Nha Trang, Vietnam: Likes (all worth your time) & Dislikes (not worth a dime)

Nha Trang in Vietnam is midway along the south central coastline of Vietnam, north of Saigon (Ho Chi Minh) and south of Hue (and way south of Hanoi). A few years ago I road my Trek 4500 series mountain bike, loaded with panniers, down the entire Vietnam coast, then onward to Cambodia. This write-up, however, won't be about Cambodia or a boring review of the great things to see and do in Vietnam—there are actually quite a lot. If I may propose to tire you with my tales, I'd like to tell you a little about Nha Trang and then go on to tell you what I think you might like and what you might dislike. Just in spite of me, you may choose to do both.

A bit of the educational stuff, though uneventful is worth acknowledging. Nha Trang is a coastal city in Vietnam. Last time I went, it was a "small" city (for Asia) at around 250,000 people—they say to take off a zero, and this will give you an idea of what the population feels like—this would mean that Nha Trang feels like a city of 25,000 people to westerners, for example—though not rocket science, it does have some truth. At any rate, Nha Trang is fast becoming a cheesy melting tourist casserole.

The beaches are white and brown and the water is about as turquoise as grandmother's pendant. It's great for scuba diving, beach lounging, walking and swimming. Many places accept American dollars (not so worthless here), with tourist paying about twice as much as the locals for food and beverages. Though Vietnam is communistic, it has an air of masked capitalism, where even the tourist agencies (flights, busses and tours) are government run, ran by government employees (you'd never know it).

Dislikes Not Worth A Dime (for your time):

First, the water is purposively calm 250 days out of 500 days per year. When I visited, I really wanted to partake in a cheap, $50 USD discovery dive; these take neophyte divers thirty meters under the sea with trained scuba divers. The sea, however, was rough and brown and cold. I felt jiped and let down. However, there are several PADI certified diving operations in Nha Trang and finding economical deals is not strenuous. (I would have settled for the $20 dollar half-day party boat, but even it didn't leave the docks.

Secondly, I was eager to glimpse (and ride in) one of those hand-woven bamboo stripped baskets that locals take back and forth to their boats. With a floorboard and two oars, locals can sit on the bedpan shaped vessel and paddle around. The only ones I saw were destroyed in remnants on the beach; they would neither float nor did they look like the pictures. If you come in search of photographing locals, I hope you have better weather and luck finding them. Sometimes, it's hard to find a Vietnamese along the coast in Nha Trang, not that there is anything wrong with Speedo-sportin' Germans (hey, I'm part German so I can say what I want!).

Likes (worth your time):

Nha Trang has plenty to offer and more to see and do than many of the shambled towns along the coast (I got to stay in plenty of those). One of the best things to do in Nha Trang won't even cost you a dime. Everyone should take time to saunter down the beach. It is lined with palms and the evening sunset and reflecting off the water is to die for. Go barefoot or bring sandals and hold your lovers hand (I end up holding my own).

Since we're talking about walking here, I think the Cham Towers should not be missed. They are from the single digit centuries (7-12th) and remain surprisingly intact. If you'd like a view of the city, then this is one place a nice hike might be worth it. The reddish tint and unique architecture give it gothic-Buddhist quality.

The mineral waterfall and the mud baths all near Nha Trang make for some nice excursions if you'd rather fuddle around with fresh water (and especially if you're unlucky like me and get choppy water). Renting a bike and riding around the city and ending up at the little falls is a nice cooling off point. If again you've got someone who loves you back (unlike me at the time) then it's worth a romantic endeavor. Though don't get naked, it's not France.