Quy Nhon

Morning sunrise over Quy Nhơn

Quy Nhơn, the capital of Bình Định province on the coast of Central Vietnam, is a city long dismissed by Vietnamese and foreign travellers alike as no more than a convenient overnight stop halfway between the old-world architecture of Hội An and the booming resorts of Nha Trang. But for those in the know, that disregard is precisely what makes Quy Nhơn the rarest of gems: a beach city in Southeast Asia unspoiled by the ravages of mass tourism. With little traffic, no international chains, and a siesta time that sees most businesses close for a few hours every afternoon, this city of 300,000 people has a sleepy, small-town charm which stands in stark contrast to the commercialism and development of other Vietnamese cities.

Understand

There are a lot of reasons the city is still far off the radar of international travellers. The sand on the beach in the centre is an unappealing shade of dark yellow. The ocean isn't much better: it's a dark hue best classified as murky green. There's almost no international food. There's no nightlife. Few people speak much English. Hotels are outdated and even the newer ones are of pretty middling quality. Most of the ancient architectural sites are hard to find, poorly maintained and have no information in English. And the region is hundreds of kilometres from the main hotspots in Vietnam which international tourists usually visit.

Those who make it to the city find that information in English is scarce and what does exist is often incorrect. The few travel writers who describe Quy Nhơn all use the same wrong sources, and inaccurate information  often hilariously inaccurate information  gets repeated for years and is never corrected. As for the historical background, there's been very little published in English about the history of the region, so international visitors have no context to understand what they see. The government itself isn't much help: tourist outreach is essentially non-existent. Even Google Maps as of 2016 has incorrect locations for quite a few businesses and sites.

But give Quy Nhơn a second glance and you'll discover a fabulous destination hidden in plain sight.

Bordered on both sides by layers of mountains receding into the hazy distance, the natural beauty of Quy Nhơn's waterfront has inspired poets for centuries and is still its most obvious attraction today. A sparkling new promenade runs along the length of the city's 5-kilometre beach. Just off the promenade, dozens of open-air restaurants with sweeping 180-degree ocean views grill, steam and stew seafood caught only hours before by local fishermen and serve it to customers sitting on tiny plastic stools set haphazardly amidst grass and trees. On the beach, there are no water sports, no jet skis, no raves; most of the coast is undeveloped, unused and quiet, and even in the most central areas, the biggest craziness you'll find are locals playing volleyball and Vietnamese tourists running - often fully clothed - into the water.

Outside the centre, you'll find dozens of tiny fishing villages and coastal bays, the most accessible and best-preserved 11th-century Champa ruins in Vietnam, panoramic views from mountain roads slicing high above the coastal cliffs, and pristine beaches with not a soul in sight for 10 kilometres.

And everywhere in Quy Nhơn, you'll be charmed by the people themselves. Almost no one speaks more than a few words of English, but as one of the few foreign visitors, you'll be stopped constantly by both adults and children shyly greeting you with their one phrase: "Hello, what you name!". Their doors are always open - figuratively and literally - and if you walk around a bit, you'll end up being invited to more coffees and meals than you could ever fit into your belly.

Orientation

The centre of Quy Nhơn lies on a small peninsula which juts out like a dragon's head from the mainland into the South China Sea.

Trần Hưng Đạo street is the most convenient road running east to west, stretching from the far eastern tip through the city centre to connect to Highway 1A and the train station, airport and Binh Dinh countryside in the northwest. Most sites of interest to tourists are to the south of Trần Hưng Đạo; to the north are undeveloped residential areas, fishing-related industries and industrial port zones.

Running from the north of Quy Nhơn to the south, the broad avenue Nguyễn Tất Thành splits the city into eastwest halves. The eastern side is more developed, with more restaurants and sites of interest; on the western side, the city becomes less developed the farther you move away from Nguyễn Tất Thành. At the base of the mountain in the far west, the southern end of the city is dominated by the bus station, bulk stores and a few factories, while the northern end off Phạm Ngũ Lão street leads west into a labyrinth of arms-width dirt lanes with no names which crisscross between rickety and off-the-grid hand-made wooden homes; it's a fascinating area to walk during the day, but avoid at night: it's not dangerous, but it's guaranteed you'll get lost.

