Beach bliss in Vietnam

By | Category: Travel destinations, Travel tips & opinions

Swap Britain’s chills for beach thrills. Now is the perfect time to head to Nha Trang says one member of the CD Traveller team

Life too stressed? Holidays too hectic? It’s time to take a trip to Nha Trang. If you’ve ever wondered what Goa looked like before the hippies or Thailand before the high rise hotels, then Nha Trang could be your last chance to find out. Vietnam’s beach capital may not have previously figured on your mental map, yet when you get there it’s hard to see why not.

Let me paint the picture… the sea is the colour of Bombay sapphire, the sky is perpetually blue and the sand is platinum blonde and squeaks when you walk on it. To the beach you can add cultural treasures, great surf and dive sites, good retail therapy, lively nightlife, fabulous food and everything from hostels to super swish resorts like the Sheraton Nha Trang Hotel & Spa – Nha Trang’s hot new hotel that even Clark Gable would find it impossible not to give a damn about.

Perched picturesquely on the seafront, a stay at the 30 story Sheraton (Sheraton.com/nhatrang) is like being wrapped in the softest most luxurious cashmere blanket thanks its smattering of excellent restaurants, sea views from virtually every space including all 284 guest rooms, serious service values (as yet unmatched by any other hotel in Nha Trang) and own secluded private beach.

nt

Indeed it’s the beach – a 7km stretch of fine white sand which looks like the kind of place you’d see Bond wading ashore in his Speedos – that is Nha Trang’s big draw. Right now it’s warm rather than scorching, but six hours of sunshine a day is still a distinct improvement on Beijing. Nha Trang’s powdery beach is the perfect place to perfect the art of doing nothing: if the idea of chilling out and drinking under palms in perfect peace does it for you, look no further. Nha Trang’s languorous rhythms nudge travellers to adjust their goals accordingly. My daily activities roster? One: frolic in the crystal clear water and work up an appetite. Two: walk. Three: forget about my body and order another pina colada. Four: top up the tan.

If lying on a lounger doesn’t satisfy (maybe you’re from Mars or something), take to the water. For adventure junkies it’s all about the sea – being on, under or above it. Nha Trang’s numerous water sport pavilions offer sailing, snorkelling, windsurfing, parasailing and, above all, scuba diving (if you dive, you’ve arrived) on the door step. Chances are you’ll be amazed as I was (and still am) by the beauty and incredible diversity of the reef – not for nothing is Nha Trang known as Vietnam’s premier scuba diving destination.

The beach and blue green sea are the big headline grabbers but, while undeniably beautiful, they tend to divert attention from some equally enticing attractions. When you’re beached out, check out the Po Nagar Cham Towers (a wonderful example of Cham architecture slap bang in the centre of town), the striking Long Son Pagoda whose entrance and roofs are decorated with mosaic dragons and the elegant Nha Trang Cathedral for a dose of leisurely culture.

nhatrang2

Yet while the aforementioned are perfectly pleasant ways to pass an afternoon, Nha Trang’s real selling point (beyond the beach) is its street life – best witnessed over at Dam Market. A kaleidoscope of conical hats mill around the entrance while inside you’ll find vibrant stalls selling everything from batteries, shoes (yours for the price of a pizza) and silk to toilet paper, papaya and pho – the unofficial national noodle dish.

On the subject of food, it’s exquisite and as good as anything you’ll find in Hanoi and Saigon. Standout restaurants include Steam n’ Spice – a dim sum dining concept celebrating the best of Asia’s streets – Toastina, a trendy waterfront venue where you can recharge those batteries over a freshly baked homemade cake and tropical smoothie, and Lanterns. The latter is a great place to indulge in authentic Vietnamese flavours – think braised pork in claypot or fried tofu with lemongrass – for a good cause. The restaurant supports a local orphanage and invites the children and their carers into dine each month.

cooking class hcm_2_1

But eating the food isn’t always enough. If, like me, you need recipes head to the cooking school at the Sheraton Nha Trang Hotel & Spa. Loved by tourists, Vietnam’s first purpose built cooking school holds regular culinary classes. Students spend the morning walking around the local market with the chef, enthusiastically learning the secrets of Vietnamese cuisine, before being taught how to cook staples such as spring rolls (and of course tasting plenty of dishes!) back at the base.

However, if nourishing your soul is more important than feeding your face, sign up for a spa session. While nobody visits Nha Trang simply to go to a spa, they are nonetheless becoming something of a speciality and a day (or least a few illicit hours) in a seriously good spa should feature near the top of everyone’s holiday list. Doze as a trained therapist gently administers an exotic treatment in a serene spa like Shine before hitting Nha Trang’s bumpin’ bar scene that rages on until dawn.

Something of a Nha Trang institution, The Sailing Club is a friendly bustling establishment on the beach that’s a great spot for a night out. As you stand watching the waves crash onto the shore with a cool beer in hand while a calypso throbs in the background, you won’t want to be anywhere else. For in truth, travelling to Nha Trang is like stepping into a fairytale and no matter whether you’re a novice or a seasoned traveller, this beach charmer will steal your heart. Pack the t shirt and sunnies and get going – before the developers move in and the spell breaks.

Where to stay

overview-sheraton-nha-trang_tn

The beachfront Sheraton Nha Trang Hotel & Spa is easily the most stylish and elegant hotel in town. Facilities include a full-service spa, health club, outdoor pool and six superb restaurants. To make a reservation, email reservations.nhatrang@sheraton.com

If you enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing to the RSS feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader.
Tags: ,