Seasoned travellers are always seeking new destinations and new experiences. A recent trend towards a quieter, understated luxury sees trips focusing on authenticity, experiential travel and once-in-a- lifetime experiences. For those in the industry, the cities of Tuy Hoa and Nha Trang are ideal locations to create personal packages that are authentic and memorable.
Tuy Hoa in Phu Yen province caught the attention of Vietnamese people following the success of the movie Dear Brother, based on the popular novel "Toi Thay Hoa Vang Tren Co Xanh", written by author Nguyen Nhat Anh. The movie is evocative of times past, shot in beau- tiful, peaceful scenery of rice fields, mountains, wild beaches, and islands and featuring childhood games from the 1970s, providing much nostalgia for older viewers.
I was fortunate to have a chance to discover the new emerging beach destination of Tuy Hoa on a three-night/ four-day experience combined with the ever popular Nha Trang – the new and the old in Vietnam’s tourism world.
A new destination
We were mesmerized by the rivers running through the scenic coun- tryside, sleepy villages and deep yellow rice fields set against a backdrop of mountains.We stayed at the Vietstar Resort in Tuy Hoa. Our first day was action packed, visiting Tuy Hoa city, the Cham Towers in Nhan mountain, O Loan la- goon and Tam Giang reservoir. We also visited Mang Lang church where the nearby tombs house the very first dic- tionary of Alexandre de Rhodes who developed the Vietnamese language spoken today.
The geography of Phu Yen province is varied and diverse, with the Truong Son mountains overlooking the narrow strip of plain tucked between the ocean and the foothills. The province is known as one of the rice baskets of Southern Central Vietnam.
The coastline boasts a unique feature Ghenh Da Dia, a type of rock formation found only here and in Ireland and Korea’s Jeju island. Ghenh Da Dia is the largest, stretching along the coast and emerging from the immense ocean like a gigantic honeycomb of stones comprised of thousands of basalt columns, an impressive 50m wide and 200m high.
We also visited all of the locations linked to the film Dear Brother, including a school and a periodic market - a traditional market where vendors only sell one type of animal on any given day of the month. On the day we visited - the 16th - they sold only chickens.
On our second day we ventured to the south of Tuy Hoa where the virtually traffic-free road runs parallel to the empty white-sand beach, reminiscent of Tran Phu boulevard in Nha Trang 20 years ago. We stopped at Long Thuy beach, a long stretch of sand lapped by clear waters popular with Vietnamese, yet still to be discovered by international tourists.
Our destination, Vung Ro, with views towards the imposing Truong Son mountains and Cape Mui Dien are the highlights of this area, and home to one of the oldest lighthouses in Vietnam. Nature lovers will enjoy camping on Bai Mon beach at the foot of Mui Dien, where the only sound heard is that of the waves lapping on the shore.
Cruising Nha Trang
Mark Twain once wrote: ”Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
With this in mind we set off to discover and explore Nha Trang, home to one of the world’s most beautiful bays, fully intending to spoil ourselves with sunset cocktails and dinner cruises.
On the third day of our adventure we drove across the scenic Ca pass from Tuy Hoa to Nha Trang, passing deserted beaches, sand dunes and fishing villages before stopping at a family run restaurant facing the lagoon in Mui Do to sample the region’s freshest seafood.
We were collected from our hotel in Nha Trang soon after 5pm in a luxurious vehicle, arriving at the pier 15 minutes later where we were welcomed with drums before boarding an Emperor Cruises junk and heading out into the bay for a sunset cruise, looking back upon the glittering lights of Nha Trang.
The experience was wonderful from the moment we were picked up until the moment we were dropped back at our hotel. The junk was taste- fully decorated, reflecting the heritage and luxurious lifestyle of Bao Dai, Vietnam’s last emperor, who often chose to spend his leisure time in Nha Trang.We relaxed on the sundeck enjoying a sundowner, listening to the gentle melodies of a guitar and savouring a sumptuous seafood dinner with unlimited drinks from the extensive drinks menu, served by the extremely atten- tive and friendly crew.
Emperor Cruises is a new cruise ship offering day cruises taking in some of the islands and allowing time for snorkelling, diving and kayaking, as well as the dinner cruises we went on. All-inclusive overnight cruises will begin soon.
Pham Quang Khai