The city beach is on the south-southeastern end of Quy Nhơn. Locals joke that tourists end up driving in circles because they don't understand the geography of the curving coast, so be careful: if you're in the south, the beach is to the east, but if you're in the west, it's to the south. The main road along the beach is called Xuân Diệu on the west side and An Dương Vương in the south. In the far south of the city, the beach road connects to Highway 1D near the bus station at Tây Sơn street.

Quy Nhơn city limits (marked in cadet blue on the Quy Nhơn region map) stretch far outside the city centre, encompassing coastal villages, empty beaches, and lush green countryside. To the northwest, amidst rice paddies and rolling plains that were home to the Champa empire in the 11th century and to American and South Korean military bases in the 1960s, lie the airport and the main train station.

On the coast to the south of the city centre are several beautiful coves and villages, including Bãi Xép, the tiny fishing village popular with international tourists. To the northeast of the city is the Phuong Mai peninsula, a vast expanse of mostly barren land with stunning coastline; it's still fairly undeveloped, but is being rapidly transformed into an industrial and luxury tourist zone.


Climate

Quy Nhơn is classified as a tropical savanna climate due to its heavy monsoon rains from mid-September to mid-December, light and infrequent rain the other nine months, and temperatures which almost never drop below 19°C (66°F) at any time of the year.

 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 
Daily highs (°C) 26 28 29 31 33 34 34 34 33 31 29 27
Nightly lows (°C) 21 22 23 25 27 28 27 27 26 25 24 23
Precipitation (mm) 80 21 55 56 93 31 77 99 226 407 492 126

Average of 10 years from 2006 to 2015. Source: National Centers for Environmental Information.

It's hot and sticky during the peak tourist season from April to mid-September, but the summer is much milder than Saigon in the far south of the country or even Nha Trang just 220 km (135 mi) to the south. Temperatures in Quy Nhơn can rise up to a sweltering 37°C (99°F), but most summer days are typically around 32°C (90°F), and the beach area benefits from the cooling of gentle ocean breezes. Evenings are warm and pleasant, with temperatures generally around 27°C (81°F) and never dipping below 25°C (77°F).

The monsoon season from mid-September to mid-December sees torrential bursts of rain on most days and nights. Most businesses in the city are unaffected and stay open, but the schedules of the open-air beach-front restaurants are more varied: some close during the rain, some move their tables into the kitchen buildings, and a few hardy souls brave the elements to eat outside under makeshift shelters amidst the puddles. Prices in Quy Nhơn don't have as much seasonal fluctuation as other beach cities in Vietnam, but hotel rates do drop slightly during monsoon times.

Mid-December to mid-February is the coldest period. Daytime temperatures are mild around 25°C (77°F). But nights get chilly  at least what counts as chilly on the coast of Central Vietnam. Evening temperatures typically drop to 21°C (70°F), and with very few houses or restaurants using heating, locals break out their winter sweaters and scarves and snuggle close together over steaming hot pot dinners. In contrast to the very dry winter weather in Saigon and the far south of Vietnam during these months, Quy Nhơn does have sporadic rain, but it's light and there are often weeks at a time without a drop from the sky. Outside of the Tết holiday period, this season sees few tourists.

Mid-February to mid-April is Quy Nhơn's pleasant spring season. Temperatures rise to 28°C (82°F) during the day and 24°C (75°F) at night, whilst rainfall remains infrequent and light.


History

For a small region which is often overlooked by both local and foreign tourists, Quy Nhơn and the surrounding Bình Định countryside have played a surprisingly important role in three major periods of Vietnamese history: Champa, the Tây Sơn rebellion, and the American War.

