- Glenda K. from Oceanside, CA
Nha Trang (pronounce “nya chang”) is a seaside town located on the south central coast of Vietnam, in Khanh Hoa Province. It used to be a small fishing village of Vietnam until the French recognized it as a perfect place for sunbathing, so they invested in the transformation to turn this place into a resort town.
Today, Nha Trang attracts a large number of domestic as well as international tourists from all over the world thanks to its pristine beach, scuba diving center, newly and beautifully developed resorts (i.e. Vinpearl, Hon Tam, etc), and diverse tourism activities.
Here are my tips visiting Nha Trang – everything from when to visit, how to get there and what to do.
When to Travel:
Peak season for tourism in Nha Trang is the summer. Therefore, if you plan to visit Nha Trang from May to August, be prepared to book your hotel and your transportation tickets well in advance. However, thanks to its tropical climate, the temperature stays warm all year long for you to enjoy the beach. But my advice is to try to avoid the rainy seasons during October and November because the beach can be disappointing when the weather is grey and the waves choppy.
If you don’t have much time to spare, traveling by air would be your best option. A short flight from Ho Chi Minh City (duration of 1 hour) or from Hanoi (1.5 hours) or from Da Nang (1.25 hours) will take you to Cam Ranh Airport which is located 30 km away from the city center.
If you are on a budget, bus is your option. Most open tour buses arrive from Ho Chi Minh City in the South (taking 10-12 hours) or Hoi An in the North (taking 16 hours). They drop their passengers in the main tourist area around Bien Thuy, while the public bus station is about 10-minute walk west of the center.
The train is a great option for people who have time to spare and want to admire the beauty along the road. Nha Trang is a stop on the main railway-line connecting Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. If you want a soft-sleeper (the highest class available on Vietnamese trains, simply meaning single bed with mattress), book your train ticket directly at the train station as far in advance as you can. You will have to pay more from an agent. Also, hotels will typically be able to buy the ticket for you (for a fee).
Nha Trang has a reliable and easy to navigate public bus service, where the ticket fare does is very low for a ride on a modern, air-conditioned bus, complete with Vietnamese music! You will find buses No. 3 and No. 2 the most useful, since they pass through the southern quarters. If you are not sure of which bus to take, you can always check at hotel reception. But remember to check before you head out, because language is still a big barrier here.
Alternatively, there are taxis, motorbikes and cyclos always available for your convenience.
Historical and Cultural Tourism:
Long Son Pagoda: Here, you will see a 79 ft. tall white Buddha. The pagoda was established in 1963 to honor the monks who gave their lives protesting against the President Diem’s corrupted regime. To get here you have to climb 152 steps, so make sure you are fit! This place gives you an excellent bird’s eye view of Nha Trang.
Po Nagar Cham Towers: These four brick towers were built by the Cham civilization between the 7th and 12th century to honor Yang Ino Po Ngar, mother of the kingdom, and the incense aroma emanating from within makes it clear that this remains a religious site for the local Buddhists of Nha Trang today. The small complex sits on a hill (yes, more steps!!) which enjoys views across Nha Trang’s fishing village. It is surrounded by small, beautiful gardens with plentiful seating so that you can take in the atmosphere, while pausing to reflect and refresh your soul.
Bao Dai Villa: The Bao Dai Villas are located on top of a small hill. You have a beautiful view of the Nha Trang bay from there. The wind is cool and it is a nice place to relax at when it is too hot in the city.
What to Do?
Yang Bay Waterfalls (40km west of Nha Trang): At the Yang Bay Waterfalls, the locals have built up a concrete beach. You can swim there, and walk around in the area. You should probably bring your own food and drink when you go there.
Thap Ba Hot Springs and Mud Baths (on the north side of Nha Trang): This is a must-have experience at an amazingly cheap price for the mineral pool and the mud bath. Located on the outskirts of the city, this place provides the most relaxing services you can imagine.
Boat Cruises: Most tours are complete with snorkeling, fishing and many other activities. Tours may provide lunch with drinks on board. Booking agents abound, so compare itineraries to find the best fits for you. My advice: take the 4-island trip. Besides the great common activities like snorkeling, you will be able to enjoy a ramshackle live band, great food and a floating bar! (I know you’re saying “Drinking and swimming, that doesn’t make sense!” but believe me it’s real fun!)
