An independent travel guide to Haiphong with candid reviews and recommendations. No sponsored content, no advertorial.

Haiphong travel guide

Haiphong Introduction

| 02 Sep 2011
Last updated 02 Sep 2011

The first post war wave of sun seeking tourists to Nha Trang’s picturesque beaches arrived in the 1980s. They were from the former Soviet bloc. The Soviet Union was crumbling, but those with the means travelled to the far flung beach destinations of fraternal communist allies.    

By the 1990s, the Soviet Union had ceased to exist and a modest travel market to Nha Trang had dried up. Vietnam’s economy was facing a parallel disaster with the loss of its superpower patron. Fearing it might go the same way, Vietnam opened its doors to foreign investment and foreign travellers. Adventure seekers from the capitalist West discovering the reforming communist state, quickly fell for Nha Trang’s charms.

In those days,  Nha Trang was a sleepy fishing town with a gentle rhythm, a handful  of decaying, low-rise state-run hotels and some of the country's best fresh seafood.

Nha Trang's setting is perfect; a stunning bay dotted with islands, neatly enclosed by lush mountains. Add to that a climate that delivers dependable sunshine 10 months a year, and Nha Trang pulls together some irresistible elements.

There are some interesting sights around town too and scenic, wide streets are a happy contrast to the chaotically busy Saigon and Hanoi.

During the past decade, tourists and tourism investments have flooded Nha Trang's picturesque waterfront. The city's future as Vietnam's first highrise, high density, tourism playground is sealed. And that brings with it fair amounts of kitsch, mediocre architecture and sleaze.

The bay is beautiful, but it's carrying the heavy burden of a medium sized city and its accompanying waste. The runoff from the Cai River into the bay doesn’t help either. The main beach is often dirty and unfit for swimming.

In early 2011, Nha Trang was dealt a savage blow when National Geographic Travel magazine designated it one of the world’s worst beach destinations on account of its poor environmental and cultural stewardship. The National Geographic sledging seems not to have deterred travellers however, who continue to arrive in droves - bolstered by a booming domestic travel market.

Nha Trang is also the gateway to Ninh Van Bay, home to two of Vietnam’s most exclusive resort destinations - Six Senses Hideaway and An Lam Villas. A good many of the guests at these isolated and expensive properties don’t spend anytime in town but they are, notionally at least, visitors to Nha Trang.

Nha Trang is a long way from being Asia's most charming or most beautiful beach destination but it can be a very nice, very good value, place to take a few days of sea and sun during your Vietnam travels.
Mark Bowyer
Mark Bowyer is the founder and publisher of Rusty Compass.
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