Champa

The 11th century Bánh Ít Cham towers outside Quy Nhơn

Quy Nhơn first came to prominence in the 11th century as the capital of the Chams, the indigenous people who ruled over what is now Central Vietnam. The Bình Định area in the 8th and 9th century was an undeveloped backwater of the far-flung Champa empire; the centre was in the capital of Indrapura, just outside modern-day Đà Nẵng. But decades of wars against the Viets in the north put enormous pressure on the Champa empire, and sometime around the year 1000, when their capital was sacked, their king killed, their gold stolen, and their women carted off as slaves in a brutal raid by the Viets, the Cham decided enough was enough and moved en masse to the south.

They eventually settled 300 km down the coast in what is now Bình Định province. With its fertile lands, well-protected port, and large river ideal for transportation, the area was able to support the expanding Cham empire and its growing economy, and the surrounding mountains  as well as the extra hundreds of kilometres of distance from the Viets  provided much-needed measures of additional security. The Cham built up a commercial centre and port in what is now Quy Nhơn and established their new capital of Viajaya in the plains 50 kilometres safely back from the coast.

Hindu icons Shiva and makara dragon found at Champa sites outside Quy Nhơn. The sculptures, carved in the 11th to 13th centuries, are currently held in the Musée Guimet, Paris, France.

For the next several centuries, Vijaya was the cultural and administrative capital of the Cham people, and the port-city at modern-day Quy Nhơn was its economic engine. The Cham dominated both Central Vietnam and the trade routes of the South China Sea, and in successive waves of war against their main rivals the Khmer to the west and the Viets to the north, they conquered large parts of what is now eastern Cambodia and Laos.

But the Cham kings stepped too far in the 15th century when they tried to enlist Chinese support in their battle against Vietnam. In retaliation, the Viets invaded Vijaya with a massive naval fleet of hundreds of thousands of soldiers. The Viets burned the capital and surrounding villages, killed 60,000 Cham men, took 30,000 slaves, and forced the surviving peasants to adopt Vietnamese culture and language. In the centuries since, the remainder of Cham civilization was destroyed piece by piece in an official policy of Vietnamization. Shrines were demolished and replaced with Buddhist temples, tombs were built over with farmland, and the Chams were by and large written out of Vietnamese history books.

Even today, the Cham is a testy subject in Vietnam, touching on minority rights, government censorship, and even international relations. The few thousand Cham still in Bình Định are corralled into substandard living conditions, without electricity, running water, education, or secure land rights, and they are prohibited from engaging in many of their religious practices. Land grabs, rapes and even killings of Cham villagers, documented by human rights groups as recently as 2013, haven't been prosecuted. The government allows very little public discussion of Cham issues, and as of 2016, most of the Vietnamese-language information on the internet is blocked by censors.

And in a strange irony, one of Vietnam's strongest historical arguments in its bitter dispute with China over South China Sea territory isn't used because of the human rights abuses against the Cham. For centuries, the Cham dominated many of the trade routes and islands that are at the centre of China's current power grab, long before any documented Chinese claims. But because of the past and present human rights abuses, the Vietnamese government is loathe to raise the Chams' historical claims.

For a traveller in Bình Định, the most visible part of the Champa past are the architectural remains, mainly towers, scattered throughout Quy Nhơn and the surrounding countryside. Although many sites were destroyed, the area still has the richest collection of Cham towers in the country. The Tháp Đôi towers in the city are the most accessible. Although the sites in the countryside are bigger and more complete, they're also harder to reach, provide no historical information, and are bizarrely neglected. But if you're a self-motivated Indiana Jones bent on historical discovery, an architectural day-trip from Quy Nhơn is great fun.

Tây Sơn

The next brush of national fame for Quy Nhơn and the surrounding Bình Định villages came as the birthplace  both literal and figurative  of the Tây Sơn rebellion, a peasant uprising in the 18th century which conquered the ruling feudal overlords in both the north and south, beat back Chinese invaders and created a unified and independent Vietnam. To this day, the three brothers from Bình Định who led the movement are revered national heroes celebrated throughout all of Vietnam and the diaspora for their military victories and Robin Hood-like support of the common people.

