In Vietnam, there is one place that deserves to be visited by more people: Quy Nhon. Even though it is not considered as a tourist destination, this medium-sized town is bordered by stunning beaches and the countryside that surrounds it is also breathtaking.
Quy Nhon is the capital of Binh Dinh Province and was acknowledged as a city as early as 1898. However, the town has been in existence since the 11th century, in the time of the Kingdom of Champa. In the 15th century, it also served as the ruling centre of Emperor Le Thanh Ton. Quy Nhon was also relevant during the Vietnam War. Not only was it a site for intense battle, but it also was an important US military and naval base.
At present, Quy Nhon is a developing port city with a population of more than 260,000 people with plans to build infrastructure that would encourage more tourists to visit. Naturally, fishing is the main industry in Quy Nhon, making it a great source of exceptional seafood. This destination is highly recommended for all seafood lovers.
Quy Nhon has a couple of attractions worth seeing and one of them is the Binh Dinh Museum. The right gallery is devoted to the struggles of the local Communist Party during the Vietnam War. The centre gallery features items from the French Colonial period and the left gallery showcases Cham sculptures.
The Thap Doi Cham Towers is another Quy Nhon attraction. It is unique because of the number of towers as well as its location. Most Cham towers are in odd-numbered groups and usually found on the hilltops, while this one consists of only two towers and is located in town. Anyone would be impressed with the relief on the sculptures, since they are still in good shape after all these years.
Long Khanh, which is Quy Nhon's main pagoda, is also worth the trip. Built in the 18th century, this attraction is notable because of its 17-metre high Buddha.
Other remarkable attractions are the picturesque Queen's Beach and the Quy Hoa Leper Colony. The former was named after the wife of Vietnam's last emperor and the latter consists of a hospital surrounded by gardens and homes of former patients.
As a port city, Quy Nhon has a bountiful supply of seafood. Naturally, there are dining establishments that serve the best catch from the sea. In the restaurant named 2000, live seafood such as crabs and shrimp are placed in tanks and tubs in the downstairs dining room and this spot is best known for its excellent seafood hotpots. Dong is another seafood restaurant favoured by locals, a place where fresh scallops are available. Those who want more than seafood can head on over to Que Huong; a restaurant that serves seafood dishes as well as snake delicacies.
Tourists who want a taste of Vietnamese cuisine in Quy Nhon can go to Vespa Cafe and Tinh Tam. As the name suggests, Vespa Cafe has a scooter theme, and offers an artsy atmosphere and nice Vietnamese dishes to diners. Tinh Tam, located beside Long Khanh Pagoda, features hearty vegetarian meals on its menu.
Visitors who want a break from local specialities and rice dishes will surely appreciate Barbara's Kiwi Connection. A favourite of expats and backpackers, the establishment serves Western comfort food and international breakfasts. Meanwhile, those who crave burger and fries can visit Australia Bakery.
There is not much nightlife in Quy Nhon. There are no nightclubs or dance halls to visit. However, tourists who enjoy beer and other alcoholic drinks will enjoy their stay in the city after the sun goes down.
The 8th floor of the Saigon Quynhon Hotel is where one will find the rooftop bar called Seaview Cafe. Here, one can enjoy drinks while overlooking the Nha Trang. The Imperial Restaurant, which is found in the same hotel, has a good selection of wine for those in search of a nightcap. Meanwhile, the HAGL Resort Quy Nhon also has a bar and pub.
Barbara's Kiwi Connection is a dining hot spot that can also be visited for a taste of local Quy Nhon beer. While the drinks are cheap, the place closes early but those who want to continue their drinking spree can go to the intersection of Ngo May and An Vuong Duong Streets where there are tables and chairs set up for drinking beer and eating some exotic pairings such as grilled quail and quail eggs.
Shopping options are limited in Quy Nhon, but those who are determined to get a souvenir or two will not be disappointed. A shop tourists must visit is found in the Nguyen Nga Centre. The NNC is actually a charitable association that assists children with special needs and at this institution, the kids learn various skills, including sewing and embroidery. The handbags, pillow cases, handmade jewellery and other items made by the children are for sale with proceeds used to finance the centre.
Lon Market (or Cho Lon) is the city's central market. It is a large modern building with a courtyard, where fruits and vegetables are sold. Unfortunately, the original structure caught fire in 2006. Reconstruction of the 650-kiosk market has begun; while the construction continues, visitors can buy from the stalls set up by vendors in the blocks around the old site.
Those who are waiting for the new market should do their shopping in the Co-op Mart in the meantime. The huge shopping complex is essentially a supermarket, but almost everything can be purchased here.
Aside from sightseeing and eating seafood, swimming is the next best thing for Quy Nhon visitors and anyone who visits Quy Nhon is expected to go swimming at least once. After all, the city is flanked by gorgeous beaches. Queen's Beach and Quy Hoa Beach are popular hang outs of both locals and expats.
Those who want a more upscale and sophisticated experience should head on out to either (or both) of the two resorts in Quy Nhon: HAGL Resort Quy Nhon and Life Resort. HAGL Resort is one of the best places to stay in the city and is an exclusive establishment which boasts an enormous pool, as well as a spa, fitness centre and tennis courts.
Life Resort, meanwhile, is the fanciest place in Binh Dinh. Set on a private beach, this resort offers other activities aside from swimming to its guests. Here, visitors can take a boat, snorkel, relax in the spa or do t'ai chi.
Quy Nhon can be reached by air through Vietnam Airlines flights. Every day, there are flights that connect the port city with Ho Chi Minh City. There are also daily flights to Danang, which go to Hanoi four times a week. Those who want to travel by bus can go to the south side of town for the Quy Nhon bus station. In Quang Ngai (about 3 ½ hours north), there are buses going to Danang and Hue. Quy Nhon can be reached by road with a car or motorbike as means of transportation: the port city is 677 kilometres from Ho Chi Minh City and 303 kilometres from Danang. Tourists can also ride a train to Quy Nhon. They can take the luxury night-train service Golden Trains, or the Reunification Express trains (which stop at Dieu Tri, 10 kilometres west of the city).
Quy Nhon has two seasons: wet and dry. The wet season is from October to February while the dry season is from March to December. It’s best to visit this port city during the dry months to better appreciate the sights and enjoy the beaches.