7. Quy Nhon – a hidden gem on the coast

03.08.2015 – 07.08.2015

After 3 nights in Quang Ngai it was time to continue my journey. The next stop was Quy Nhon, a town I heard about quite a bit, and it was on my itinerary from the start.

The train journey from Quang Ngai to Quy Nhon is only 3 hours, and to ensure I do not arrive too late I took the morning train – the TN1. It has A/C soft seats, so I assumed it is as good as the S3 – it is not!!! The A/C is not working that good, so the carriage was very warm. To cool down you either stand next to the door, or in the hall between the two carriages where you can open the window – with the plus side to enjoy the beautiful scenery. On a positive side I had a good time with the locals in the carriage. A young woman sitting next to me thought like so many other people in Vietnam that I need more food – as I got constantly fruits in my hand. Unfortunately the AC didn’t work very well, so the carriage was too hot for my liking. So comfort was not good, sitting with the locals was great.

We arrived at Dieu Tri station, a town 30 minutes away from Quy Nhon by taxi. Before getting dragged along by one of the touts I needed to buy my train ticket to HCMC first. With the help of a Vietnamese I met on the train I found out that there was no berth left for the refurbished S3 train on Friday. It was sold out 5 days in advance. I think most people try to get to the more comfortable one. Without a ticket I took a taxi with two locals, who got out in a nice looking part just before Qui Nhon – and I was once again stunned about their hospitality. They paid the taxi and told me only to pay the difference to my hotel!!!

Soon I was at the recommended hotel – Ngoc Anh Hotel. It is located in an alley on An Duong Vuong street near beach, around a 15 minutes walk from the centre. For only 180.000 Dong I got  an en-suite room on the top floor, due to the heat the A/C was important. The owner and her son (who was here for a visit, and spoke excellent English) were very friendly. Nearby were a few very good food stall serving delicious food (Banh Mi in the morning, Pho and other items in the evening). The value for money was superb. Couldn’t ask for more…

After settling in the plan was to head to the train station in Qui Nhon. All trains coming from the north stop at Dieu Tri station. However, there is a little station in Quy Nhon as well – located in the centre of town. However, only one or two trains leave per day for HCMC, and I was advised that they are not comfortable. However, you can buy tickets here for all trains, so no need to head out of town to buy one. I managed to buy a ticket for S1 on Friday. It was not the refurbished one, but still it would bring me to HCMC. And this time my passport was needed, unlike in Quang Ngai. It might have something to do if you are using a berth or a soft seat.
One more advice, the train from Quy Nhon to HCMC stops at Dieu Tri as well, so you could get that train if you want to save around 150.000 Dong. Though check the departure times…

Travel arrangements in place I walked for a bit – though I didn’t get far. Next to one of the many little parks y in Quy Nhon I saw two little food stalls. Curious I checked what they served and was suddenly sitting in a plastic chair to get something that looked like hash brown with a sauce – and I wasn’t disappointed. It was delicious, and after finishing my plate with two of these little delicatessen, and ordered a third one. I guess it rendered the question if I liked it….

It was then able to start to explore the city for a little while. To navigate through the city there are two main roads – the large Nguyen Tat Than running from the outside of town through the city towards the beach – the lanes separated by trees like an alley. Nguyen Tat Tan leads to another main road of the city – An Duong Vuong. This one follows the beach. Where both streets meet is the main square of the city, clearly visible through the massive pole for the big Vietnamese flag. There is also a big complex, housing a cinema and shops on one side, and quite a few karaoke bars on the other side. It seems to be the main area for nightlife activities.

On Nguyen Tat Than is a little lake with a square on top of it, leading to little hill with houses around it. And on the square the locals were enjoying the evening. I saw a group of guys practising some kind of dragon routine and fitness activities, kids were playing football, and I saw something I haven’t seen before. I am aware of cyclos, but there people could rent little cyclos to ride over the square. It seems to be very popular with parents who have their children in front of them. It was rather entertaining to watch it. Next to the lake is a little alley with several cafes. A great place to sit down and watching the locals on the square. As it is covered by trees and roofs it must be a nice place during the day. Perfect for an afternoon Ca Fe Sua.

Later that night I didn’t find any motivation to head back into town for dinner. Instead I decided to try the Pho stall next to the hotel where I got a perfect Pho Soup. The owners and guests were laughing when they saw that my bowl was completely empty. It seems they only use the broth to keep the food hot – I think it would be a shame to waste such delicious part of the meal. Just when I finished my food it started to rain. t is entertaining to watch the owners of the stalls reacting quickly to keep the chairs and tables dry by putting a plastic cover over them.  One poor guy though had to stand in the rain, holding a rope for the cover. Welcomed by great laughs I suddenly joined him, and used the umbrella I got from the hotel to keep both of us dry- or rather partly dry. Quite a few people had their phone out to take pictures. For the rest of my stay I was always greeted with a wave when passing the stalls.