Nguyễn Huệ, local boy made good.

Life in Central Vietnam in the 18th century was difficult. Sandwiched between two families of powerful feudal lords  the Trịnh in the north and the Nguyễn in the south  peasants in Central Vietnam suffered from constant invasions, exorbitant taxes on their crops, and forcible conscription as soldiers in wars against Khmer and Siam.

Three brothers from the small Bình Định village of Tây Sơn organized local peasants against the oppressive feudal rule. Following the shrewd military tactics of Nguyễn Huệ, the middle of the three brothers, the ragtag band of peasants, farmers, and indigenous hill people scored a series of upset victories against stronger forces in the early 1770s. After capturing the port of Quy Nhơn in 1773, they drove south and overthrew the Nguyễn clan in 1776. Nguyễn Huệ then marched his troops to the north and defeated the Trịnh lords by 1786.

The Qing empire in China, eager to stomp out the peasant rebellion on its doorstep, lent support to the Trịnh and invaded Vietnam. But Nguyễn Huệ was too clever. In a battle still celebrated today as one of the greatest in Vietnamese history, 100,000 Tây Sơn volunteer soldiers launched a surprise attack against the Chinese troops on the Lunar New Year of 1789 (a strategy which was copied almost two centuries later, albeit with less success, by North Vietnam in the war against South Vietnam and the U.S.). Caught unprepared and drunk, the Chinese troops were crushed within 5 days and fled back to China.

Nguyễn Huệ was celebrated throughout the country for creating a unified and independent Vietnam, and he was proclaimed emperor of Vietnam under the name Emperor Quang Trung. But his reign was short-lived: he died only 3 years later at the age of 40. Thrown into disarray, the Tây Sơn people's movement was soon vanquished by the French-backed Nguyễn feudal dynasty, which ruled the country for the next 143 years. Many Vietnamese of all political stripes consider Quang Trung's short reign as a lost opportunity, believing that if he had lived longer, the country would have been on a different path, better able to resist foreign influence and more strongly emphasizing modernization, rights of the common people, and peaceful internal relations.

The Quang Trung Museum, 44 km (27 mi) northeast of Quy Nhơn in Tây Sơn, honours Nguyễn Huệ and the Tây Sơn rebellion. The museum and surrounding area is important in national politics, with many past and present leaders  from all regions of the country  having visited since its 1978 construction to pay their respects publicly.

American war

American soldiers searching for Viet Cong in a home in the Quy Nhơn countryside, 1966. The "pacification" operations led to over 130,000 locals fleeing for shelter in refugee camps.

With its strategic position as both a port city and a highway transportation nexus, Quy Nhơn and the surrounding Bình Định countryside played an outsized role in the American-Vietnam war in the 1960s and 1970s.

Quy Nhơn in the early 1960s was a small, undeveloped city of fishermen and farmers where health conditions were rapidly deteriorating as tensions grew in the country. According to New Zealand doctors in Bình Định, the locals were "under-nourished and primitive," "living in filthy houses", with "human feces found anywhere and everywhere" and the beach used "as a giant toilet." Tuberculosis was rampant. Sewage and running water was inadequate for the city and non-existent in the countryside. Bình Định had only six civilian doctors  five in Quy Nhơn and one in a village 100 km (60 mi) outside the city  to service the million residents of the province. The local population didn't trust Western medicine and treated their ailments with Chinese herbal remedies, acupuncture with gold needles, and broken glass (to cut the skin and create scars which were believed to be healing).

The area was nominally under the control of the South Vietnamese government. But much of Bình Định province had been a hotbed for Communist activity for nearly two decades before the start of the war. The rice fields, dense tropical jungles and mountain passes created ideal positions for both Viet Cong troops and the 3rd Division (the "Yellow Stars") of the North Vietnamese Army, and by the early 1960s the area was a centre of operations for Communist forces.

