Read more about my Self Care Sabbatical and the other places I’ve visited!
The first time I had someone speak to me in Russian was in Nha Trang. The second and third time someone spoke to me in Russian was also in Nha Trang. This kept happening. Vietnamese and Russians alike.
Nha Trang is a top beach destination for Russians. And though you hear this before you visit, you don’t really know just HOW Russian it will be until you arrive. The main tourist area of Nha Trang is mostly in Russian, Vietnamese, and English. There are multiple tour companies specializing in Russian tourists. And, for the first time, I was handed a menu in Russian and Vietnamese only. No English version available.
It was, therefore, not surprising that people just assumed I was Russian. It made me laugh every time it happened and I just laughed about it as Vietnamese people offered me massages or drinks in Russian, begging me to come into their shop. I didn’t understand but it was just as easy to say No as if they were asking me in English.
Aside from walking around the center, I had my other weird Russian encounter at the mud spa. There are a few mud spas around Nha Trang and, because the weather was terribly rainy, there wasn’t much to do aside from going to the spa. Because I was alone and not paying for a private mud bath, I was told to jump into one of the baths with a group of four women. Four Russian women. They immediately greeted me in Russian and I just stared at them clearly not understanding a word they said. One woman asked, “English?” and I nodded. She was the only one of the four with some grasp of English so I did most of my speaking through her as she translated to the rest of the group. The rest of the time I just sat and tried to enjoy my mud bath while Russian conversation flowed all around me. It was perhaps the first time I ever really found the language somewhat beautiful. The rest of the time at the spa was more of the same and I was happy to hear some British girls in the pool later, just to know that there were other non-Russians around!
So, Nha Trang is very Russian.
It’s also a beach town and, if the weather is crappy, there really isn’t that much to do. I spent a lot of my time in my room hiding from the rain and so I was glad I had a rather nice room at the Mojzo Inn. They even offered cake and coffee every afternoon which was a nice treat when I wasn’t doing much else (and a yoga area where I could do some stretching and not feel like a total lazy tourist).
I was able to get to the beach the first afternoon after I arrived from Danang. I only had a few hours to soak up the sunshine, but at least it was something. The next few days I saw some temples, took some random walks around the city and visited the aforementioned spa. Otherwise, I got kind of bored.
Things to Do (Especially if it’s raining?)
Go to the beach! – If the weather is nice, you should definitely spend some time enjoying the beach. There are some beach clubs/restaurants along the beach but be warned that they are expensive (even by Vietnam standards I was really surprised).
Visit the Cham temples – Maybe you are tired of temples, maybe not. But visiting the Po Nagar Temple in Nha Trang is a nice way to spend a morning while you are in town (especially if the weather isn’t beach friendly). The Cham people used to rule Vietnam way, way back and you can still some (but very few) of these temples around the countryside. These are quite well-preserved. Note that you need to be dressed appropriately to go inside the temples (shoulders and knees covered), but there are little robes you can put on if you are not covered up.
Long Son Pagoda – It’s free, but honestly I was not that impressed. It gave me something to do, but after wandering around for a bit, I was ready to go. The highlight here is the large white Buddha (which you can see while driving to Nha Trang from the airport). But that’s really all that is here.
Thap Bo Hot Springs – I love hot springs and spas and was glad to find something to do outdoors even in the rain. For 200K VND you get to do the shared mud bath and then mineral spring bath, followed by use of the warm or cool pools. There are lockers where you can put all of your stuff for the day and a restaurant for a snack/drink/lunch while you relax. Nice to chill out for a bit but, as I mentioned, it was nearly all Russian people there. Most of the place has coverings so you can hang out in the mud baths or pool area without getting totally rained on, but I was glad I was getting picked up within a few hours as the rain got a bit tedious. The spa has a shuttle which is really nice – I got picked up near my hotel and then taken back a few hours later for 30K VND.
Eating & Drinking (Because you are bored & it keeps raining)
Unsurprisingly, the food is a bit average in Nha Trang. You will see giant seafood restaurants and lots of Western fare. It’s very touristy and finding solid little local Vietnamese places was tough. Almost every place I tried to find was closed when I finally arrived which was quite disappointing. I did, however, find one great little spot just up the street from my hotel and went there two nights in a row: Bun Ca Min! Based on the name, they sell bun ca which is a fish soup with rice noodles. This one is excellent and cheap and I highly recommend it! (35K VND for a bowl). There was also a great little pho place just up the street from my hotel (just around the corner from Lanterns). There is no English menu (as I mentioned above), but they basically just serve two kinds of pho. It’s also cheap (40K VND).
Lanterns is a fancy Vietnamese place and I was disappointed by it. Definitely overpriced and the kind of place you seem to find everywhere in Nha Trang.
If you want some Western food, there is quite a bit in Nha Trang. I had some great Indian food for lunch at Ganesh (which has locations in a few other Vietnamese cities like Hoi An). I also tried some mediocre Greek food at Pita GR. It was expensive and not very good. Don’t do it.
There is quite a nice airport in Nha Trang (specifically designed around those Russian tourists). It’s a bit of a drive to the actual city of Nha Trang, taking nearly an hour to reach my hotel. You can also take the bus to/from Nha Trang to surrounding Vietnamese cities (which I did when I left to go to Mui Ne). I’d recommend Sinh Tourist for buses when possible – the bus companies don’t have the best online reviews, but I found it to be pretty decent service. Hanh Cafe, the other bus line, was not quite as nice (I took this one from Mui Ne to HCM City).
Where to Stay
Stay in the center because even though it is touristy and Russian, you will have access to many restaurants and to the beach. I really loved my stay at Mojzo Inn (they also have a sister hostel nearby) and would totally recommend it. The staff was one of the friendliest I encountered during my time in Asia, the rooms were nicely designed and quite new, and the food on offer was great. Given the rain, they were also helpful in helping me find things to do.