The city of Nha Trang is
becoming more popular with the tourists in recent
years. Yet, with a population of 300,000, Nha Trang
still retains its small town atmosphere. This resort
town is well known for its miles of beach and the
friendliness of its people. The city is flanked by
nearly ten kilometers of prime beach where the water
is warm year round. The average temperature in Nha
Trang is 26 C. Nha Trang also has the lowest level of
humidity in all of Vietnam. Today, Nha Trang ranks
among the top of all beaches in Vietnam. Nha Trang is
1,287 km south of Hanoi, 624 km south of Hue and 442
km from Ho Chi Minh city (Saigon).
Nha Trang has several famous islands. Most notable are
Hon Tre, Hon Yen, Hon Rua and the Spratly islands.The
name Nha trang is a Vietnamese pronunciation of a Cham
word Eatran or Yjatan. Ea or Yja means river, and tran
means reed. According to the locals, there once were a
lot of reeds along Ngoc Hoi river. The river winds its
way through the town. Ngoc Hoi was later renamed Nha
Another theory of the origin of Nha Trang's name has a
more amusing twist. Long ago, in this part of the
country, all the houses were made out of the reeds and
mud gathered from Ngoc Hoi river. The only house that
was made out of bricks were the house belonging to Dr.
Yersin, a French immunologist who made his home here.
The house itself was painted prominently white and
could be seen by vessels coming from far away. Once
there was a foreign vessel passing by. The captain
asked his translator where he was. The translator not
knowing where they were blurted out Nha` tra('ng or
white house in Vietnamese. The captain duly noted on
his chart Nha Trang. Because most foreign languages do
not make use of tones, the captain's name for this
part of the country stuck.
Nha Trang City Beach
Upon arriving to Nha Trang,
most tourists will pass through downtown. Beyond the
rows of businesses and homes will be Nha Trang beach.
Tran Phu Boulevard is Nha Trang most famous
thoroughfare. It runs the length of the beach with
several major hotels located within a few steps from
the beach. Unlike most major city in Vietnam where the
primary mode of transportation is the motorbike, many
people of Nha Trang still walk or use the bicycle as
their means of getting around. This adds to the
tranquillity of the town. There is very little
pollution or noise from motor vehicles.
On any given day, between
5:00 am to 8:00 am Nha Trang beach is filled with
local people taking in the fresh sea breeze,
socializing, playing soccer, badminton or practicing
Tai chi. Most people in Nha Trang fear being darken by
the sun. For this reason, the window between 5-8 am
(where sunlight is less intense) is peaked with
activities. Another reason is that many go to the
ocean for a morning swim, to exercise and to listen to
daily news (from the many conspicuously placed loud
speakers on electrical poles). In Nha Trang, going to
the beach is a family affair. One often see
generations of families going to the beach together.
However, by 8:00 am the beach is magically emptied of
all the hustle and bustle of earlier activities to
once again return to silence and serenity.
Chong has two meanings in
the Vietnamese language. The first is to stack. The
second is husband. Hon Chong is located on a stretch
of rocky mass of land famous for the thousands of
smooth rocks stacking on one another. There are two
clusters of such rocks in the area called Hon Chong.
The first is further out in the ocean and the second
is located near an islet called Sat Thon. The cluster
in the ocean is most impressive since there are large
boulders stacking on one another seemingly
out-of-balance, yet remaining stable. There is a
boulder as large as a small hill supporting another
boulder as large as a small house at its peak. On the
side facing the shore, there is an imprint of a large
hand with five fingers clearly outlined. The locals
call this rock Hon Chong or the Husband.
The cluster with the name
Hon Vo or the Wife is not far away. The rocks in Hon
Vo cluster are as large as those in Hon Chong, but the
they are closer together. A somewhat romantic person
explained that this name came about because the rocks
here snuggle against one another.
Thap Ba (Po Nagar Cham
The Po Nagar towers once
stood at the entrance of Cai river, where the river
meets the ocean. The towers stood in isolation on a
rock foundation, but over many years the towers and
the land it stands on became part of the land mass as
the river changed its flows.Po Nagar towers complex
was built between the 7th and 12th century. The most
beautiful towers were built in the year 813 and 817.
Most were destroyed and only four towers are still
standing. Each tower is a shrine to a different deity.
One tower is the shrine to
Xiva, one of three most powerful deities in Hinduism.
One tower is dedicated to Ganexa, the son of Xiva.
This deity has a human body and an elephant head. Po
Nagar is the tallest tower, also known as Thap Ba
(Tower of the Lady). Po Nagar or Uma is the wife of
Xiva the supreme. Po Nagar towers stands 23m in height
and was built around 817.Bricks were used in the
building of Po Nagar. The four-sided structure is
topped by a pyramid with a statue of the four armed
Xiva riding Nandin the enchanted ox at the apex. The
exterior of the tower is covered by intricate rock
carvings of dancers, people rowing boats, grinding
rice or hunting with bows and arrows.The interior is
airy and cool. An alter made of granite is placed at
the base of the statue of Po Nagar. Po Nagar is a
goddess with ten arms. She is also the goddess
credited for her help with teaching people how to
farm. Her statue was originally made out of hard
incense wood. The statue was removed by the French in
1946. A new statue with more Vietnamese features is
its replacement. The Po Nagar towers complex is an
example of Chams architecture and art at its height.
Vietnam's first active
Oceanographic Institute was built in 1922 at Cau Da
(Rock Bridge). The ocean in Nha Trang is quite deep.
Here the water is approximately 200 m deep. Beyond 100
km, the depth drops to 2000 m. The Oceanographic
Institute was built to study the diverse marine life
in this area.The Institute still has samples of sea
creatures of this area. Although the institute does
not have the modern equipments and facilities to be
considered in the same caliber as most western
aquariums, it still maintains a fair sample in smaller
aquariums. In all, 23 good size aquariums are on
display. The institute also has a vast collection of
dead samples on display.
Hon Yen is most famous for
Yen Sao which is the name of the nest of Salangane or
swifts. The locals harvest the bird nests (considered
a delicacy) used in soups. These nests are processed
and exported to Taiwan and Hong Kong.
The birds build their nest
high on the walls of the cave on the islands. To
access the nests, harvesters must climb on ladders
fashioned from bamboo. Because the caves must remain
dark lest the birds are scared off, many climbers fall
to their death every year trying to harvest the nests.
The bird nest comes in two types, white and red nests.
The nest are fashioned by the Salangane that make
their homes in caves. The nest are made out of the
birds saliva. Usually, a typical bird creates one nest
a year during springtime using both parents saliva.
Because there is such a demand for their nest (thought
to have medicinal qualities), the locals began to
remove the nest several times a year causing the birds
to have to continue producing the nests.
The red variety of nests are a result of the birds
having to create so much saliva for the new nests that
they cough up blood along with their saliva causing
the nest to take on the red color of their blood. This
variety of nest costs their weight in gold or more in
the retail market of Hong Kong or Taiwan.