Adventure by Nha Trang Bay
Any active traveler to Nha Trang should take the chance to head out to the nearby islands, beaches, lagoons and fishing villages, to enjoy the myriad activities off the coast of Nha Trang, writes Pham Ha.
We took a night cruise for the first time in Vietnam, as it was passing by as we were enjoying a beer at the Sailing Club. So we called Emperor Cruises to book our adventure tour at the last minute, only the day before. The cruise was booked up, but we had the option of taking a speedboat tour, a new service from Emperor Cruises, which we booked for the four of us for just $450 all-inclusive.
As Mark Twain once said, ‘Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.’
Often referred to as the beach capital of Vietnam, Nha Trang, on the south-central coast, boasts stunning coastline with white sandy beaches and an abundance of marine life and thriving reefs, ringed by a necklace of mountain ranges. There are19 untouched islands in an area of 500km2 that are just a short boat ride away. You can board Emperor’s speed boat to explore these numerous islands; some inhabited and many dotted with idyllic fishing villages.
Our last-minute booking turned to be our most memorable trip ever. Superb; a fantastic adventure trip at Emperor’s private beach getaway in Nha Trang Bay. Tru Beach on Tre Island was incredible, with white sands, coconut palm trees, and clear water, where we could swim with very few others around. Trekking through the island was also a new experience; fun and with an adventurous spirit.
Our tour guide, Bach, and the crew couldn’t have been kinder or more attentive. Lunch was delicious, served on the beach. The itinerary was not as originally suggested, but it didn’t matter one bit as we thoroughly enjoyed our day. As to the cost, whatever the price- just do it! You won’t regret it and will have a unique day out.’
At about 9 am, we were picked up in the lobby of the Sunrise Hotel Nha Trang and taken to Nha Trang Port to board our Emperor’s Speed boat for a full day of relaxation and discovery in the turquoise waters of beautiful Nha Trang Bay.
Once on board, welcome drinks were served while the cruise manager gave an introduction to the day’s program and the necessary safety precautions. As the boat left port and headed out, the spectacular landscape of Nha Trang Bay unfolded. The beautiful waters are usually clear and calm, in various shades of blue, which change color in different weather and seasons.
As the boat arrived at the wild Tru Beach, there was time to swim in clear waters, sunbathe on the beach, or take a walk across the island to reach the other side, at Dam Bay and Bich Dam. The name Bich Dam (Sapphire), also known as Dam Bich, came into existence because it looks blue like a sapphire all year round, whether it is the wet or dry season. You head to a protected area where guests can partake in the water activities of their choice, such as snorkeling, swimming or scuba diving (the latter costs a little extra).
Both of us are active and fit enough, so the walking tour was relatively leisurely complete with a breathtaking view over Tru Beach from the hill. We walked from Tru Beach to Bich Dam. The fishing village in Bich Dam is quiet, and the water is blue and clear, with the sea floor easily visible. There were some large banyan trees by the pier. People, both old and young, were waiting for the boat to take them to the mainland, and the noise of goods being taken off the boat briefly broke the silence.
Nature has provided Bich Dam with beautiful views and fresh air, and the area remains pristine and quiet as it has not been exploited like the other islands nearer to the mainland. There are only two motorcycles on the island, and not a single internet games café or market. Now and then come sounds from the engines of the fishing boats leaving the island or returning from a fishing trip and unloading their catch, or from the children calling out to their fathers on the boats.