Foreign involvement began in earnest when New Zealand, under pressure from the U.S., sent a medical team to Bình Định in 1963. Recruitment for volunteers was initially difficult  the Kiwis massively preferred Nha Trang for its famous beaches, but American doctors had already claimed it  but eventually, several New Zealand civilian medical teams deployed to Quy Nhơn and stayed continuously until 1975 to treat civilian casualties. A military medical team from Wellington joined them in 1967.

Tigers and taekwondo: Korean soldiers in Quy Nhơn

Quy Nhơn was the base of the South Korean infantry division, "The Tigers." With a total of 300,000 soldiers from 1965 to 1973, the Korean troops were tasked with ferreting out Viet Cong soldiers in the mountains and plains of the Bình Định countryside.

Despite testy relations between American and Korean military leadership, the Tigers in Quy Nhơn coordinated with U.S. troops, and Korean infantry reconnaissance missions provided the information for American warship attacks which decimated large Viet Cong cave networks  and much of the surrounding cliffs and countryside  on the coast 15 km south of Quy Nhơn.

Korean soldiers teach taekwondo to locals outside Quy Nhơn. 1965.

The Koreans in Quy Nhơn were famous for taekwondo. Every soldier did intensive martial arts training twice daily. In the field, the Tigers wore combat fatigues, but on the base, they wore the white martial arts dobok uniform. The taekwondo wasn't for show: the Koreans frequently stormed small Communist bunkers and overwhelmed the Viet Cong guerillas in hand-to-hand combat. A U.S. soldier in the area reported the ensuing carnage wreaked by the victorious Tigers: "I've never seen so many broken necks and caved-in ribs in my life. We helped clean up what was left."

Korean troops show Bình Định villagers a chart  labelled in Korean  of Viet Cong booby traps. 1968.

Language was a constant issue for the Koreans, but they devised a wordless solution to communicate their message to Bình Định locals: public taekwondo exhibitions of soldiers breaking bricks  a not very subtle demonstration to the villagers of what the Tigers were doing in the field to the spines of Communists and their sympathizers.

Sailing from Okinawa, U.S. marines landed for the first time in Quy Nhơn in July, 1965. Prepared for enemy fire, they were surprised to find hundreds of women and children on the beach welcoming them. The Americans immediately faced problems with the nature in Bình Định  insects, poisonous snakes, monkeys stealing food from the barracks, mysterious barking red-brown apes  and nervous soldiers unfamiliar with tropical conditions provoked laughter among Quy Nhơn residents by trying to shoot the intruding animals. But with support from the locals, the U.S. soldiers ran barbed wire across all the roads, established daily curfew every night from sunset until sunrise, and quickly built heavily barricaded garrisons in the city.

Locals took advantage of the economic opportunity that hundreds of thousands of soldiers offered, and much of present-day Quy Nhơn was built out during the war years. Stores and restaurants popped up selling American food, bars opened to offer cheap drinks for the soldiers, and the mayor himself made a small fortune when he turned city hall into a private brothel for U.S. officers.

American attack aircraft arrived to Quy Nhơn in 1965. After pilots complained strongly about the poor construction of the small local runway in the centre of the city, American and Korean troops built an air base in the town of Phù Cát 30 km (19 mi) northwest of Quy Nhơn. Housing over 100 planes and hundreds of thousands of personnel in total, Phù Cát became one of the major air bases during the war and a favourite stop of entertainers performing for U.S. troops, hosting famous 1960s American stars such as Bob Hope, Racquel Welch, and Ann-Margret. Now serving as the main civil airport of Bình Định province, Phù Cát air base in the late 1960s was the heart of napalm- and defoliation-bombing runs aimed at destroying Viet Cong hideouts in the jungles and mountains of South Vietnam.

US and South Vietnamese soldiers taking a coconut break while searching Bình Định countryside for Viet Cong. June, 1967.

