Imagine buying a plane ticket for only $30 that will take you to an amazing exotic beach town that offers great food, a few amazing sight-seeing opportunities, a non-stop party scene, restaurants and bars on a beautiful beach, and lodging as cheap as $6 a night! Is something like this possible?
There are a lot of things to see and do in Vietnam, a country rich in both culture and history. Another thing that Vietnam is slowly becoming known for is beaches! But what are the beaches really like? Are they anything compared to what is advertised in the USA?
I had spent 2 weeks in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) and learned very quickly how amazing Vietnamese food and coffee are! I had grown comfortable riding on the back of a scooter, eating street food, and drinking really strong coffee, but I had also learned about a small beach town called Nha Trang. After doing some research, it started to seem a little too good to be true, especially considering the prices I was seeing. I also started reading a lot of mixed reviews, some people raved about it and others complained about almost every aspect of their visit; of course this can be found in reviews for just about anything in existence. So I of course had to see for myself what this place was really like!
With views like that from the plane window as we were coming in for a landing I started to get excited; but was it premature? At one point I started to worry; our plane was descending, but we weren’t over land yet and at one point I thought we were about to land in the water, but of course land appeared right before the plane started swimming! I still had a long taxi ride ahead of me, so after I got off the plane on the runway and got on a bus that delivered us to the terminal and passed through the checkpoints, I grabbed a quick airport meal and alerted my hostess that I had landed and would be catching a cab shortly.
She forewarned me to come to an agreement on cost before getting in the cab, so I offered 300,000 đong ($13 USD) which was accepted and I got in. The next 25 minutes offered some pretty cool views, mainly mountains and the curvy roads that we took up and around them and eventually gave way to some epic oceans views! But would these amazing views continue all the way to Nha Trang, or was I bound for trash ridden sand and sewage infested waters?
The cab ride ended and the meter had hit 540,000 đong ($24 USD), so I had saved myself 240,000 đong ($11 USD)! The savings of bartering in Nha Trang had officially started! Though my plane ticket was only $30 USD, so I guess buying the plane ticket was the official start to the savings. I spotted a coffee place nearby and went over and got something to drink, the humidity had already started effecting me, plus I was due for some coffee anyways. I used the coffee shops wireless and contacted my hostess, she arrived after a couple minutes and showed me the way to where I would be staying, and after dropping off my stuff and learning about the nearby mart for food and drinks it was time to figure out if my journey here was in vein…
Well, I was not disappointed after the short 2 block walk to the beach. I was greeted with a slightly cooling breeze from the ocean waters and beautiful views, this is where I would be spending a lot of time for the next 2 weeks! My first choice was the Y in road, of course, I could also go straight to the water, but I like to take my time with my decisions. Besides, what if there’s a better beach spot?
My instincts said right, so of course I listened and started walking on what would become an almost daily path for me. There actually ended up being only 3 days (I think) I didn’t end up walking this path during my stay here. And if you’re wondering “why spend so much time on this path if there’s an entire small city to explore and so much coastline?” Well, I think the pictures below say it all.
The last picture directly above is what I saw every time I looked east when I walked along this path; lounge chairs, sand, parasailers, people relaxing and tanning, and of course the ocean! After enjoying the views and seeing what options there were around this area which my hostess was pointing out to me, I decided that food was a priority, the beach wouldn’t be going anywhere and my stomach takes top spot in any situation, the airport food had worn off so we grabbed some food.
After being at the restaurant for about 2 hours the sun was starting to set and I still needed to unpack some stuff from my backpack and also buy a jug of water to keep in my room and some food and snacks as well due to my late night cravings. I planned to get up tomorrow with the plan of hitting the beach. This was also a plan I would use over and over again; wouldn’t you?
I learned pretty quickly that many people complained about the dirtiness of the beaches here in Nha Trang, Vietnam and left moderate-to-bad reviews rather often. So this was something I wanted to look into. So far all the pictures you’ve seen in this post up to this point have been a good distance from the actual water, so showing only these pictures would be hiding what it actually looks like up close… So let’s take a look closer, shall we? Floating piles of trash might actually be waiting for us! Let’s find out!