Diving & Snorkeling: Close-off shore from Nha Trang sit a series of islands that offer decent diving and snorkeling, easily accessible by day trip. The city has about two dozen dive shops, making for fierce competition and great value.
Night Life: Many cafes in Nha Trang have live music at night time. They vary in type and quality, so ask around. One favorite is Fuji cafe on Yersin Street. They have live music Thursday to Saturday from 8.30pm-10pm. A small entrance fee is added to the bill. Or, you can check out foreign performers at Red Apple Club, Guava Bar or at the El Coyote Mexican Restaurant (every Friday).
What to Eat?
Nha Trang has no shortage of eating options to suit all budgets, from Vietnamese-style informal pavement cafes on plastic chairs to high-end restaurants. Nha Trang is famous throughout Vietnam for its seafood but also offers a broad range of Western cuisine. Also Nha Trang is known among Vietnamese as the city that offers nicest and most affordable food. One dish you shouldn’t miss when coming to Nha Trang is Banh Canh cha ca Nha Trang (Nha Trang Fishcake Noodle). Fishcakes are made from several types of fresh fish. It can be steamed or fried. The soup was cooked for a long time in order to get all the sweetness of fish.
Now that you’ve learned almost everything I know about Nha Trang, I’m sure you can see why this is one of my most favorite places. I hope this provided you with enough information if you are planning a trip to Nha Trang. If you have any questions or comments, please submit them in the form below.
We got a room for a week through an exchange with RCI. It was a four hour drive from Chandigarh and away from the hustle bustle of Shimla and next to the Bishop Cotton School and the police headquarters.
Since it was off season, we got a good room (no. 602 on the 3rd floor). The rooms are huge and the furniture, fixtures and fittings in the entire hotel are from China. The bed is almost 9 feet wide (so I was quite blessed not to hear my spouse snoring…but had to really shift to snuggle up). Bathrooms are also very modern and the shower has a massage spout console to ease you after the long walks…
The food is expensive so we rarely ate at the resort. For breakfast we had carried theplas and other stuff and they have a coffee maker. But there aren't many options for food nearby. A good trek uphill takes you to the Ashiana restaurant which is spooky but the food was good and a good value for money. Besides that, you need a vehicle to find restaurants. The bus stand is just downhill at Kalini Chowk which takes you to the Mall.
In the mall you can enjoy a good filter coffee at the India Coffee House…or enjoy the momos (dumplings) and burgers from Krishna Bakery. We stayed for 6 nights and enjoyed all of them. The staff is very helpful and courteous. And though the hotel is cocooned between tall deodar trees, the rooms are spacious.
We took a cab one day and went to Tattapani where the newly opened Hotel Hot Spring Therme and Spa pumps sulphuric water into their small pool and two private pools.
They had a good deal for a full meal from soup to dessert plus use of their very clean and modern spa.
Also since it had just snowed we went to Narkanda which was magical…unlike the crowded Kufri. On the way back, we had a meal (mushroom peas and egg curry) from the Himachal Pradesh Tourism Hotel (The Apple Blossom, Fagu) and it was superb. They have an unobstructed 180 degree view of the Himalayas and decent rooms for a day stay.
No trip is complete in Shimla without seeing the Wildflower Hall. We went for a meal there which was good and ate in an open area facing the mountains. They also showed us their awesome open air infinity pool with a Jacuzzi facing the Himalayas. The meal at Cecil was also good, their apple crumble is divine…
- Shimla from India
As we boarded the Scandinavian flight to Östersund from Stockholm to reach our RCI affiliated resort, Holiday Club Åre, a strange sense of wonder washed over me. Sweden consists of tens of thousands of lakes and our picture perfect resort had cottages on the Aresjon Lake and Olympic ski slopes with an extensive network of lifts and pistes as the backdrop. August is the height of summer for the Swedes and with 16 hours of daylight, our town was a downhill mountain bike paradise.
Biking families are armoured in colourful bike gear, children and dog in tow. They come hurling downhill on the rough dirt track on the bald terrain of Mt. Areskutan, the tallest peak in Sweden.