"Pacification" of the countryside  rooting out Communist troops from their hidden bases  was the major goal of the U.S., South Korean and South Vietnamese forces based in Quy Nhơn. In addition to its role as a base of air operations conducted throughout South Vietnam, the area itself was the site of massive ground battles from 1965 to 1968 in villages such as An Khê, 80km northwest from Quy Nhơn on Highway 19, Phù Mỹ, 50 km north of Quy Nhơn on the coast, and Bồng Sơn, on the coast 80 km north of Quy Nhơn.

As fighting intensified throughout the countryside, Bình Định villagers were forced from their homes, and refugee camps swelled to hold over 130,000 people by the end of 1966. The largest camp was in Quy Nhơn city itself, with an estimated 30,000 people living in squalor in makeshift shelters on the beach or simply sleeping on the sand.

Quy Nhơn itself saw little fighting, but three weeks before the Tết offensive, in January, 1968, North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces struck the city. Fierce fighting lasted for several days, centred around the train station, with grenades launched from both sides destroying much of the area. U.S. soldiers in the city and South Korean troops in the countryside drove the Communist forces out after several days, and the city remained mostly free of fighting for the rest of the war.

Troops from the U.S., South Korea and South Vietnam drove most Viet Cong out of populated areas around Quy Nhơn by 1969, but the Communist forces were deeply entrenched in the rural areas of Bình Định. As U.S. commitment to the region weakened, Communist forces grew in number, and by 1971 the Viet Cong had once again established dominance throughout most of Bình Định outside of Quy Nhơn and Phù Cát.

Caves and chemicals

The ground battles in Bình Định were notable for the use of caves. Farmers had built hundreds of caves in the fields outside Quy Nhơn to store crops and supplies, and both before and during the war, these caves became both a refuge for terrified villagers and an ideal hiding position for Communist troops and weapons.

The caves of Quy Nhơn came to play a huge role in the course of the war when a U.S. officer in 1965 broke the then-official policy against the use of gas by ordering his troops to throw tear gas grenades into a cave to force out hundreds of Viet Cong soldiers and local civilians hiding inside. The U.S. military prepared for an onslaught of international criticism, but support from fawning reporters who didn't yet oppose the war (the New York Times even published an editorial in favour of the Quy Nhơn tear gas as "obviously more humane than any other effective type of action") led U.S. President Johnson to order his generals to rescind the ban and officially promote the use of chemical weapons.

As part of the U.S.'s "Vietnamization" strategy, American and Korean forces in Quy Nhơn were reduced steadily beginning in 1970 and withdrawn entirely by 1973, handing over all city and countryside garrisons, as well as the massive air base at Phù Cát, to the struggling South Vietnamese forces.

The strength of the People's Army grew throughout 1974, and by early 1975, victories in the Central Highlands gave Hanoi the base of operations needed to attack Bình Định and split South Vietnam. Under the leadership of General Văn Tiến Dũng, the People's Army began attacking Highway 19 and Phù Cát air base in early March, 1975. Facing heavy losses by the end of March, the South Vietnamese government in Saigon gave orders to abandon the region. The province erupted in chaos. Troops and villagers alike desperately tried to escape the onslaught of the advancing People's Army; prevented from using the main highway, they scrambled through jungle trails and rice field paths in a "column of tears" trying to reach Quy Nhơn. Under heavy bombing, South Vietnamese pilots hurriedly flew 32 planes carrying hundreds of troops out of Phù Cát airport, but abandoned another 58 aircraft on the runways. Over 7,000 remaining South Vietnamese troops rushed to the Quy Nhơn port and hastily boarded ships fleeing to the south. With no further resistance, the People's Army marched forward quickly and seized Phù Cát air base and the city of Quy Nhơn on March 31, 1975.

US medic vaccinates locals in village 10 km west of Phù Cát Air Base. January, 1970.