The fishing village is small, and the paths are narrow, leading to all corners of the village. After visiting Bich Dam Communal Temple and Goddess Shrine, we dropped by the Bich Son Temple near the primary school. Schoolboys and schoolgirls greeted their teacher with respect and looked at me in surprise. By the road on the seafront the sand is white and the water crystal clear, and we could see the imposing rocks of Mun Island in the distance. Towards the southern part of the island are countless rocks of all shapes and sizes, continuously eroded and smoothed by the waves. From here we could see Mun Island and Rom Island, and Emperor Junk Cruises anchored close by
After walking for almost an hour along the concrete road from the village, we reached a lighthouse at the top of the nearby mountain. The concrete road was built by workers from the lighthouse, to make it easier to carry food and other supplies. The French-style building was built in 1890, with a height of 102 meters and has helped many boats navigate their approach and departure from Nha Trang. From the top is a complete view of Nha Trang Bay, Cam Ranh in the South, Van Phong Bay in the North and other nearby islands such as Hon Noi and Hon Ngoai, with fishing boats looking like tiny specks on the water.
According to our tour guide Bach, there are 212 households with 896 residents on the island, who mainly make their living from fishing or farming fish. Electricity is available for just four hours a day, from 6 pm to 10 pm, provided by a diesel generator. At other times people use oil lamps, while some have their own wind-powered or diesel generators. Fresh water is also a limited resource, so rainwater is stored for daily use and some brought over from the mainland.
‘There is only one primary school on the island,’ said Bach. ‘Children must go to the mainland to attend high school and stay with relatives or rent a place to live. That is why most children here quit after finishing primary school.’
Children on the Mainland learn English, art, and music from different teachers, while teachers on the island cover all subjects. The teachers have one small wish: ‘We wish we could have electricity all day so that we could use computers to show the children more things.’
Tru Beach is a wild, almost empty beach that is dotted with many coconut palm trees and white sandy beaches. Some people in Nha Trang don’t even know the beach or Bich Dam exist, and it truly is one of the bay’s hidden gems.
Secret Hideaway for Activities
Just 15 minutes from Bach Dam by speedboat, we arrived Emperor’s secret beach and Mango bar, where you enjoy a delicious BBQ lunch. The fresh seafood is all caught by a local fisherman, Mr. Hieu, and served immediately. Enjoy snorkeling, scuba diving, fishing, kayaking and other beach activities. The sun, the sand, the speed boat and the seafood made us relish every single moment of the trip, and we were in no hurry return to the mainland!
It is said that all of these entertainment options are inspired by the recreational activities of Emperor Bao Dai when he stayed at his villas in Nha Trang. The emperor used to spend his time sailing around Nha Trang Bay, fishing on offshore islands, and relaxing and unwinding on empty beaches. Here, he could enjoy the nutritious seafood reserved only for the emperors, such as lobster, abalone, tuna fish, sea cucumbers and salangane bird’s nest, which are abundant in the bay.
Bai Cau Beach, meanwhile, is a small, white sandy beach on the south of Tre Island. It has recently been revamped and become Emperor’s Secret Beach, with fully-equipped services such as free basket boat rides, kayaking, snorkeling, fishing, other beach activities and a bar. Mr. Hieu catches and prepares an exclusive seafood BBQ lunch every day. As a dream getaway in an idyllic, private destination, it made our holiday a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Late in the afternoon, the boat returned to the mainland, at about 4 pm. After a thoroughly enjoyable experience, we wanted to book the night cruise, but it was too late. We will definitely come back and can recommend the unique speedboat experience to anyone visiting Nha Trang.
APEC Destination 2017
Hue and Nha Trang are two destinations in Vietnam on the rise in 2016, according to Trip Advisor, and Nha Trang was chosen as one of the official venues for APEC2017. Its infrastructure is improving, the airport is expanding, with new flights regionally and internationally, and more brand-name hotels and resorts have now been opened. With 300 days of sunshine each year, Nha Trang has been among the top attractions for both domestic and international tourists for many years, with its deep blue waters and endless white sands.
Emperor Cruises (www.emperorcruises.com) is the first and only luxury cruise operator offering five-star experiential travel in Nha Trang Bay. Its fleet includes a junk with a capacity of 32-40 passengers for day cruises around Nha Trang Bay, as well as sunset cocktail and dinner cruises. Its vessels combine classic elegance with modern comforts in a custom-designed, classic traditional junk-style.