Guest Author - Teresa Coates
Famous for its bright blue water and long sandy beach, Nha Trang is a tourist draw for both locals and foreigners. Located on the southern coast of Vietnam, the small city of Nha Trang is an ideal beach town with more than just the water to hold your interest. There are ancient Cham towers, an enormous Buddha, museums and, donít tell the kiddos yet, even an island-bound amusement park.
Just north of town are small remnants of a vast kingdomó-Po Nagar. The Cham people once occupied much of what is now central and southern Vietnam and while most of their effects have been wiped away, some remain, including the towers in Nha Trang, as well as the towers outside of Hue, Tam Ky and Hoa Lai. Po Nagar was built on a hill and much of the vegetation remains even after its restoration. The once-forest floor has been replaced by a cement deck surrounding the three temples and new bricks have been mortared in to support the buildings, but its glory has not been lost. Built in the late 700s, the area was neglected for many years. Now, itís back in use with shrines in each building. Be sure to wear knee-covering skirts and avoid shorts or tanks if you want to enter.
Long Son Pagoda is tucked away in the west of Nha Trang, hidden from the main road. Itís still an active Buddhist monastery with both women and men monks walking the grounds, praying in the large temple and generally keeping to themselves. You will find numerous postcard sellers and others who are more than happy to practice their English with you in return for some of your money. Once you get past them (or buy their wares) you can head up the stone stairs that lead first to the reclining Buddha, then to the seated Buddha. Hidden behind the gates to your left as you ascend the stairs, the Buddha rests, sparkling in the sunlight. When you continue up the stairs, you canít help but notice the gargantuan white Buddha sitting atop a lotus flower. Below him, around the base of the statue, are the faces of monks who immolated themselves in protest. Around back, take notice of the two guard figures: one angry, one pleasant.
Nha Trang, famous for its beaches, was also the home of Alexendre Yersin, a compatriot of Louis Pasteur and the founding father of the city. Today, youíll find one of the main thoroughfares named for him, as well as a museum dedicated to the work of the two scientists.
And then there is the amusement park. Vinpearl Land is accessible via ferry park or cable cars and price includes all day, unlimited rides, as well as your fare to and from the island (2009 price: 300,000VND each; 210,000VND for children under 1.4m). Broken into areas, you'll easily spend the entire day there riding on the roller coaster, playing bumper cars, riding the water slides or splashing in the wave pool. There are several restaurants in the park and the fine white sand beach is easily accessible from the water park. There is also a resort on the island, Vinpearl, if you feel a bit like isolating yourself out in the bay.
Nha Trang offers a variety of Western and Vietnamese restaurants, gorgeous beaches, touches of history and enough to keep you occupied for days without ever getting bored.