When it comes to Vietnam as a tourist destination, I am sure one is familiar with the likes of Nha Trang or Danang besides Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. But very few have heard of or have actually visited Quy Nhon, a peaceful yet vibrant coastal city in central Vietnam. Usually considered by most as a stopover destination while traveling between Nha Trang and Danang (or Hoi An), this city has long remained hidden from the eyes of a majority of Vietnamese and foreign travelers. And this is precisely what makes it an obscure treasure. But growing information interchanged over the internet as well as relentless efforts by the Vietnamese government are putting this city on the traveler’s map.
With the ability to become Vietnam’s next big tourist destination, Quy Nhon can offer you endless hours of tranquility, beautifully entwined with sundry escapades and a simple, yet colorful culture. So are you ready to explore this city? Well, here are some of the best things you can experience in Quy Nhon:
Bordered with hills on one side and the South China Sea (or East Sea as the Vietnamese like to call it) on the other, Quy Nhon is endowed with picturesque landscapes and sun-kissed beaches. The beachfront stretches right from Quy Nhon port to the hills and is easily accessible. Just outside the main city is Queen’s Beach (Bai Trung), a popular spot with the locals and famous for the egg-shaped rocky pebbles that heap upon its shore. Tomb of Han Mac Tu, the romantic and ill-fated Vietnamese poet of the 20th-century, is located on this beach also.
However, if you are looking for some secluded beaches, then head south on highway 1D to Bai Xep fishing village. On your way, feel free to take a short halt at any point on the highway to get a picture-postcard view of the coast speckled with tiny fishing boats. Bai Xep village has the Bai Xep Beach which is a common destination in Quy Nhon for foreign tourists. Golden stretches of sand, a fishing village in the background, and colorful fishing boats bobbing in harmony with the waves are a treat to watch. You can spend hours lying in the sun and enjoying the gentle sea-breeze kisses, with absolutely no one to disturb you.
On heading further south, you have the Bai Rang and Bai Bau beaches which are also popular with international visitors. The beaches are clean and have clear, turquoise blue waters. They are lined up with a number of restaurants serving a variety of fresh and cheap seafood. For the most part of the day, you can have any of the beaches all to yourself as locals don’t prefer venturing out in the sun. Besides, the entire stretch of the coast along the highway has many small bays and sweeps of sand which can serve as a private location for relaxation.
3-Day Ly Son Island & Quy Nhon from Hoi An
Duration: 3 days
2. Snorkel and swim around Phuong Mai Peninsula
Away from the main city and located on the other side of the Thi Nai Bridge, the longest oversea bridge in Vietnam, are the beaches of Phuong Mail Peninsula. On your way to one of the most frequented beaches ‘Nhon Ly’, you will come across Phuong Mai sand dunes which is a vast expanse of sand that keeps changing its shape due to the sea-winds blowing from the beaches. You can test your strength by trying to climb one of those dunes. It can be an arduous task, especially during summers. However, the final reward - breathtaking views of the endless sea merging into the horizon, is totally worth the effort.
Near Nhon Ly lies the paradise beach of Ky Co that can be easily reached by a fishing boat or a speed boat from Nhon Ly fishing village. Stunning cliffs in the backdrop, white sand, warm sunlight, clear blue waters and small lagoons that have formed amidst small sea rocks - doesn’t it all appear to be a piece of an artist’s work? Well, that’s Ky Co for you! You can enjoy a swim or simply lie down on the soft sand here. There is also a small reef near Nhon Ly by the name of Bai Dua where one can snorkel and experience the world beneath the surface of the sea.
Eo Gio (Wind Waist) is another famous attraction of Nhon Ly which welcomes the tourists with tall cliffs, gusty winds and deep blue waters smashing against the bumpy rocks. Eo Gio which derived its name from its saddle shape, is a place for adventure lovers as bathing on this beach interwoven with large rocks and stone pebbles can be challenging. Nhon Ly commune has another fascinating tourist attraction ‘Hon Seo’ which is a pristine and uninhabited island that can be reached by a boat from Nhon Ly or Quy Nhon port. This island is a retreat with varieties of wild plants and birds as well as colorful rocks of numerous sizes which give it a unique look. Here you can set out on exploring the island by yourself or just camp and fish while enjoying this natural bliss.
