Nha Trang

Each city and area in Vietnam is surprisingly different — the food, the people, and even the tourists that flock there. Nha Trang is no exception to being vastly different and unique from other cities: a seaside town known for diving, Western food, and a smorgasbord of Russian tourists. Yup, that’s right. For some reason, 90% of the people who visit Nha Trang are Russian. The restaurants and cafes even have a “Russian” menu alongside their Western and Vietnamese menus. Even the signs around the town are written in Russian. What caused this strange anomaly to happen, no one quite knows, but the Vietnamese told us that there is a direct flight from Nha Trang to a city in Russia and that is why it is such a popular destination.

For this reason, if you want to truly experience Nha Trang, you have to explore the surrounding area. Leave the main beaches and downtown core, and motorbike around the countryside. That’s exactly what the four of us did on our first day there, and it was one of the best times we had. 

The first point of interest we stopped at was the Long Son Pagoda. It was a real test of patience and nerves just getting there, since it was our first time driving in South East Asia. Although Nha Trang is fairly small and traffic isn’t as much of a concern… the people still drive crazy there. Once we reached the Pagoda, there was a man who charged us for parking. This sketched me out a little bit because my guidebook clearly said do not trust anyone who is trying to make you pay for parking. But he didn’t speak English and he wouldn’t let us leave until we paid him. Plus, I figured our bikes were safer if he was watching them and not angry with us. 

Then there was another man who was selling incense for a ridiculous sum of $5 for one stick and claiming that we needed it to be let up to the top. I knew this was a complete scam, so we pushed past him and walked/ran up the stairs to get away from him. There was no one at the top taking the incense of course or checking for anything at all. Darn those South East Asian and their elaborate scams. 

After the Pagoda, we decided to drive quite far south to Bai Dai Beach, also known as Long Beach. The drive was a beautiful and scenic journey along the ocean, turning in between rolling hills and scaling cliffs. The roads were newly paved and there was hardly anyone else there. It was heavenly.

The beach was an almost-deserted beautiful strip of sand. We ate at a beachside restaurant where the cook made the meal right in front of us. His “menu” was literally just live seafood in tanks, and we had to point at what we wanted and how many pounds of it we wanted to order. The meal was mouth-watering. Fresh, juicy, and succulent. 

At the beach, we had another scamming incident. Jenny and I wanted to go to the washroom, which you had to pay for, but there was no one there to take our money when we went in (and no big signs for how much it cost either). When we walked out and started walking away, an older lady followed us and started getting angry. She even took Jenny’s sunglasses from her head and held them hostage until Jenny gave her money. The cook at our restaurant and his wife helped us retrieve them back and apologized profusely for the incident. 

Our second day in Nha Trang was crazy adventurous because we went diving! I never thought I would suit up, strap a tank on, and dive so deep under the water, but I did it. I was terrified for 90% of the time, and 45 minutes underwater felt like ages, but the sights were so worth it. It was magical and quiet deep down in the water. There were so many different kinds of fish and coral to look at and puzzle over. 

After the dive, my head was pounding and in terrible pain, so we decided not to do a second dive but to just snorkel around. Even if you aren’t adventurous or crazy enough to dive, the snorkelling was also incredibly beautiful and peaceful. 

We dived with Sailing Club Divers, and we couldn’t have been happier with our experience. The staff were professional, friendly, and very patient. I can’t wait to do it again, and maybe, just maybe, try for my Open Water Diver Certificate. 

Highs: Best seafood of my life, Bai Dai Beach, motorbiking through the countryside, diving with Sailing Club Divers, the monks chanting in prayer at Long Son Pagoda

Lows: So many scams, overrun by Russian tourists, pricier than other parts of Vietnam, our hotel being right outside a military air base