There was one spot I found that I really loved, it was right near a pier and on the sandy beaches were many hammocks swinging between tall palm trees. I also didn’t encounter anyone trying to sell me sunglasses here which was nice, so I certainly spent a good amount of time here.
I know what you’re wondering; “what does the view look like when you’re lying in one of those?” well, below is a picture I snapped looking up at the trees that were supporting me! Thanks fellas!
Now, onto the cleanliness (or possibly lack thereof) of the water! I continued out onto the pier and got a view. I didn’t take any pictures right away, this was one of those moments were you just want to stop and take in what you’re experiencing. I had pictures of beaches in Vietnam as wallpapers at the office job I had before traveling, and now I was finally at one of those beaches! And people had commented stating that “beaches aren’t REALLY the nice, that’s just Photoshop!” so, is that true that the pictures are Photoshopped and all the trash is blotched out and the water is manipulated to look cleaner than it actually is? The pictures below have NOT been electronically airbrushed in Photoshop or anything like that, what you’re about to see is what you will actually see at this beach! Prepare yourself…
Sorry to disappoint you all, I know how much you wanted to see heaps of trash floating around and mutant creatures crawling out of some toxic sludge, but instead it was just clean clear water! Now, most places that look amazing in pictures also were taken at the right time before anyone visits that spot. Getting to a place early in the morning provides you clear space to take a picture without any other photographers or travelers or tourists with selfie sticks getting in the way, but all these pictures including this next one were taken in the afternoon around 2:00-3:00!
How is this possible? Crystal clear waters, amazing beaches, hammocks, palm trees, clean sand, super cheap, shouldn’t people be flocking to this place by the ton? Well, this is what a place looks like before it gets discovered by the masses, it’s currently in its infant stage of tourism. So in all honesty, if you want to visit this place and have so much room and privacy to yourself on a sunny beach like this, you need to get here NOW! While I was here I was told by countless people that the place has changed so much in the past couple years due to more and more people finding out about it! Vietnam has not been known as a “tropical paradise” getaway location, but it’s starting to be and the time to visit here is immediately! By looking at these pictures you probably already know this won’t last long before prices get inflated and the beaches get crowded.
Now since this isn’t a high traffic spot for tourists yet, there isn’t too much else to do in Nha Trang. But there a few things here to sight see aside from the beaches. The first spot are the Po Nagar Cham Towers which are located just about 5 minutes by taxi to the north of the main beaches in Nha Trang, and taxis are very cheap here so don’t worry about that. If I remember correctly the entrance fee for the visit is 50,000 đong ($2 USD). You can also walk to and from Po Nagar Cham which is about 30 minutes one-way and enjoy the views of the ocean, but make sure you have sunscreen on and plenty of water with you as there is minimal shade for a good portion of this walk. Me and a couple people I checked out the towers with decided to start walking back, but stopped about half-way to grab some cold beverages and we ended up taking a taxi the rest of the way back.
There was another place I visited that was religion based and had a hidden secret I didn’t read about, but ended up being one of the coolest things I saw during my entire time in Vietnam. It involves some stair climbing, but it’s totally worth it as the object at the top of the climb is amazing along with the view of the surrounding area that you get. This location is the Long Son Pagoda; which, if you’re staying in the city (North of the airport and south of the Cai River) you can easily get to on foot.
The temple is really cool to see along with the pagoda and the religious artifacts and the sleeping giant, but golden nugget here is the big Buddha at the top. And you can even go inside the big Buddha, though it is a prayer spot so be sure to remove your footwear and be quiet and respectful!
Next is Nha Tho Nui which is a large stone church with a statue of Ave Maria. The church may be crowded regardless of the day as weddings are common here and it is a popular spot for tourists.
A good idea during your visit here is to breakup your time at the beach with sightseeing activities. Because while spending every day at the beach may sound fun, your skin will hate you and make you pay if you don’t let it rest in the shade every couple days. Another thing I did personally was stay in during a couple of the days (2 of the times I didn’t walk the path along the beach) and try to learn some Vietnamese, which didn’t go very well, but at night I explored all the fun activities there are to do. From live music to beach parties to wall climbing; though I didn’t partake in the wall climbing is was still fun to watch, plus there’s also parasailing.