Since the end of the war, soil cleanup has been a major focus in Bình Định. As one of the major bases for U.S. chemical bombing in Vietnam, over 3.5 million litres of Agent Orange were stored around Phù Cát and Quy Nhơn. The chemicals leaked into the environment, and the soil has remained massively contaminated for decades, leading to generations of dioxin-related birth defects and cancer. Together with Đà Nẵng and Biên Hòa airbases, a joint U.S.-Vietnamese investigation classified Phù Cát in 2010 as one of the most contaminated hotspots in the country and estimated that cleanup efforts would cost more than $60 million. After spending just $2 million of U.S.-provided funds in Bình Định and moving a small layer of topsoil near the airport into a secure landfill, the governments put on a big ceremony in 2012 to declare the region free of contaminants. But it was a controversial decision, as independent scientists point out that as of 2016 the soil still has more than 400 times the acceptable level of dioxins. Key take-away for travellers: don't play in the dirt near the airport.

Most of the signs of the war years have faded away, but some traces still remain, particularly in the countryside. A massive official monument on Phương Mai peninsula commemorates the 1975 liberation of Bình Định. The Bình Định Museum in the city centre displays many American and South Vietnamese weapons captured by the People's Army, including a tank and howitzer artillery guns. Quy Nhơn still houses a large number of military bases developed in the war years, mainly in the airport area and countryside outside the city, but several are located in the city centre in surprisingly prime areas near the beach. And in the undeveloped countryside outside the city, it's not uncommon to find small pieces of military equipment; in 2012, a joint Vietnamese-American team even discovered an airplane crash site and human remains belonging to a missing U.S. pilot shot down in 1966.

Get in

By plane

Phù Cát airport

Phù Cát airport ((IATA: UIH, ICAO: VVPC), the main civilian airport serving Quy Nhơn and the Bình Định area today, was built in 196667 by the United States Air Force (USAF) with help from Korean troops. With over 100 planes and tens of thousands of soldiers, Phù Cát was one of the major bases during the war for the air forces of both the U.S. and South Vietnam. In March 1975, after the South Vietnamese government in Saigon ordered its troops to abandon the region and flee south, the airport was seized by the Vietnamese People's Army, which has continued to use it until today as a military airfield for the Vietnamese Air Force. As the economy grew in the 1980s and early 1990s, a civil terminal was built and the former military base was transformed into the region's commercial airport.

As of spring 2016, Phù Cát is serviced by carriers Vietnam Airlines, VietJet Air, and JetStar/JetStar Pacific with a total of 8 daily return flights with Saigon and 2 with Hanoi. A one-way ticket from either city typically costs $60$90 on budget airlines and $80$110 on Vietnam Airlines. With advance planning of more than a week, you can often find tickets on the budget carriers for as low as $50.

A few taxis wait in front of the airport after each flight. If you know you'll need a taxi, it's safest to call in advance and have one waiting for you on your arrival. From Phù Cát airport to Quy Nhơn takes about 30 minutes by cab and costs 350,000450,000 dong, depending on final destination within the city.

A shuttle bus runs from the airport to the city centre after each flight. Tickets are purchased on the bus and cost 50,000 dong per person. The shuttle bus waits just outside the airport on the right-hand side when you exit the terminal. There's only one shuttle bus per flight; it's small and fills up quickly after passengers collect their luggage from the tiny baggage carousel, so to be guaranteed a spot, head outside immediately after landing and claim a seat before the crowd arrives. Bags are allowed at no extra fee, although your luggage might get messy as all the suitcases are stacked inside the shuttle bus and passengers often use them as extra seats or footrests. The shuttle bus passes for about 45 minutes through the lush green fields of the countryside, dropping people off in the small villages along the way, and ends in the city centre at the parking lot in front of the airline building at 1 Nguyễn Tất Thành street (the address is misleading; the building is at the corner of Phạm Hùng and Mai Xuân Thưởng). There's a pleasant outdoor cafe two steps from the shuttle drop-off spot where you can wait. Taxis and motorbike taxis (xe ôm) are occasionally available when the shuttle arrives, but you definitely can't count on it; if you'll need onward transportation, just ask a friendly passenger in the bus for help to call a taxi and the cab will wait for you at the drop-off spot at no additional charge.

