Once a peaceful and popular R&R destination for soldiers on both sides of the 1970s Vietnam conflict, Nha Trang continues its siren song to holiday seekers. Michelle Wonderland got the chance to explore the town, including its five-star beachside retreat.
With school holidays approaching and a restless, enthusiastic kindergartner on our hands, our family was looking forward to some serious downtime. We also wanted to soak in adventure, culture and, of course, great food. Our destination of choice was Vietnam; our hotel, the five-star InterContinental Nha Trang.
The adventure began when we touched down at Cam Ranh International Airport, a former military airport. Our cheerful InterContinental driver greeted us with cold towels and whisked us away to one of Nha Trang’s luxury beachfront retreats.
After a speedy check-in, we headed up to our room straight away. It was gorgeously kitted out with comfy beds, Nespresso coffee machine, wireless surround sound system and deluxe amenities. Arriving hours later than planned due to travel delays, we opted for room service as our first hotel activity, dining on our spacious balcony overlooking Nha Trang Bay.
Good morning, Vietnam!
We nearly slept past breakfast time each day (thanks to the über-comfortable pillow-top mattresses), rising to stunning bay and mountain views that cloaked our room with an ethereal sunlight. Mornings revolved around a debate whether to continue our lie-ins, yet it wasn’t long until Cookbook Café’s buffet became one of our daily dining highlights. Our little one marvelled over the freshly produced honey at the “live” honeycomb station, while mum and dad took advantage of the station of ever-changing local soups.
Dressed to impress
The interior design of InterContinental Nha Trang is gorgeously feng shui. Detailed art and lobby furnishings pay homage to Nha Trang’s history as a fishing village, with spacious sofas representing fishing boats and tables representing metal fish nets. The stylish décor of the Lobby Bar to the business centre, to the unique tailoring of the staff’s uniforms, makes the hotel the most fashionable address on Tran Phu Street.
Our dedicated concierge explored options for our family vacay, noting snorkelling, culture trips, beach time and of course, food, as our family’s main interests. The hotel’s great location on Tran Phu Street makes it the most convenient launching point for adventures, as nearly everything is either within walking distance from the hotel or a short taxi ride away.
If the idea of crossing any road in Vietnam gives you the sweats, fear not. Accessing the beach in front of the InterContinental is easy, thanks to personalised, cross-street escorts who will literally stop traffic to get you safely to the exclusive beach area set aside just for hotel guests. There you’ll find beach beds, umbrellas, towels, and a personalised butler to assist with drinks and light snacks. Heaven!
When you’ve spent the day island hopping, snorkelling, lounging at the beach and visiting temples, you want to top it all off with a dip in the pool – especially when the pool features a three-tiered water playpen (including separate kids’ wading pool). What’s more, the InterContinental’s poolside lounge, Aqualine, features a nightly happy hour between 4pm and 7pm, with two-for-one cocktails and 50 percent off of meals. The made-to-perfection Manhattans became my nightly drink of choice.
A break for parents
The InterContinental is an ideal base in Nha Trang because it caters not only to business and leisure travellers, but also to families seeking playtime. As a part of the InterContinental family, the Planet Trekkers Kids Club gives parents the opportunity to enjoy a romantic sunset, or get in a much-needed visit to Spa InterContinental, which has a luxurious couple’s suite.
Nha Trang Centre, a newly developed shopping mall and luxury apartment development, is a mere three-minute walk from the InterContinental. You’ll find a full grocery, multi-level shopping with international fashion brands, a cinema, and an international food court that even has pretty decent Mexican food. Going further afield from the hotel is also easy; besides its close walking location to everything, pedicabs are aplenty, and usually start at around 20,000 dong ($10 Hong Kong dollars).
Activities for kids
My pick of child-friendly, mother-approved family experiences in Nha Trang:
Water world: Nha Trang is regarded as one of the most beautiful bays in the world. It offers all kinds of activities, from island-hopping boat trips to snorkelling. The concierge at the hotel can arrange a private boat to islands off the coast or down the Cai River for a family outing at a nice price. More adventurous groups can book an island-hopping tour that takes in floating bars and some spirited camaraderie from tourists from all over the region.
Tomb raiders: Set in the hills high above the fishing village of Nha Trang on the bank of the River Cai are the remains of the ancient Champa kingdom, the Po Nagar Cham Towers. Constructed between the 8th and 11th centuries, these relics represent a time when kingdoms were ruled by Hindu gods. Traditional Cham dancers perform daily, and if you aren’t quite dressed to visit the temples, on-site robe rental is available.
Reunification Express: History buffs will get a kick out of this historical train line. With operational trains connecting Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City, the 1700 km Reunification Express was built between 1899 and 1936. Just visiting the station is a history lesson in itself. Families can book sleeper cars with stops in Hue, Da Nang, Nha Trang and lastly, Mui Ne, should your family choose to accept a mission farther afield.
Sleeping Buddha, Crouching Buddha: Just 400 metres from the Reunification Express, Long Son Pagoda attracts visitors to its restructured 19th-century motif-laden sanctuary. Follow the road behind the pagoda to pose with the reclining Buddha. Farther up the 152-step journey, you’ll encounter the 14-metre white statue of Gautama Buddha himself. Although the trek uphill isn’t too strenuous, watch as little feet descend the steep steps back to ground level.
Great family eats in and around Nha Trang
Galangal: Fortunately, I was not alone in my desire to be adventurous when it comes to food, yet travelling with young children doesn’t always allow stops at street food stalls. A safe, clean (and delicious) way to sample the Vietnamese foodie scene is Galangal. The extensive menu satisfied our picky clan, and we were able to try loads of dishes and watch them being made at the open-view stalls on the ground floor. And if you have room for dessert, head to Romy’s Italian Ice Cream for a banana split.
Louisiane Brewhouse: When your little one tires of noodles and rice and instead screams for a cheeseburger, head to Louisiane Brewhouse. This place has everything – no joke. From Western to Asian cuisine to an outstanding sushi bar to every cocktail you can imagine. Did we mention the original brews crafted on the property? What’s more, guests can take full use of the Louisiane pool between 8am and 5pm while parents order another bevvie. You’ll also find nail and massage services, on-site water sports, a beach bar and nightly entertainment.
Nha Trang X’ua: This was our best Nha Trang restaurant experience, located in a 300- year-old, rural countryside mansion. Sitting down at wooden tables next to rice paddies and lotus ponds, we found a hand-written menu in English. These included hundreds of Vietnamese delicacies to satisfy even the pickiest (and, in our case, my vegan hubby’s) tastes. For the most part, the ingredients are sourced from the family’s own vegetable plot.
Michelle’s Recommendations for family trips to Nha Trang:
- InterContinental Nha Trang: +84 58 3887 777
- Po Nagar Cham Towers: 2/4 Street (Near Xom Bong Bridge)
- Long Son Pagoda and White Buddha: 20 23/10 Street
- Galangal: 1-A Biet Thu Street
- Louisiane Brewhouse: Lot 29, Tran Phu Street
- Nha Trang X’ua: Thai Thong, Vinh Thai (approximately 7km from downtown)
- Nha Trang Centre: 20 Tran Phu Street, Xuong Huan
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