The next morning I headed back into town. First stop was the Banh Mi stall at the corner (meat and a fried egg on top of it…yummy), and I walked a minute to get to the beach. And I was impressed. The beach is not as white and beautiful as on Phu Quoc, however, it was empty – not any loungers were theres, instead I could see the beach goes for miles in both direction. It was just beautiful – especially sitting in a little café overlooking the beach and the sea. Great place for a breakfast and coffee.

In this part a little path follows the beach, having the open sea on my right, and a park with benches in the shade on my left. During the day you can see locals working or taking a break in the shades.


The path leads to the main square – though while last night it was busy, seemed quite busy now it looked deserted. From here the street continues following the beach. I spotted a few restaurants on a little parallel road, Tran Duc- only separated by a little park. It looked rather nice, some owners putting out fish next to the beach to dry. I found the place to go for dinner.

After a coffee break I tried to find a place for lunch. And here I should have listen to the advise provided – around lunch time the town closes down. I walked away from the beach, though I only saw cafes, but no food place (except of a KFC in the big shopping complex behind the cafe…and I was not to eat THAT when in Vietnam!!!). I explored a few little side alleys – and as soon locals saw me they waved and smiled, in one instance one girl came running out of their house to use the opportunity to speak English, and was joined by some neighbours with their little kids. It was a lovely thing to experience – even though my search for food was further delayed!!!!


I continued to walk around, passed some nice buildings, found a place that just closed, and after over an hour walking around during the mid-day heat (one of the hottest places I have been to in SEA I think) I saw several little food places on Dien Hong – 2 minutes away from the café – just on the left side of it, and not the right side I walked to. My luck I guess. At least I saw a bit of the town. I was happy with a simple dish of rice, vegetables and chicken.

Later that afternoon I headed to the beach, equipped with a towel, and I was welcomed to a complete different view. Was it absolute deserted in the morning, it was now full of people in the water or on the beach. It seems all Vietnamese tourists and the locals were waiting for the temperature to drop a little bit before enjoying the beach. And I must admit, heading into the sea was a great way to cool down. it is a nice place for a swim, and relaxing on the beach.

With all the exercise done, I decided to head back into town for dinner that night. Despite walking the same path along the beach earlier, it was a complete different experience. Next to one of the hotel a little fair was open with little rides for children, bringing some bright and colourful lights to the little square. Closer to the centre plastic chairs have appeared on the path to enjoy fruit drinks or coffee. Some chairs were even on the beach. These places are usually there until around 10pm.
The main open square had also a different feel to it now. Locals were using the little cyclos to ride them at a little parking place next to the square, while on the square you saw the locals rollerblading their heart out. This really is a perfect place for people watching.
I finally made it to Tran Duc and sat down at one of the tables outside. All places here were busy with locals, and soon the beer girl brought a few bottles of beer, a glass and the important ice bucket to have cold beer – which was needed in the heat. Obviously Quy Nhon is a good place to have fish and seafood – and obviously I wasn’t aware of the size of the potions. A bowl of rice with seafood, a potion of squid and prawns with the usual rice papers was more than enough for. The food was just great, and the Vietnamese around me were greeting me so a few Ho Mai Bai Yo were shared with people around me.
Thankfully I didn’t eat the rice from the bowl, but put the food on my plate – as I was able to take half of it with me (would have been a waste) and gave it to a older man I saw earlier selling cigarettes on the pavement. It took a while until he understood that the food was for him, and was rewarded with a big smile.

Wanting t have more beer I finished the night at Café Coc, a bar or rather a club near the square. Again, the plan of having one or two beer was thrown out very quickly. I got invited to several tables where I got more beer (I think they don’t know the word No), the club photographer took pictures and gave me one as a present, and whenever I wanted to leave I was dragged to another table. It was a great night out. After the place was about to close around 1am I managed my escape. I decided to walk back to my hotel, but realised soon that walking all the way was not the best idea. So I just waved at motorbike that came past me, and got a quick lift along the main road. First time hitchhiking in Vietnam was done….

 

I was considering getting a bike organised for the next day, but instead I slept a bit in. Might had something to do with the few beers the night before. So instead I got a taxi to Nguyen Hue road to a place that was recommended to try the local soup (once again a big thanks to John) – Banh Canh Ca. I wish I would have known about that street before…my search for food would have been short lived. I saw one food place next to each other. The place I stopped at was as good as I was told about. There were fans everywhere (important to deal with the midday heat) and the fish soup was very tasty.

