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Welcome to the beach capital of Vietnam. It may not be a charmer like Mui Ne or a historic jewel like Hoi An, but there is a certain something about Nha Trang that just keeps them coming back for more. For most it is the beautiful beach, the best municipal stretch of sand in the country, while the offshore islands add to the appeal, offering decadent boat trips on the water and some of Vietnam’s best diving under it.
The setting is stunning, with towering mountains looming up behind the city and the sweeping beach stretching into the distance, the turquoise waters dotted with little islands. The beachfront has been given a huge makeover in recent years, with parks and sculpture gardens spread along the shorefront, although by night it still reverts to a bit of a circus with motorbike drivers doubling as pimps and dealers, and kamikaze hookers hoping to relieve drunken tourists of their remaining dong.
Nha Trang is a study in contrasts, as the main city is still a bustling Vietnamese entity, buzzing along oblivious to the tourist crowds lining the shore. Hugging the coast for a few blocks is a fully fledged international resort, complete with high-rise hotels, souvenir shops, stylish restaurants and sophisticated bars. This part of town could be anywhere in the world, but the steady soundtrack of xe om drivers will soon bring you back to the Vietnamese reality.
It is not only the blissful beaches and glorious coastline that define Nha Trang. It also offers some of the best dining beyond Hanoi and Saigon, with a bounty from the sea and an array of international flavours. As the restaurants wind down, the nightlife cranks up – Nha Trang is a party town at heart, like any self-respecting resort should be. Forget the curfews of the capital; people play late in this town.
If cocktails and shooters aren’t your flavour, there are some more sedate activities on offer beyond the waters. Try an old-school spa treatment with a visit to a mudbath or explore centuries-old Cham towers still standing in the centre of town. Or throw culture to the wind and experience Vinpearl Land, Nha Trang’s attempt at Disneyworld. Nha Trang has something for everyone. This part of the country has its very own microclimate and the rains tend to come from October until December, a time best avoided if you are into lazing on the beach or diving in crystal-clear waters