We tried hiking on a dedicated trail admiring the mesmerizing scenery and once the cold got to us we enjoyed the sauna in the room to renew our nerves.
Every cottage can take two bikes from the clubhouse and there are beautiful, dedicated tracks all along the serene lakeside. The club has various activities like table ice hockey, a bowling alley and video games. I especially enjoyed the meandering waters of the pool with Jacuzzis at different levels, a water slide, and different saunas. Our contemporary two bedroom cottage was in Nordic décor with one bedroom, bathroom with attached sauna, a well equipped kitchen, and a lounge with plasma TV opening on a huge deck overlooking the lake. A flight of steps takes you to the upper level where there is a sitting room with a TV and a bedroom with four bunk beds. The resort is attached to the picturesque railway station which has a huge supermarket from where we picked up our groceries.
We walked to the medieval main square called Åre Torg which is surrounded with quaint shops, cafes and restaurants. The ski lift station is also located there. As we climbed up the cable car we saw the town disappear under us and the jaw dropping scenery envelopes you. The cable car drops you at a point from where you take a short trek to Mt. Areskutan and you can sip a coffee in the restaurant. Fierce winds engulfed us and we had to negotiate a steep gradient to get to the summit. Whew! What a view. The spectacular sweep of valleys and towns below gives you a miniscule feeling. We let out a collective gasp as we made our way back to the secure cable car station.
There is a quaint chocolate factory 2 kilometers away where you can taste all the different chocolates they make. In the other direction is the cute town of Duved with a lovely church…
We took an overnight train to Stockholm, a city that consists of fourteen islands connected to each other over pretty bridges, and our hotel was strategically located from where you can walk everywhere without taking any public transport.
We walked to the Bohemian Island of Gamla Stan founded in 1252 where Baroque buildings jostle for space with hip cafes, beer bars and curio filled shops. The narrow, cobbled streets are bustling with tourists. The Royal Palace also on this island offers a collection displaying the vast wealth in more than 600 rooms. Its intention seems to give expression to the nations pride and tradition.
The sweet smell of waffles from a bakery pervades the air. A buzzing bar beckons us to taste the 22 varieties of freshly brewed Sweden beer. I enjoyed the chocolate flavoured beer. We also peeked into medieval art galleries and saw facades of pastel coloured buildings with interesting bistros in their gangways.
Shopping! Yes who can do without that the bubbling pedestrian streets of Drottninggatan (the Queen Street) and Vasagatan, which run parallel to each other. The huge stores of local brands like H&M and Lindex have a good variety. The street of Götgatan and the Sofo area is also lined with an unordinary assortment of trendy stores.
Exhausted with emptying our wallets running through the town shops, we were magnetically attracted to walk towards the verdant island of Djurgården to recharge our batteries. Vast vistas of greenery on this huge island makes you wonder at this space dedicated to cyclists and joggers to have their sport in this breathtaking oasis. This almost gives a center stage position which Djurgården richly deserves. We relaxed under a huge maple tree waiting to change its colour…
The strip of Baltic Sea running in is dotted with medieval gullets, modern yachts, cruise ships and chic cafes on the marina floating on wooden jetties. The backdrop of the church steeple makes it a panoramic setting.
As we savoured our last meal in a lovely, modern Italian restaurant near our hotel called Vapiano, we were enthralled with what Sweden had to offer us and thanked RCI for lovely memories we took home.
- Bina T. from Mumbai, India
With ornate Art Nouveau buildings fronting tree-lined boulevards, elegant coffee houses and spas, Budapest makes for a very civilized and gentle fall break. Its interesting shops tucked away down its ancient cobbled streets also provide a great opportunity to pick up some early Christmas shopping. Váci Utca, the city’s main shopping street, houses Hotel Gellért where visitors will be able to relax in some of the most opulent thermal baths to be found anywhere in the world.
This historic city is just a two-hour train journey from RCI’s affiliated resorts in the country’s Lake Balaton region. Away from the buzz of Budapest, the lake is a relaxing retreat with sandy beaches and glistening waters surrounded by scenic wooded landscapes, while the many historic towns close by, with their castles and ancient ruins, remind the visitor of times gone by.
European members can find a whole host of activities and attractions that can be enjoyed in a day trip to Budapest in the September issue of Holiday, the RCI magazine.