Then it was time to explore the city a bit more. You really don’t need a map to explore Quy Nhon. There really is not a main tourist route for Quy Nhon, and you won’t spot many foreign tourists, so walking around aimlessly is a great way to explore the city.
I focused on the area southern of the main road. Here I saw beautiful colonial buildings, a few impressive temples, lots of parks and some little markets. It all had a very relaxing atmosphere to it, and people were smiling and waving at me. I also spotted some rather interesting bits, like a cyclo full of bananas, seeing how some locals earn their money – selling and buying garbage they could recycle, mainly cans and metal scrap. I haven’t seen that in other places. It made the place so much more interesting for me.

After returning to the hotel I followed the same routine as the day before, heading to the beach for a swim, and talking to the locals again. During my walk to and back from the beach it was actually so great to see how kids and adults helped their elderly parents or grandparents to get to the beach – already wearing their inflatable life jackets or swimming ring. I couldn’t help smiling when seeing how the Vietnamese look after each other.

After the beach I also finally organised my day trip to the surrounding areas. Near the beach is Barbara’s Backpacker, owned by an Australian woman. I spoke to the Vietnamese lady running that place, and managed to get a driver and a bike for the following day.

For dinner I headed back to Tranh Duc, this time sitting down at another food place, next to the one I visited the night before. I ordered some seafood and rice (not the same amount I did on the previous day), and was then asked by two locals to join their table. One of them spoke quite good English, and we had a nice chat, while having food and some beer (once again with lots of ice due to the humidity). When they Ieft they insisted to pay for my food and drink – once again a no was not accepted. I must admit I felt slightly embarrassed that locals paid for my food and drinks that often – but it was part of their great hospitality.

After dinner I enjoyed a bit the spectacle at the main square – people rollerblading around me (some falling down). I actually saw that they all hired the rollerblades from stalls at the square. I decided against it to get some for myself. No need to make me look like a fool. I finished the evening having a warm coconut, enjoying the view over the beach and the clear sky.

The next morning started slightly earlier for me – my driver picked me up from the hostel just before 9am. Unfortunately he didn’t speak any English that caused a little problem later on the day, but otherwise we managed to communicate well.
The first stop was the Dap Thoi Cham Tower located in the city. It consist of two well preserved towers. The park surrounding the ruin was well looked after, and it was a nice spot. Well worth a visit.

We were back on the bike and headed to the fisherman port. This was the main place for the fishing boats to head out to the sea – and it was definitely not a small local fishing port. It was a little bit too late to see the harbour when it is really busy. Still, I saw ships being loaded with ice (an interesting procedure) and seeing some of the caught fish being unloaded. Some of the crew found it as interesting to watch me as I did to see their work. There was quite some posing happening while walking around. Visiting the harbour was something different.

Next we stopped outside the harbor at a shipyard. Though it was rather a place next to the street where some ships were built. I saw four boats being built, all four in different stages of the process, which was interesting to see the differences.

Having covered all bits in town it was time to head to the peninsular north of Quy Nhon, getting there via a long bridge that offered some nice view over the surrounding area. We headed through the middle of the peninsular towards the coast, offering a good view of the scenery – a mix of fields, hills and lots of sand dunes. A little village on the southern part of the island was highly recommended, but instead the driver took me to Que Huong Nhon Ly. And it seems for a good reason. We drove through the village and stopped at a temple located on a hill next to the beach. The temple itself was similar to those I have seen before, but due to its location it offered a great view over the surrounding area. You could further up a path to get to a Buddha statue, the view here was even more spectacular – the crystal blue sea, the boats in the water and the colourful houses.

Back on the beach I watched the locals repairing their little boats, fishing nets and rods – just when I took a picture of one of the fisherman his wife suddenly appeared and gave him a slap – perfectly timed for the picture. Seeing the picture the people around me were laughing – the Vietnamese do enjoy their slapstick humour it seems.

After the temple the next place to visit was Eo Gio – the Windy Pass. From the car park a little path lead over a little hill, leading to a nice observation point to see the crystal blue, hills, and a temple – roaming goats around you added to the feel you are in the middle of nowhere. You could follow the path a bit further up the hill to explore the area. I didn’t, but I would do so if I ever return there. But even a brief stop is worth it.

After a short coffee break in a village – unfortunately after the break there was some confusion. We were maybe gone for  three hours, and my driver indicated that we head back to town, and that the tour is over. Well, he couldn’t speak any English and I was not too pleased. But a quick call the hostel sorted everything and we agreed that we head to the Cham Tower further away from Quy Nhon.
After nearly an hour heading out to the rural area we got off the main road and followed a little path, and stopped at a little food place. It was not in a nice fishing village, but the rice with grilled chicken was fantastic. It was not a place that sees many tourists.
After the delicious food we headed to a café nearby, located next to a river. It was busy with locals, who seemed to spend their lunch break here to have a coffee and doing a bit of fishing.  A group of locals spotted me straight away, and soon I was surrounded to answer questions, and I had to sit with several individuals for a photo. Between the photo shots we could cheer whenever a fish was caught. The atmosphere was so relaxing, so welcoming.

