GO­ING COASTAL

Shandelle Bat­tersby sam­ples the sights and sounds of Nha Trang on the south­east coast

Herald on Sunday - - VIETNAM -

When you ar­rive at Viet­nam’s south­ern port city of Nha Trang, the first thing you no­tice are the gi­ant tow­ers, sup­port­ing a stream of ca­ble cars trav­el­ling to Hon Tre Is­land, home of the Vin­pearl lux­ury re­sort.

But there’s plenty to ex­plore on the main­land of this pretty coastal city.

Take a cy­clo tour

Get your bear­ings from the front seat of a cy­clo — a mo­torised bi­cy­cle taxi. Nha Trang’s streets are hec­tic, but nowhere near as fran­tic as big­ger cities like Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh. Start near the beach and head in­land, keep­ing watch for places you’d like to re­turn to on foot. You’ll pay about $1.50 per kilo­me­tre and be sure to keep a few dong aside to tip your driver — af­ter all, he’s done all the hard work.

See the Bud­dhist statue at the Long Son Pagoda

Early morn­ing is the best time of day to climb the 150 or so steps to the gi­ant sit­ting Bud­dha over­look­ing the city at the base of Trai Thuy Moun­tain. You’ll need ap­pro­pri­ate cloth­ing to en­ter the his­toric pagoda be­low. The views are worth the hike, but be warned there’s plenty of rub­bish ly­ing around and keep your pos­ses­sions close.

Soak in a min­eral mud bath

Nha Trang is fa­mous for its geo­ther­mal mud but this is no Ro­torua — there’s a dis­tinct lack of sul­phur in the air here. There are plenty of places you can head for a soak — I-Re­sort is one of the nicest. Pour your­self a choco­latey mud bath out of an ac­tual tap, then rinse off and en­joy the hot springs, water­park and ther­mal water­fall. The min­er­als in the mud will leave your skin mois­turised for hours. Tow­els are sup­plied.

Learn some lo­cal folklore

The Hon Chong Promon­tory, north of the city, is fa­mous for its gran­ite boul­ders, one of which is said to fea­ture the hand­print of a gi­ant. In folklore there are sev­eral ver­sions of how his hand­print got there, the most likely is he lost his bal­ance when he saw a fe­male fairy skinny-dip­ping in the bay.

We’ll leave it up to you to de­cide.

Visit a se­ri­ously old HIndu temple

Among the city’s most prized at­trac­tions are the four re­main­ing Po Na­gar Cham Tow­ers on Cu Lao Moun­tain, be­lieved to date back to be­fore

781 BCE. The Cham were peo­ple from an­cient king­dom, Champa, who were Hindu in ori­gin. You can en­ter the tow­ers and see the trea­sures within, but you must cover up — there are com­pli­men­tary robes on site — as the site is still used for wor­ship.

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Hang out at the beach

Nha Trang’s shore­line is the jewel in its crown and Tran Phu Beach is in the thick of the ac­tion, of­fer­ing nightlife, restau­rants and shop­ping. If you’re stay­ing at a beach­front ho­tel you’ll have ac­cess to its loungers, other­wise ex­pect to pay. There are amaz­ing beaches fur­ther afield if you have time.

Seated Bud­dha at Long Son; in­set: Cham Tow­ers of Po Na­gar. Pho­tos / Getty Images

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