I had low expectations for Nha Trang. I only stopped here because it seemed like to a good city to visit so that I didn’t spend 11 day light hours on a train. But wow, Nha Trang blew me away and it gave me some of the best stories from my trip to Vietnam.
While planning my trip to Vietnam I wanted to take the train from Ho Chi Minh city to Da Nang (to get to Hoi An). But that’s a 19 hour train ride. Since my trip was already so short I didn’t want to spend that all time on the train during the day. I choose instead to take two night trains, one from Ho Chi Minh to Nha Trang and another from Nha Trang to Da Nang. This meant that I had 16 hours to wander around Nha Trang and since I wasn’t staying the night there I had nowhere to sleep, shower or leave my bag.
I left Ho Chi Minh at 10 pm and arrived in Nha Trang at 5am after a bumpy nights sleep. Since it was still dark out I hung out at the station until the sun started to come up. Then I started to walk, luckily my bag wasn’t too heavy, because I ended up walking all the way to Po Nagar, about 3 km away. (I wasn’t in any hurry, otherwise I could have easily taken a cab.) Po Nagar is a Hindu temple built before the 13th century.
As I was walking around the temple it began to rain. Frustrated, and without an umbrella, I tried to find a spot to sit under an overhang trying to figure out where I was going to go next. I was supposed to go snorkeling in the afternoon, but this rain was going to get in the way of that. Somehow I picked up a wifi signal from where I was sitting. A quick check of the weather told me it was supposed to rain for the rest of the day. I had no clue what I was going to do. My plan was to walk everywhere and I didn’t want to be out on a boat in the rain for most of the day. I just sat there and watched the rain and after a half hour or so it slowly stopped and that was the last I saw of it for the day. Hooray!
Long Son Pagoda
So I figured I’d make my way to where I was supposed to meet the company for snorkeling. I grabbed a cab and pointed to the map where I wanted to go. He said in broken English he knew where it was. And then took me somewhere totally different! Luckily I still had a good amount of time. The cab driver had dropped me off at Long Son Pagoda. Well since I’m here, I guess I’ll walk around.
It was so beautiful! And since it was so early I had the place to myself.
Now it was time to grab another cab and hopefully end up in the right place this time.
At 9am (yes, it’s only 9am at this point, that’s what happens when you are awake at 5am), I showed up at the snorkeling companies office, where they let me leave my bigger bag before we took off to pick up the other snorkelers. There was only 6 of us on this huge boat since it was the rainy season and it was still pretty cold and cloudy but as we made our way out to our first snorkeling spot the clouds made way for the sun. We divided the next 5 hours swimming with the fish on two different islands and eating a delicious lunch. The coral and the fish were incredible! They were so beautiful; I wish I had an underwater camera so I could show you.
As we made our way back to the mainland, I fell asleep on the boat. After a rocky sleep on the train and swimming around all day, I was exhausted. I woke up to find that we were headed the wrong way! Apparently another boat had broken down and we had turned around while I was sleeping to tow them back. Fine with me, I’ll just be over here sleeping.
As we drove people back to their hotels the Russian guy next to me in the car, using the only 2 or 3 English words he knew, and having to turn to another guy to ask the word for restaurant asked me to have dinner with him. Huh? We just spent 6 hours on a boat together and you haven’t said a single word to me, I’ve already gathered that you know almost absolutely no English, what would dinner be like? A lot of miming I suppose. I felt bad but I said no, maybe if I had known at least a little bit of Russian we could make it through dinner but all I could imagine was how awkward that would be.
I grabbed my bag from the snorkeling company’s office and walked down Biet Thu street. This street is full of cafes, bars, and hostels. Exhausted, I figured I just stay around the area and grab dinner before I headed back to the train station. I grabbed a drink at one of the bars, mainly just to steal their Wifi and ended up talking to an Australian man for a while. Then I switched to different restaurant to grab dinner. There was a group of three Russians sitting next to me, about halfway through their second bottle of rum. (Apparently there are a lot of Russians in Nha Trang.) One of them spoke pretty good English; he had been living in Vietnam for the last year and had also picked up a fair amount of Vietnamese. They asked me to join them and they asked me about Russian influence in America, like what Russian authors I know about, Tolstoy was the only one I could think off. I ended up spending an hour talking to them about Russia and the U.S. I left the conversation thinking that I really do not know anything about Russia! But that I love that on my trips abroad I don’t only learn about the country I’m in but also the countries that others are from as well.
I left them around 7 or 8 pm grabbed some dessert from a crepe stall nearby (so much French influence in Vietnam) and went to the train station to catch my 9:30 train.
Looking back on it now, I still can’t believe how much I did in 16 hours. I slept so well on the train that night and somehow didn’t care that even after snorkeling and walking around all day I didn’t shower before going to sleep. I wasn’t sure about my decision to stop in Nha Trang, but I probably ended up being one of the best days of my trip.
See my full Vietnam itinerary.
The snorkeling company I used was amazing. 5 hours on the boat, with a delicious lunch and hotel pick up for $14. Yea.
I booked my train tickets ahead of time on Baolau.vn. They charge a fee and you can probably get them at the station but I didn’t want to chance it since if I missed one train my whole trip would have been messed up.
I had low expectations for Nha Trang but I absolutely loved every minute I was there! What destination has surprised you the most?! Comment Below!