Nha Trang is a resort town to rival the famed Hoi An, writes travel editor Winsor Dobbin
Nha Trang is one of Asia’s new tourism hotspots: a booming coastal resort city in the south of Vietnam that is known for its many beaches, dive sites and nearby islands.
Its main beach is a long, curving stretch faced by a promenade, new international hotels and many seafood restaurants.
Head just out of town to Amiana Resort Nha Trang and you’ll find one of the few resorts with absolute beach access; a family-friendly luxury resort overlooking a stunning bay. Sit on the beach and watch the local fishing fleet out looking for squid and prawns.
Built four years ago, Amiana is family-owned and offers a real taste of Vietnam, from traditional mud baths and cooking classes – I can now make a handy Vietnamese pancake – to seafood buffets and learning how to row traditional basket-weaved coracles. Other activities range from yoga to kayaking.
The cosy 158-room resort is just a short hop out of town (shuttles run throughout the day) and 45 minutes from Cam Ranh Bay Airport, with links to both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.
There is a wide choice of villas and rooms, all with either direct ocean or garden views, along with a seawater pool that’s the largest in the country, two freshwater pools, and a lagoon beach exclusively for in-house guests.
Bacaro restaurant offers all-day dining and there are three bars, a spa centre, gym, recreation centre, tennis courts and various water sports options.
Guests range from Vietnamese and Australians to Chinese and Russians, which mirrors Nha Trang as a whole.
While the resort offers an ideal beach break for a few days, Nha Trang itself moves at a slightly faster pace. Its attractions include bustling street markets, many temples and the late-night Skyline bar with its rooftop pool and several bars, where the cool kids and cocktail connoisseurs hang out. It’s small enough to navigate but big enough to offer plenty of diversions.
Head away from the tourists to enjoy traditional Vietnamese dishes at Lang Ngon, an atmospheric open-air restaurant. Think rice noodles with snail and various frog dishes, along with more mainstream options.
For a step back in time visit the Po Nagar Temple, built by the Cham people in the eighth century. Its gardens come alive with music performances, small stalls and traditional weavers peddling their wares.
There are two golf courses in the region, with several more planned as the area booms. It’s no wonder, with 300 days of sunshine per year and 5.5 kilometres of uninterrupted sandy beach.
Amiana Resort Nha Trang, Turtle Bay, Phan Nam Dong St, Nha Trang. +84 58 355 3333.
FLYING IN LUXURY
Australians can fly into Vietnam via either Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi. Last month, Vietnam Airlines launched a new thrice-weekly service from Sydney to Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital and a fascinating destination in its own right.
The service is operated by a 274 seat Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, adding 85,000 seats annually between the two countries.
Vietnam Airlines general manager Hung Truong said the airline now offers 17 flights per week from Australia. Most go to Ho Chi Minh City.
“Passengers can enjoy our new generation aircraft, the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, on all flights from Australia to Vietnam and beyond, with the aircraft operating three luxury cabins of service, business, premium economy and economy class,” he said.
I sampled the very roomy and comfortable premium economy on the way over, and business class on the way back. Premium economy is highly recommended with good food and service, while business offers the luxury of a lie-flat bed.
For details and bookings: www.vietnamairlines.com
Truly great hotels have something special that sets them apart
It’s not the fine wine and food, the luxurious bedrooms and bathrooms or top-notch staff that differentiate great hotels: that’s taken for granted when you are laying out the serious bucks.
The X-Factor is more a sense of innate style that draws guests in, somehow suggesting that this is ‘the’ place to be.
This is certainly the case with the Sofitel Legend Hotel Metropole in Hanoi, Vietnam, which is effortlessly elegant and sumptuously furnished without being off-puttingly decadent.
The hotel, just across the road from the Hanoi Opera House in the old quarter, dates back to 1901 and has old and new wings, both blessed with Sofitel’s signature French-accented ambience.
Guests have included Mick Jagger, Charlie Chaplin, Joan Baez and Jane Fonda, along with presidents Bill Clinton and Francois Hollande. Also our own Paul Keating, Phillip Noyce and Luke Nguyen.
There are 364 rooms in all, with 106 rooms and three suites in the old Metropole wing and 236 in the more modern Opera wing, including 12 premium patio rooms and 18 suites.
There is a spa that is promoted as the leading luxury fitness centre in Vietnam, executive floors and rthe evamped Club Lounge, as well as nine meeting rooms and a business centre.
Dining options range from the classic French cuisine at Le Baillieu, the Vietnamese-accented Spices Garden, and Angelina, an Italian-styled restaurant and lounge that enticed me in for a couple of late-night cocktails along with some paté and toast. Very chic.
Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi, 15 Ngo Quyen Street, Hoan Kiem District, 10000, Hanoi.
+84 4 3826 6919.