If you travel a few kilometers north from Nhon Ly, you reach the Trung Luong Beach. This beach presents an eclectic blend of blue sea, sand dunes, pure air and rocks. It is a perfect destination to unwind and enjoy short romantic walks along the beach. This beach also offers a choice of grilled seafood that you can savor while imbibing the alluring sights. If you travel a few kilometers towards the end of the peninsula, you will reach Nhon Hai fishing village from where you can take a boat to the dry islet of Hon Kho. Hon Kho presents a harmonious combination of turquoise waters, sandy beach and coral reefs. The reef here lies close to the shore and is very shallow, thus can be easily explored even if one doesn’t know how to swim. Moreover, you can rent a life jacket and goggles from the local tour providers. Hon Kho also is a turtle conservation center too. If you get lucky, you may get a chance to see the turtles when they come to the shore to lay eggs at night.
Address: Bãi Kỳ Co, Nhơn Lý, Tp. Qui Nhơn, Bình Định, Vietnam
Hon Seo Island
Access: Boat from Nhon Hai fishing village or Quy Nhon Port
3. Take a sacred tour to the Buddhist temples
For those of you looking for a greater peace of mind, Quy Nhon is home to a number of Buddha temples. Some of these like Chua Minh Tịnh, Chua Hien Nam, and Chua Long Khanh, are located in the heart of the city, whereas some others like Chua Pho Minh, Chua Tam An Tu and some others are located a little away from the city center. Chua Long Khanh is a large temple which was first constructed in the early 18th-century. However, nothing of that remains today and the new building was erected in its place in 1956. This temple houses a statue of Avalokitesvara which is basically a Bodhisattva who embodies the compassion of all Buddhas. And if you are in Nhon Ly, you just cannot miss noticing the golden twin Buddha statues in Ngoc Hoa Monastery, that overlook the ocean on the Phuong Mai peninsula.
Chua Long Khanh
Address: 141 Trần Cao Vân, Trần Hưng Đạo, Tp. Qui Nhơn, Bình Định, Vietnam
Tuong Phat doi (Twin Buddha statues)
Address: Nhơn Lý, Tp. Quy Nhơn, Bình Định, Vietnam
4. Explore Champa architecture at Cham temples
While traveling to the city from the airport, if you have ever wondered what those brick architectures (that look more like ruins) scattered across the city as well as countryside are, then let me tell you that they are remains of the Cham temples. The Cham temples were built by Champa rulers who first came to Quy Nhon in the 11th-century. There are dozens of these temples in and around Quy Nhon. However, not all of them are easily accessible. Some of the ones that are still intact are Thap Doi, Thap Banh It, Thap Duong Long. Thap Doi or the twin towers are located around 2 kilometers (1.2 mi) from the city centre. They are brick structures with sandstone sculptures of humans dancing, animals and lotuses on the external temple walls. The architecture bears some similarities with that at the Angkor temples in Cambodia.
Thap Banh is located halfway between the city and the airport and you must have noticed this structure over a hilltop at the junction of highways 1A & 19. This is one of the best preserved glimpses of Cham history. Once at the temple site, you get to see panoramic views of the lush green countryside with white clouds floating lazily in the blue sky. Thap Duong Long, the tallest of the Cham temples, remains in Vietnam today. This site, like many others, is not properly preserved and finds very few visitors. However if you want to satiate the explorer in you, then go ahead and embark on an archaeological day trip.
Address: Tháp Đôi, Đống Đa, Tp. Qui Nhơn, Bình Định, Vietnam
5. Visit the museums
Quy Nhon also has something in store for all the history lovers. The city museums are less visited by tourists as they have very limited information available in English. However, they could surprise you with some really fascinating relics. The Binh Dinh museum, for example, stores a wide variety of artifacts ranging from the Cham dynasty to the American weapons used during the Vietnam War. Besides there is the Quang Trung museum which is around 44 kilometers (27 mi) away from Quy Nhon. This museum was built in the honor of one of the most revered emperors of Vietnam - Emperor Quang Trung (or Nguyen Hue) of the Tay Son period. This museum houses weapons, costumes as well as other artifacts used during the Tay Son rebellion.
Binh Dinh Museum
Address: 26 Nguyễn Huệ, Thành Phố Quy Nhơn, Tỉnh Bình Định, Vietnam
6. Take an inspirational tour to Nguyen Nga Center
Nguyen Nga is a center providing assistance to people with special needs, helping them acclimatize to their disabilities. It trains them in handicrafts like scarves, bags, bookmarks and other things and then sells the articles as souvenirs, thus helping these people become independent. At times, it also organizes traditional musical performances by these students. This center was started by Ms Nguyen Thi Thanh Nga who had gained an understanding about the hardships faced by people under such circumstances, when her own sister was seriously injured in an accident. A visit to this place will leave you with a humbling experience and inspire you to face any challenges with a smile just like the students do it here.
