Nha Trang, Vietnam
Nha Trang is a coastal resort city conveniently located 1/4 of the way between Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. With such a long coastline, I wanted to visit a few cities and see their differences.
I was impressed by the overnight bus system which mostly paralleled the coast and was happy about the fairly efficient predefined paths, but I still booked my own custom route in order to maximize my time and make up for lost days on the Cambodia-Vietnam border. When I arrived in Nha Trang, I had to switch operators, but was able to leave my bag with them as I set off to explore the city.
I started off walking to the beach, watching mostly old people swimming, sunbathing and performing morning exercises. As I traversed the long coastline, I saw numerous new luxury resorts and modern high rises under construction, so I shifted more inland to get a better sense for day to day life. I enjoyed free tea with a Vietnamese coffee order while using free wifi, which seems to be ubiquitous.
Then I headed further inland to Long Son Pagoda, featuring a large Buddha atop a hill. There I was surprised to run into a couple of Americans, which allowed me to ask for some suggestions. They pointed north across the river to Thap Ba Ponagar and advised against the theme park to the south. Given the lack of notable attractions in the city, I decided to walk across the bridge to Thap Ba Pongar so I could weave through small streets and neighborhoods along the way.
Thap Ba Pongar, an ancient temple atop another smaller hill was full of Chinese tourists and smoke from incense, but it had a beautiful resting spot overlooking the city and free cold water after the long hike.
I noticed Nha Trang University located nearby, so I headed over there but it was nearly empty due to Ho Chi Minh’s birthday. I watched a group of dancers practice, got a free bottle of ice tea and leisurely enjoyed the quiet and cool campus.
With awareness that most places would be closed due to the holiday, I headed back to the bus pickup. On my way back, I met a Vietnamese shop keeper who knew better Russian than English. Strangely, Nha Trang is a popular destination for Russians while Europeans and Americans visit other parts of Vietnam. One back at the bus operator, I hung out with the staff and waited for the next overnight bus for Hoi An.
Riding a series of overnight buses or other transports is very taxing, regardless of its convenience and should only be utilized if desperate to save time or money on accommodations. I’m trying this strategy partly because I want to recover from a few lost travel days, but I also feel I can handle it because I got a lot of rest while in limbo. Vietnam is a good place to try this blitz strategy.