Still traveling through Vietnam, Lachlan Marr recently stopped over at the tourist icon of Nha Trang and found some reasons to avoid it…
Travelling across Vietnam has a sort of pre-ordained feel about it these days. For many the standard tourist trail from North to South or South to North (Hanoi to Saigon or vice versa) necessitates some stops along the way at certain hot spots that boast a few attractions, or at the very least offer adequate accommodation for tourists.
One place that has become a stock standard stop along the tourist trail is the beachside town of Nha Trang. This popular resort town hosts a beautiful shoreline and a 6km-long beach, as well as a few unique attractions. However despite these advantages, here is a list of reasons of why I would advise you to give this not-so-sleepy beachside town a wide berth.
4 – The worst drivers in all of Vietnam
This is a bold claim. For those of you who have been to Vietnam (or really anywhere in the region), you’re probably well aware that the standard rules of the road are pretty fast and loose on the South East Asian streets.
Motorcycle accidents are so common in Vietnam that many locals refer to the resulting scars as the Vietnamese Kiss or a Vietnamese Tattoo. This is simply the reality of traveling through this region; the roads are kind of rough.
Despite that fact, only in Nha Trang have I felt genuinely unsafe even when simply trying to cross the street. In most cities and towns around Asia, drivers are considerate enough to try and wind their way around you as you cross the street (note that I didn’t say they are kind enough to simply stop at traffic signals and pedestrian crossings). However in Nha Trang no one seems to stop or even pay attention to where they are going. Rather than riding around you, it seems like drivers are actively gunning to take you down. Having traveled through several countries around Asia, I can safely say that the streets of Nha Trang are far from safe, they are downright dangerous.
3 – It’s expensive
The fact that much of Asia is cheap and cheerful is a big draw card for the backpacker on a budget. Really for many tourists the advantage of the Asian continent is that the price is right. In Nha Trang your wallet will certainly be put to the test, everything has a price from trips to the toilet to “rental” of the banana lounges dotted along the sand.
To be fair, you can find cheap accommodation – and compared to the cost of living in Western Countries, Nha Trang is still at least half the price for most things. Yet compared to the rest of Vietnam, Nha Trang is pricey. I know that as a foreigner you can expect to be a little bit ripped off when in Vietnam as being quoted double the price is par for the course in most of Asia. Nha Trang takes this to a higher plane, with marked prices being quadruple those quoted by even the most unscrupulous salesmen in Saigon. Even the simplest of street foods are sold at double the price compared to other cities. With a little bit of effort and a lot of bargaining you can often get the prices down to a more tolerable level but rarely will you feel you are getting value for money.
2 – Vinpearl Land
Vinpearl Land is one of Nha Trang’s more unique attractions. It is a combination resort and theme park on Hon Tre Island just across the water from Nha Trang’s main beach. The island was once used as a jail and now it has evolved into a giant tourist trap. So still a prison complex of sorts.
To approach it, you take the longest cable-car system in Vietnam. And once on the island there are spas and mud baths on offer and plenty of arcades and waterslides to keep the kiddies amused while the parents are pampered.
If “Vietnam’s answer to Disneyland” appeals to you, then you just might like the rest of what Nha Trang has to offer, and hence you and I are very different people and this list is probably not for you. However I for one couldn’t help but feel severe disappointment when I looked over the waters from Nha Trang beach to see Vinpearl Land’s Hollywood style sign set into what must have once been a heavily forested and somewhat beautiful island.
1 – The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!
By far the most common visitors to Nha Trang are Russian. Russian citizens pay no visa costs to travel to Vietnam and with no warm beaches on offer back in the Mother Country a trip to Nha Trang is on virtually every Russian traveler’s agenda. The problem with this is that Russians are not particularly friendly tourists.
In my entire time in Nha Trang I only saw one Russian person smile, and they were smirking at an argument ensuing as a result of a motorbike accident. The locals were immediately more kind to me once they discovered I was not Russian and would often then proceed to go on a long diatribe about how much they disliked Russian tourists who they found to be rude, unfriendly and generally unhappy. The disdain seemed somewhat mutual as well with many stores in Nha Trang employing Russians to speak to Russians as the people of the former Soviet Union did not care to consort with the local Vietnamese and preferred to be served by “one of their own”.
I have met and travelled with several Russian people before and generally have got along fairly well with them. The stereotypical cynicism of the Russian people might be a turn off for some, but I have usually found it to be refreshing and pretty funny. The Russian tourists of Nha Trang do not fit this stereotype.
All of this is not universal, and maybe you or someone you know has been to Nha Trang and had a great time. The above is more of a guideline than a set of rules, yet if you want my advice (and if you’re reading this I will assume that you do) then I would say that if you can, you should go almost anywhere else in Vietnam. Nha Trang might have been beautiful once but to look at it now it seems that must have been a long time ago.