Beautiful sandy beaches, warm ocean waves, incredible recreational activities, fresh seafood, great nightlife…Mazatlán has it all. And not only is it one of the least expensive destinations in México, but it has a long list of top rated resorts. Add to that great service and the warm hospitality of the locals, and you’ve got a vacation you'll never forget. Lucky for you, I’ve visited Mazatlán several times before so I have some great tips on what to do and where to eat (and what to order)!
Mazatlán's Malecón is considered one of the longest in the world (a “malecón” is a stone-built embankment). Stretching about 21 km (13 miles), here’s where you can find everything from cliffs, monuments and gazebos to old buildings, restaurants, bars and nightclubs.
For daytime fun, Mazatlán has plenty of beach areas: Zona Dorada in The Hotel Zone, Olas Altas, Sábalos, North Beach, Isla de la Piedra, Isla de los Pájaros, Cerritos and Nuevo Mazatlán. You can also visit the lighthouse (El Faro). And while you’re there, famous "divers" perform daring jumps off high rocks into the Pacific Ocean for tips from on-looking tourists.
For lunch or dinner, you can head over to Los Arcos, a restaurant with a wide seafood menu and affordable prices. Ask for the “Governor taco” & shrimp “agua chile”. Also, try The Panama, a cafeteria with excellent pastries and a huge menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s always crowded by locals so it has a great atmosphere.
If you are a night owl, head north along the Golden Zone (a section at the far north end of Mazatlán) and you'll find Señor Frog's between The Inn at Mazatlán and El Cid Moro Beach. There, you can enjoy a variety of cocktails served in yard long cups…personally I’d recommend the "Banana Mama".
But, if you want to take it easy, I absolutely recommend Old Mazatlán downtown area! It has been rediscovered and restored by newcomers and locals alike and is not far away from the Hotel Zone. Try Pedro & Lola restaurant and have a nice dinner while you listen to a jazz band or a guitar solo.
Mazatlan really does have it all. If you’ve been there and have more tips for other RCI subscribing members, please comment below. And if you haven’t been there, visit the RCI blog again this week when we share stories and photos from other members about their trips to this amazing destination.
If you really want to know about "the Eyes of Texas," look no further than its "Core Four" big cities. Yes, deep in the heart of Texas there are the four cosmopolitan cities of Houston, Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio.
First off, you have the "Space City" of Houston, which is probably the most diversified of the core four. You can blast off your vacation with a cosmic trip to NASA’s Johnson Space Center. And don’t forget to visit the flowing fountains of Williams Tower (formerly known as Transco Tower).
North of Houston is "Big D," that's Dallas, TX for those who don't follow the sports world. You can see Southfork Ranch, where the TV show Dallas was filmed or the Sixth Floor Museum…which is close to where President JFK was assassinated in 1963. And for those who really want get a true "Texas rodeo experience," drive west of Dallas to its sister city of Ft. Worth and ride a bull, purchase an authentic cowboy hat or get fitted with cowboy boots. And only about an hour east of Dallas, you can go to the world’s largest flea market in Canton, TX (check out our article from Endless Vacation® magazine for more details).
Next, you can head out to the "Hill Country" where you will run into another Texas hotspot – Austin (did you know it’s the “Live Music Capital of the World”, thanks to its original rockers like Stevie Ray Vaughan and The Fabulous Thunderbirds?). When you are there, be sure to head down 6th St. to catch a few live bands.
And about 80 miles south of Austin is one of the most ethnic Texas cities…San Antonio. There you will really feel the Tex-Mex culture alive and well. You can ride a water taxi down to the San Antonio River Walk. River Walk is the central city area where you will find everything from resort style hotels, cultural shopping, as well as the some of the best outdoor restaurants. From River Walk, you can visit the Alamo, where you will learn about the famed Battle during the Mexican-American War of Texas. You can even go to Sea World of San Antonio for a change of pace or visit some neat caverns outside of San Antonio.
Each of these cities (which, by the way, are all great day trips from many RCI affiliated resorts) has a unique culture and a different story to tell. This week on the RCI blog, we’ll be showing you stories and photos from RCI subscribing members who visited Texas. Don’t forget to come back!