More Vietnamese Food
This also brings up the food here, which isn’t too much different from Ho Chi Minh City, but does vary a bit more as you’ll find several Russian owned places that cater to different taste buds, including some places that feature American style dishes, like the ever popular loaded french-fries! Though I did try to stick with local dishes, I ended up having to get the loaded fries at least once, home sickness sets in occasionally.
You may notice the last dish looks a bit out of place. It was Toast Benedict with Lightly Salted Salmon and the restaurant I had it at was an open wall building along the path that I walked all the time. So to accompany this dish was this view below.
Now the big question you’re wondering is “How much was it?”, because in America you would expect to pay at least $35 or more for something like this especially at a place with a view like this; at least that would be my estimated low. But this is Nha Trang, Vietnam and it’s currently in its infant stage of tourism, so this costed me a whopping 85,000 đong ($3.78 USD)! You may also wonder how much you would have to pay to lay in a lounge chair under an umbrella all day long while occasionally having food and drinks brought by. The price upon me asking was 50,000 đong, but I offered 25,000 đong which was agreed upon, so I paid $1.12 for this view.
While there are better spots, this was among the cheapest that I found since I was going for extreme budgeting. Sticking to a budget is extremely easy here as you can see; you could probably easily live on $15 a day here including a place to stay! And if you don’t eat out and cook you’re own food instead, $10 a day is very possible; as lodging can be as cheap as $6 with only a 2 block walk to the beach, so there isn’t even a need to get a taxi!
I did enjoy a slightly more expensive meal though on my last day to take further advantage of the cheap prices here. I did have a concern arise during my meal as the woman sitting at the table next to mine ended up on the ground with severe stomach cramps and turned almost pure white in the face. Apparently it was from a meal she had earlier at a different restaurant. As I mentioned in my post on Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), you have to be a bit more observant when choosing what food to eat here. I luckily had no issues with my meal which was tacos and got to enjoy a nice view of the beach. And while I did get a very common meal, I do enjoying experiencing how other countries prepare foreign foods on occasion, and these tacos were amazing!
Now, my $30 ticket was from Saigon to Nha Trang, but what if you’re leaving from the USA? Let’s break down the costs between going with a popular vacation package deal and spending a little bit of personal time going to a more unknown destination like Nha Trang!
Starting at Chicago, IL as a rather central location I selected a “Deal of the Day” Vacation Package to Honolulu, HI which is rather exotic, far away, and a beautiful beach spot, the all-inclusive total for 2 weeks is $2,866 (this includes flight, hotel, taxes, and fees) and you might think this is a good deal, but you just don’t have the money for it.
What about spending a little bit of time and planning your own trip? Round trip flight from Chicago to Saigon is $575, then since you’ll instantly hop onto another plane a round trip from Saigon to Nha Trang is $44. A decent hotel in Nha Trang will be about $10 a night ($140 total), food averages about $2 a meal if you eat out and drinks average about the same ($84 at 3 meals a day and 3 drinks a day). Let’s throw in spending $1.12 on a lounge chair with umbrella every day and a nice Vietnamese coffee every morning at about $2.00 each. This gives a total of (rounded up) $887 for the ENTIRE trip which is just under $2000 in savings! You could save even more though by doing what I did like cooking in your room rather often and only drinking water! So to answer the question posed at the beginning, I think the answer is a clear YES!
If you’re asking “why not just book a round trip flight all the way to Nha Trang?” the reason is that the cheapest round trip ticket all the way there is around $984, but booking them separate is only $619.
I used Expedia for the vacation package deal and Kayak for the DIY trip, the reason being is that most people will use sites like Expedia for the all-in-one click whereas using sites like Kayak usually involves a bit of work; which obviously pays off! The dates I chose was September 20th to October 4th (in my experience flying on Tuesdays are the cheapest), but it doesn’t matter too much as there will still be a big difference in price between the 2 methods. I will leave you with a final image of motivation that I took during my stay here: