Making Trails

the travel blog of Lauren Nishizaki

Nha Trang, the place to see Russian tourists


Jake and I stayed in the coastal resort town of Nha Trang for three nights. The touristy area of town starts at the beach and extends inland for a couple of blocks. Because Nha Trang is incredibly popular with Russian tourists, many of the businesses in this area have signs and advertisements in Cyrillic. I maintain that a good way to find tasty local food is to look for Vietnamese on the menu. However, in Nha Trang, most of the restaurants had menus in English and Russian. I had difficulties knowing what exactly I was ordering, as there isn’t a one-to-one mapping between Vietnamese food names and English translations.

After spending a few days in Hội An, we took a train from Đà Nẵng to Nha Trang. The train arrived in the evening and it took time to get someone to uncrate our bike, go find gas (the gas tanks on all bikes are drained prior to shipping), return to the station to find the missing headlight switch, and locate the hotel. And then we had to find a late dinner (all the nearby restaurants were closed, so we found a corner döner kebab stand) and pickup water and snacks from a convenience store. By the time we fell into bed, it was around 1am and we were drained. And then in the morning, we were woken at 7:30am by repeated pounding on our door. When I enquired at the front desk later, I was told that someone wanted to know if we needed the room cleaned. Needless to say, the rude awakening (and subsequent next-door construction noises) put us in a crabby mood for the rest of the morning. Coffee and a late breakfast helped fix that.

We spent some time exploring the Cham ruins of Po Nagar. Unlike the ruins at Mỹ Sơn, Po Nagar sits on a hill in the middle of the Nha Trang suburbs. From the top of the hill, we were able to look out on houses and a harbor, and could juxtapose the new developments with the centuries-old brick buildings.

After visiting Po Nagar, Jake and I took a short drive down the coast. We drove past many construction sites and through several village markets, and ogled at the cable car ferrying people to the resort island Vĩnh Nguyên. After returning to Nha Trang, we headed to the beach. We parked the motorbike, then wandered past a bar built on the sand. A friendly guy waved us down and explained that the drinks there were much cheaper than the drinks at a hotel up the road, so we decided to give them a try. While sitting at the bar, we chatted with Binh, a diving instructor for one of the local dive shops. Jake and I explained that we’d be leaving town the following day and therefore didn’t have time to take scuba lessons. After that, he was happy to chat with us about Vietnamese food, Nha Trang tourism, and foreign relations between Vietnam and Japan.

One night, Jake and I ate dinner at a delicious restaurant called Lanterns. As befits the name, the interior of the restaurant was decorated with fabric-covered lanterns from Hội An. This is the only restaurant we’ve encountered in Vietnam with a waitlist. We got to watch two groups, one of Vietnamese tourists, the other of Russian tourists, jockeying for seats. After a party of six left, the two groups nabbed the adjacent tables for themselves. The restaurant staff then kicked them out since neither party had put their names on the waitlist.

The food at Lanterns was well worth the half-hour wait. We feasted on stuffed squid and pork claypot. And we loved the food so much that we returned the next day for brunch before riding to Đà Lạt.

We visited a back-alley bar after dinner that night. Based on online reviews, we expected to see a number of expats there. However, when we arrived, the entire bar was overrun with hashers (Hash House Harriers). Most of them were British guys in their 60’s and 70’s, and they were wearing shirts and jerseys from hash events all over the world.