nhon train station (Ga Quy Nhon; Đ Le Ha Phong; Tell: 822036) is at the end of a 10km spur off the main north-south track. Only very stop local trains stop here and they are not worth bothering with. It's better to get to/from Die Tri by taxi or xe om (motorcycle taxi) for around 50,000d. Tickets for trains departing from Dieu Tri can be purchased at the Quy Nhon trail station, though if you arrive in Dieu Tri by train, your best bet is to purchase an onward ticket before leaving the station. Ticket prices to destinations include: Danang (133,000d, 51/2 to 71/2 hours, seven daily), Quang Ngai (72,000d, 21/2 to four hours, seven daily), Tuy Hoa (44,000d, 11/2 to two hours, seven daily), Nha Trang (93,000d, four hours, eight daily) and HCMC (248,000d, 10 to 14 hours, seven daily).