Quy Nhon is a coastal city in central Vietnam, roughly halfway between Nha Trang and Da Nang. It’s not big on the international travel radar, but it’s starting to get more attention. There is a burgeoning backpacker scene south of the city, as development in the aforementioned cities have pushed out budget travellers.
For my trip I was more interested to visit the actual city rather than the surrounding resorts and beach spots. Quy Nhon is less than an hour away by flight from Saigon, so I went up for a couple of days to check it out.
There are several flights a day from Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City from the three major airlines, so flights are cheap. Bamboo Airways is a proposed new airline that is looking to fly to regional cities like Quy Nhon, so it might soon have flights from other regional cities, and internationally (ie China). I guess this is the point in the article where I tell you to get here before it is overrun.
I took a flight with Vietnam Airlines from Ho Chi Minh City. I arrived at the airport which has a shiny-new domestic terminal. It was the easiest and least stressful airport I’ve been to in Vietnam. There are taxi stands outside with clearly marked prices, and reasonably priced at that. And there is an airport bus waiting for each flight. I opted for the airport bus which was 50,000 VND for the 45 minute ride.
Whenever I land in a new city I make a point to not bury my head in my phone while sitting in the bus/taxi. I like to take note of the surrounding landscape in case there is something I should visit. I spotted a Cham tower on a distant hill, and just admiring the central Vietnamese countryside after being in the flat south was worth it.
The bus terminates in the city centre, and according to Google Maps it was a 30 minute walk to my hotel. I only had a carry-on bag so I opted to walk through the city.
I took an immediate liking to Quy Nhon. From the bus stop I walked down the main thoroughfare (Nguyen Tat Thanh), which has a park in the middle of it that runs all the way to the beach. If only every pedestrian footpath looked like this.
Nguyen Tat Thanh was the name of Ho Chi Minh before he changed his name. It turns out that Nguyen Tat Thanh’s father worked in Quy Nhon, and this was the last place he saw his father before going overseas. At the end of the park on the seafront is a giant monument commemorating the two men.
I got a hotel near the beach, and after checking in my first order of business was to find a cafe with a beach view. Quy Nhon has a population of about 300,000 people, and so far there are very few chains here. Apart from a Jollibee restaurant and didn’t see any chains or convenience stores. The noticeable absence is Highlands Coffee, which is the biggest coffee chain from Vietnam. Instead there are lots of garden cafes here, and an iced coffee is half the price I’m used to paying in Saigon (in District 1 at least).
I wasn’t in a hurry to go to a beach resort because the city has a proper beach on its doorstep.
The walk along Quy Nhơn Bay has an unbroken pedestrian promenade.
Unfortunately the occasional motorbike still ride on this walkway. It would be a great improvement if they were banned, or if there already is a ban that it was enforced.
There are Cham Temples across Central Vietnam, and the Thap Doi (Twin Towers) in Quy Nhon are a good example if you haven’t seen the more famous ones.
There’s a lot of construction happening on the beachfront, and I will be watching this to see how the city manages it. I don’t mind the city developments (it’s a city after all). It’s the coastal developments that are a concern for over development. Here is a list of current and proposed projects in Quy Nhon.
How long will the little red plastic seats remain a fixture of Quy Nhon street life?
One thing that the city has in its favour is that there’s a park that lines the seafront, which acts as a buffer for future development.
In Saigon I discovered the world of Vietnamese Modernism, which is a architectural style that was popular in Southern Vietnam in the 1960’s. Mel Schenck is the leading expert on Vietnamese Modernism, and I came to appreciate the style through his Vietnamese Modernist blog.
Quy Nhon is filled with more intact modernist buildings than I have seen anywhere else in Vietnam.
If you are a modernist fan you must come to Quy Nhon for a modernist festival.
Another reason I prefer staying in towns (over a resort) is to try the local food.
Being a fishing city, fish is going to feature prominently. Bun Cha Ca (fish noodle soup) is popular here.
There are many seafood and snail restaurants and street stalls here. Snails are not the best solo traveller meal as you need lots of friends so you can order multiple plates. I contented myself with admiring the arrangement of snails.
I went to Banh Xeo Gia Vy 2, which has a smaller version of the banh xeo that you see in the south. I ordered one not knowing how big it was, then immediately ordered another.
Continuing my Southeast Asia railway research I also visited the train station. Quy Nhon is one of the few spur lines from the main north-south line. There is a service once a day from Saigon, though it’s not a useful service if you are going all the way through. It leaves at 14:35, arriving in Saigon at 3.24 in the AM. That is the stupidist time to arrive in a city.
Like in Hanoi and Saigon there are several spots in the city where the train passes through a narrow urban passageway. If you want to get photos the train arrives at 11.35.
So that was my brief side trip to Quy Nhon. I would like to come back, probably flying here then getting the train to Da Nang. If you are doing the length of Vietnam then I would definitely recommend stopping here on the way.