We went to Nha Trang on our way through Vietnam to just relax and laze on the beach for a few days, and that is pretty much what we did; however I did take one morning to rent a bicycle and cycle around the city to see what else it has to offer.
My bicycle journey took me through the busy streets of Nha Trang, where at some points, particularly at the busy roundabouts, I wasn’t sure if I would get through unscathed. Traffic in Vietnam is notoriously bad, especially in the large cities of Saigon and Hanoi, and many parts of Nha Trang aren’t much better. I had to get myself through several of those insane roundabouts to get to Lon Son Pagoda.
Visiting Lon Son Pagoda is free, but you have to pay to park your bicycle (5000 Dong) or motorbike, and inside the temple you will get asked several times to buy postcards to help “students”, but you don’t have to do this. The guy who first asked me wanted 80,000 Dong ($4) for his postcards, but the price quickly dropped to 20,000 Dong ($1) as I continued walking away.
Lon Son Pagoda was apparently first established in the 19th century but most of the buildings appeared quite modern to me. The pagoda is beautifully decorated and there is a monastery here with resident monks as well. I saw quite a few of them walking around.
For me, the best part of this temple was the huge white Buddha statue at the top of the hill behind the pagoda. You have to walk up a lot of stairs to get there, but the Buddha and the view from the top is certainly worth it.
Getting back on my bicycle, I continued cycling through the city, this time heading north across the river to the harbour area of Nha Trang, where the Po Nagar Cham Towers sit on top of a small hill.
Po Nagar is a set of beautifully preserved ancient Cham towers, built between the 7th and 12th centuries. The Cham people, whose kingdom covered all of Central Vietnam, were Hindu, and these towers were built for Linga worship. They are now used for Buddhist worship, and have therefore been kept in excellent condition over the centuries.
It costs 21,000 Dong for an entry ticket to the towers, plus 1,000 Dong to park your bicycle. Po Nagar is definitely impressive, but just as impressive is the amazing view of the harbour from the hill that the towers sit on. This is a great place to just sit for a while. You can even buy a coffee or a cold drink at the stall nearby.
When I left Po Nagar, I decided to head back to Central Nha Trang via the coast road, and found myself pulling up at a very quiet and uncrowded beach with views to Hon Chong Promontory. I should have brought my swimmers!
I liked Nha Trang a lot more than I thought I would. It is certainly a beach bumming kind of location, but there is more to the city if you are looking to get out and explore a little. I’ve got a feeling that I’ll find myself here again one day.