We focus a lot on certain Southeast Asian countries, but there are so many others that deserve attention and accolades, including Vietnam. In fact, the country of is now one of the safest and most stable nations in the world, with a thriving international business community enriching its economy. So, it’s no wonder that it’s also a favorite among backpackers, travelers and expats, who come for the pleasant tropical climates, the bountiful nature in the countryside and along its 1,650 kilometers stretch of coastline, the great food, and, of course, the ridiculously cheap prices.
And while many expats choose to live in Vietnam’s two major cities, including the still-Communist capital, Hanoi, and its more cosmopolitan southern neighbor, Ho Chi Minh, which is still also known as Saigon. But there’s another city in Vietnam that’s a hot spot for travelers, beach-goers, and digital nomads looking to set up shop and live/work in a foreign land but still have most of the comforts of home: Nha Trang.
I had the pleasure of living there in 2013, and got to thinking about it again since a good English friend of mine (shout out to Gentleman George) just bought into a beach bar called The Shack there. Since I’m due for a visit soon, let me tell you why it’s one of the best places to visit or live in Asia.
What You Should Know About Nha Trang
First off, where is Nha Trang? If you split the country of Vietnam in half north-south, Da Nang would be the approximate center point, Split the southern portion in half again, and you’ll find Nha Trang there. That’s important in a nation where the political climate and way of life grows ever more Communist and government-run the further north you go.
Nha Trang is a medium sized city right on the beach, with a host of luxury resorts, 5-star hotels, more humble traveler hotels, and other accommodations. (When I lived there I stayed in a small but modern and funky studio apartment only a 10-minute walk to the beach for a few hundred dollars every month.) Like most coastal communities, its epicenter is not a town square or an inland central circle or park, but its beachside Boulevard, Tran Phu Street. You can walk up and down it for miles and get a good workout, meet some locals, or just be entertained.
There is also an amazing array of restaurants there, from humble local Viet noodle houses right on the street to eateries for students that are cheap and amazing, to French Colonial fare and just about every other international cuisine you can imagine. Nha Trang is known for its fair share of partying, too, with an American sports bar, a Russian Quintin Tarantino-themed bar, a high-end beach club and disco, and plenty of others.
If you want to get more into nature, drive a few miles up the coastline to Nha Trang’s various beaches, where you’ll find less crowds, white sand, and yes, The Shack. It’s also known for scuba diving on its several coral reefs, and there are plenty of fishing and diving boats to rent. One of the other great activities is to take a cable car or boat over to Vin Pearl Island, a super-luxury playground where you can spend the day instead of paying for their $1,000-night and up resorts!
Nha Trang is a convenient stop on the route from south to north or vice versa, which many travelers go by bus, train, or even rented motorbike. But you can also fly right into Nha Trang’s airport and stay a few days, a few months – or a whole winter, like I did!