After the break we done the last few minutes to get to the Cham Towers. Banh It Towers is quite specular, setting on top of the highest hill in the area. The downside was to climb a few stairs, passing the first part of the ruins, to reach the peak. The reward of the climb was a great view of the surrounding areas, seeing rice fields, rivers, villages, and even Quy Nhon. The Cham Towers itself were not as good condition as the ones in town, but they were still interesting to explore. In addition of the ones at the peak, there are a few ruins on the lower slope. Worth the trip away from town.


On our way back to Quy Nhon we stopped next to a spare part shop to join the owner and a friend for a tea. The bike had not even stop and plastic chairs were already out. Sitting next to the road, enjoying hot mint tea and the atmosphere was a great way to finish the trip. Despite the complications around midday it was a very enjoyable trip. The 750.000 Dong was well spend.

Like the days before I went for a little swim afterwards. This time I was even approached in the water – I was asked by a local if his kids can practise a bit English with me. So there I was, standing in the sea learning more about Vietnamese life from the kids. Unfortunately it also turned out that bad music doesn’t stop at borders – the girl seemed to really love One Direction!!! The reward of talking to his kids was a challenge set by the father – having a swim race. He was proud to be able to swim, so I accepted. A little crowed gathered for the second race, this time I made sure not to swim too fast.

Heading back to the hotel I spotted a little stall selling Banh Cuon. No idea what it was I did the only thing that made sense – sitting down and ordering a dish. The two girls were giggling all the time while preparing the dish – probably just laughing at the foreigner sitting in a small plastic chair in a swim shorts, shirt and towel!!! It was delicious – just love trying new dishes.

For my last night I headed back to the same place for dinner again I wanted to try the chowder I saw on the menu. I didn’t expect to see a gas hub appearing in front of me with soup and ingredients served separately. It was no chowder, it was a hot pot. In a place where it was even hot and humid at night. The food was nice, but I felt like swimming due the heat and the wet cloth. So here is an advise, do not order chowder or hot pot in a hot place!!!
After dinner I took advantage of the cafes along the beach for a drink, enjoyed a bit the atmosphere on the square. I also visited the night market near the square – with stalls selling cloth and food and some little rides for kids. I also took the opportunity to finally visit a karaoke bar. It was rather interesting to watch the Vietnamese performing, and you couldn’t help noticing how serious they take karaoke. The singing was actually very good, and it was nice to sit back and enjoying Vietnamese song.
My last stop that night was the same bar again. Once again my plan for one or two beer failed. Standing next to the bar it didn’t take long when I was asked to join a table. I realised quickly I had to behave – as it was a table full of police officers. Once again I had a great night out, chatting and drinking with the locals. A great way to end my last night in Quy Nhon.

For my last day in Quy Nhon I had to do some organising to do. After some thought I booked a flight to Con Dao on Saturday. However, the owner of the dive centre I contacted kept me up-to-date about the weather development, and the forecast for that weekend was no good at all. Thankfully I had a flexible ticket and decided to delay my trip to the island for a few days. I was unable to do so online, but could do it in the  Vietnam Airline Office in town, not far from the train station. Changing the dates was dead easy, it took only a few minutes – I only had to pay a 50.000 Dong admin fee. It is always good to be flexible.
Afterwards I walked a bit around the area, spotting locals taking naps in hammocks in little parks, having coffee in places with strong A/C to escape the heat, and really enjoying my last few hours. It was time to leave the hotel at 4:30. The hotel actually didn’t charge any late check-out, which was a great service.

The taxi ride to the Dieu Tri station was about 250.000 Dong, and I was at the station 20 minutes before departure. For a change the train was late, so I had time to buy some drinks and food at one of the shops in front of the station – so last minute shopping is possible. There are actually shops at the platform itself – so they will likely try to overcharge you there. With a little delay I was on my way to HCMC, leaving Quy Nhon behind.

Overall I loved my stay in Quy Nhon. You find beautiful beaches here – but without the crowd sitting in sun loungers. The food available there is delicious, especially the sea food. The won itself is also beautiful, and the scenery in the surrounding area is just stunning. So it is a worthwhile to head here. It really is a gem on the coast.

Accommodation:
Ngoc Anh hotel is not in the centre of Quy Nhon, but in a quiet area near the beach, with some great food places nearby. Room was very clean, and the service was good. For only 180.000 Dong per night it is great value. Highly recommended

Recommendation:
Walk around town, no need for a map. It is great two walk around to explore the city, and to enjoy the atmosphere. A trip to the surrounding area is also highly recommended to see the Cham Towers and the beautiful scenery. For food head to the places on Tran Duc – the food there is very good. One advise – take notice that the town is closing down during the midday heai

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