Traveler: Nick Iverson
Length of Trip: 7
Vietnam is a country whereupon discovering its secret charm you will fall in love. Just a short flight from the energetic Ho Chi Minh City you, will find the warm beauty of its central coast and welcoming smiles of the Vietnamese people.
From the gorgeous UNESCO World Heritage designated ancient town of Hoi An to the resort getaway of Nha Trang, there lies six hundred kilometers of picturesque rice fields, quiet fishing hamlets, and pockets of azure ocean.
In Vietnam I travel by motorbike as much as possible to freely explore the countryside. I’d only recommend it for more adventurous and thrifty travelers as going by motorbike is at times extremely precarious. You can also make the trip by tourist bus, or fly out from Ho Chi Minh City to Nha Trang, Quy Nhon, or Hoi An (via Da Nang).
This was a six day journey in the month of March. I had just flown in from Ha Long Bay via Hanoi in the north of Vietnam. Arriving in Da Nang International Airport I taxied into beautiful Hoi An. For lunch I found my favorite Vietnamese noodle dish only served in Hoi An, called Cao Lau, and for dinner had slow roasted barbecue pork, Thit Heo Quay, at Xanh Quan restaurant.
While in Hoi An explore the ancient town, shop, sip Vietnamese coffee, and relax on the beach. By night walk the ancient town while it is alight with colored lanterns, eat at one of the small restaurants, and drink on one of the boats floating on the riverfront. Take it slow. Enjoy the music. Enjoy the cuisine. When in Vietnam, Hoi An is not to be missed.
I started my second day with morning tea at the Reaching Out Tea House before purchasing a secondhand motorbike from a mechanic along Cua Dai road. The motorbike cost the standard 250 US dollars, about 5 million Vietnam Dong, and I had a new tire put on it to close the deal. As always you must be wary of these secondhand bikes. Sooner or later you will have a breakdown.
When on the road in Vietnam, try to take to the smaller routes, don’t take it too fast, enjoy a coconut at the plentiful hammock cafes, and avoid highway QL 1.
On the way south I visited the My Son memorial just east of Quang Ngai to pay respects. I continued as far as I could until the sun began to dip below the horizon and found a very cheap room in a small town along the way, about one hundred sixty kilometers south of Hoi An. Plenty of riding for one day.
Starting out early I drove the next one hundred fifty kilometers to Quy Nhon in Binh Dinh province. Here, farmers cart hay through the rice fields. Waves of bicycle riding students make their way from little school buildings. Fisherman nap inside their colorful wooden fishing boats moored in the bays. Iconic basket boats, called Thung Chai, rest at shore near the hamlets.
Arriving in Quy Nhon I explored the quiet beachfront and found Haven Guesthouse was a nice place to stay in the fishing hamlet at Bai Xep nearby. Quy Nhon is a peaceful city by day and a sleepy city by night. However you’ll be taken by surprise when the sun sets on the fishing boats. The sea just outside of Bai Xep lights up. Hundreds of fishing traps just offshore shimmer on the water. Enjoy this sight in Quy Nhon while you spend an evening next to the calm waves.
Locals had told me to search for a place beyond a small wooden toll bridge and to drive towards the sea from there. I hit the road in the early morning and found their hand‐made wooden bridge. I crossed it, then continued on my way through more rice fields, passing duck farms, temples, and taking narrow country paths until I encountered Ganh Da Dia. Spectacular basaltic columns meet the surf at a remote beach. Here I joined group of Vietnamese also travelling south by motorbike. We shared lunch together at the Quan Tuan seafood bar for fresh scallops and clams. After filling up on seafood we took to the beach again for a swim. We hit the road again, on further to Tuy Hoa city, and when we arrived we watched the sunset from the hilltop of the Thap Nhan Cham Temple.
I shared the early morning over a glass of Vietnamese coffee with my new friends and we embarked on our motorbikes again to visit Mui Dien – the easternmost point of Vietnam’s mainland coast. Here we hiked up a rocky cape to the top of Mui Dien’s serene lighthouse and laid witness to the sea crashing against the cliffs. We shared fresh crab for lunch.
Before long it was time for me to say goodbye to my friends as they headed back to Tuy Hoa city and I continued south towards Nha Trang. I took the remainder of the day to explore the next one hundred kilometers of dramatic coastal views and pulled into Nha Trang as the sun went down. I headed to the Sailing Club restaurant on the beach for a western style meal and a beer.
In Nha Trang you’ll be greeted by stunning beaches, the excitement of other travelers, and its nightlife. Tour services ferry visitors to nearby islands and vacation resorts. The Po Nagar Cham Temple overlooks the city. Tired travelers can visit day spas and even mud baths. Just a short trip inland is the Ba Ho waterfalls.
On last day of my trip I caught some of the nightlife in Nha Trang, but I was simply out of time. I then booked an overnight bus to Ho Chi Minh City. The tour company happily loaded my motorbike on the bus after emptying the remaining gasoline from the tank. I was in Ho Chi Minh City by 6 A.M. A kind rider pushed me on my motorbike to the nearest gas station from Pham Ngu Lao Street. I headed home to sleep well after a brief, beautiful adventure, knowing I’d be back to do it again.