On the south central coast of Vietnam, famous Nha Trang is the show-off of Vietnam’s beach holiday scene, with infinite stretches of white sand beach, a scattered archipelago beyond, and forested mountains behind. During the Vietnam War, the beach city of Nha Trang was where US soldiers would head for some R&R, and today it’s got a real sense of fun and swagger, asking little more of visitors than to lie back on the beautiful beach with an iced-sugarcane drink; enjoy the amazing diving and snorkelling, or – if feeling particularly energetic, to trek Hon Ba Peak amongst primary forest and waterfalls.
South of Nha Trang in the Ninh Thuan province, the coastal town of Phan Rang doesn’t have the prettiest of beaches, but it’s an excellent base for anyone who wants to inject some history into their Vietnamese holiday, along with some breathtaking natural sites in the nearby Nui Chua National Park.
Dotted around Phan Rang are some of the best preserved Cham towers in the country: red brick vestiges of a civilisation that was largely ousted by the Khmers (but whom still live in small communities around Phan Rang, with the men wearing traditional white head-dresses). A holiday here may also include a trip to the hanging lake which lies on the peak of Chua Mountain, the surrounding craft villages, and the pre-historic coral reef where turtles can be seen nesting on the arid shores.
Anyone visiting Than Thiet – one of the most southerly beach towns in the Binh Thuan Province – will be struck straight away by the different landscape, which compared with the lush green rice paddies further north in Vietnam, has a mixture of cactus-peppered desert and mangroves.
This landscape makes for some of the most beautiful palm-tree lined beaches in Vietnam (particularly the 2km Mui Ne beach, which lies in a rippling lake of sand-dunes), whilst the exposed shores make Than Thiet amazing for wind-surfing. Aside from this, visitors to Than Thiet will discover the same charms that Saigon-ites seek for their laid-back weekend holidays, with traditional round boats to be seen bobbing around the peaceful shores – and of course, yet more amazing sea food.