Nguyen Nga Center
Address: 884 Trần Hưng Đạo, Đống Đa, Tp. Qui Nhơn, Bình Định, Vietnam
Opening hours: Mon - Sat, 8 am - 5 pm
Website: Nguyen Nga Centre
7. Befriend the animals at FLC Zoo Safari Park
I am sure the kids are least interested in history, culture or other serious stuff. For them, Quy Nhon has recently got its brand new zoo safari park, which is located at Nhon Ly. This park, developed by the FLC group, will act as a conservation facility for around 900 animal individuals. At present however, there are a limited number of species like ostriches, deer, bears, tigers, etc. This park is beautifully built with tracts of greenery interspersed with artificial ponds. It also has some cafes, restaurants as well as a boating facility in the park, thus making it a true picnic spot for all. Moreover, I am sure the kids will have a gala time interacting with their animal friends.
FLC Zoo Safari Park
Address: Nhơn Lý, Tp. Quy Nhơn, Bình Định, Vietnam
8. Take a stroll on the city beach promenade
The city beach stretches for almost 5 kilometers (3.1 mi) along Xuan Dieu and An Duong Vuong streets, all the way up to Han Mac Tu. And running parallel to this beach is the spic and span beach boulevard that has some manicured gardens and amusement parks for kids. A walk on this esplanade with the cool breeze blowing on your face will definitely take all your stress away. Besides, there are plenty of open air bars like the Surf Bar, which provides a range of cool drinks to quench your thirst on a summer evening.
There are also street hawkers selling grilled seafood at very cheap prices. This promenade is dazzling with colorful lights and is full of hustle and bustle in the evenings. You will see people all around - some playing volleyball on the beach, some kids driving tiny cars, the hawkers selling their stuff and the fitness freaks just trying to maintain their usual fitness regime. It is here that you will get a feel of the vibrant Vietnamese culture.
Address: Xuân Diệu, Lê Lợi, Tp. Qui Nhơn, Bình Định, Vietnam
9. Enjoy the local delicacies
Quy Nhon is an absolute delight for seafood lovers. With plenty of fresh catches easily available, one can feast on a variety of seafood delicacies like shrimps, squids, scallops, different types of fish as well as plenty of beer at almost any restaurant for a few dollars. However, the city also offers some local specialties like Banh Xeo (rice crepe stuffed with pork / beef / seafood), banh hoi (tiny pockets of thin rice vermicelli), bun thit nuong (rice noodles served with grilled meat) and banh beo chen (a steamed rice pancake).
The vegetarians need not feel left out. The city also has a large number of vegetarian restaurants offering vegetable and soya dishes. People in Vietnam like to eat out in the open and so most of the restaurants you find here are open air, with a number of them being roadside, having small chairs and tables. One should definitely try this experience of eating like the locals.
Bun thit nuong
Address: 232 Tran Hung Dao, Quy Nhon 00000, Vietnam
10. Head to karaoke
When in Vietnam, one must even end the day like the Vietnamese too. So when you have gorged on the local delicacies and have made merry by drinking the mild Vietnamese beer, head to karaoke as the locals normally do. With karaoke culture being very popular in this city, you will find a number of karaokes with flashy nameplates scattered all over the city. You can try any one of them, like Karaoke KQ or Karaoke Jerry, as they provide more or less the same joyful experience.
Inside the karaoke, there are brightly lit up small rooms which have a huge screen where you can read the lyrics of the song, while the track is being played in the background. Currently karaokes in Quy Nhon have a finite number of English songs on their playlists. But the situation will change eventually as more and more foreign tourists start coming to this city. But singing like crazy, imagining oneself to be a music artist performing onstage, can be an experience of a lifetime.
Address: 143 Lê Đức Thọ, Trần Hưng Đạo, Tp. Qui Nhơn, Bình Định, Vietnam
Address: 170 Nguyễn Thái Học, Tp. Qui Nhơn, Bình Định, Vietnam
Experience this city while it still remains pristine
By now you would know about the plethora of activities that Quy Nhon can offer you. With the current rate of commercialization happening in the city, times are near when one won’t get a chance to see the city in its indigenous form. Though Quy Nhon does not normally figure on a tourist’s trail, it is an offbeat destination that definitely deserves a visit.
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