By car/motorcycle

As the biggest city between Hội An and Nha Trang, Quy Nhơn is often used by both Vietnamese and local travellers as a convenient overnight stop for coastal trips.

The scenic Highway 1D connects Quy Nhơn to Nha Trang 220 km (135 mi) to the south, offering stunning views of the coast and beaches as it wraps around mountain passes. Traffic is light, and you can easily average at least 40 km per hour throughout the whole journey.

Hội An lies 325 km to the north of Quy Nhơn on Highway 1. The road is well-maintained in most areas, but in comparison to Highway 1D heading south, traffic is heavier and the views are less impressive. The road winds on and off the coast and often passes through small villages where locals use the highway to dry seeds, which can significantly reduce the space available for driving and make the journey slow and potentially hair-raising. Most drivers won't average more than 30 km per hour.


By train

Diêu Trì train station

Quy Nhơn is served by the Diêu Trì train station on the main Vietnamese north-south reunification line.

The station lies 13 km (8 mi) to the northwest of the city. A taxi between the city centre and Diêu Trì station costs 120,000175,000 dong. A local bus runs between the station and the city centre once per hour and costs 3,000 dong per ticket.

In addition to the main Diêu Trì station, there is also a much smaller station in the city centre just off Lý Thường Kiệt street near the Quang Trung roundabout. The small train between Diêu Trì and the central station takes 25 minutes and costs 30,000 dong. Not all north-south trains from Diêu Trì have connections to the centre, but if your train does, it's a convenient and cheap alternative to a taxi.

Seats on the main north-south national train routes can usually be purchased on the day of travel at Diêu Trì station, but beds, particularly the soft bed in the 4-person berth, sell out frequently; at high times, it's best to book a week or more in advance.

Approximate prices and trip length:

By bus

The main bus station is at the base of the mountains on the southwest edge of the city. The entrance is on the west side of Tây Sơn street between Cần Vương and Vô Liêu streets. The location is convenient for buses, providing direct access to the main highway, but it's a sparsely-inhabited industrial area of town. If it's your first glimpse of Quy Nhơn, don't worry: the city is much nicer than what you see when you arrive.

Tickets can be purchased both on the day of travel and in advance from the several bus company offices in the covered area of the ramshackle station. In the week before and several weeks after the Tết holiday, advance bookings are essential, and even then buses might be fully sold out or simply cancelled. But at most other times, tickets are almost always available for next-day travel and quite often for same-day travel. Nha Trang in particular is a popular destination, with mini-buses leaving frequently throughout the day for the 6-hour journey.

Typical prices for one-way tickets:

Get around

By motorbike

Fields outside Quy Nhơn: a motorbike is ideal for exploring the countryside.

Quy Nhơn is a pleasant city for driving your own motorbike. Traffic is slow and light, particularly when compared to bigger cities such as Saigon, Danang or even Nha Trang. As a percent of traffic, cars are much more rare then in the bigger Vietnamese cities, which also helps make motorbike driving smooth and safe. Most streets don't have  or need  traffic lights. Nowhere within the city is more than 15 minutes away by motorbike. And parking is free everywhere.

For exploring the surrounding areas, a motorbike is even more ideal. The kilometres of empty beaches north and south of the centre, the mountains on both sides of the bay, and the surrounding countryside and archaeological sites can all be reached very easily in day-trips from the city.

You can rent motorbikes from all hotels in the city. Many hotels offer the bikes directly themselves, and those which don't always have connections with a bike renter. You have the choice of automatic transmission or semi-automatic (left-foot gear shift, but no clutch needed). The price should be at most 100,000 dong per day; anything more means that the hotel  or the hotel staffer helping you  is getting a nice commission from your payment.

By taxi

Taxis are generally ordered by phone. The taxi call-centre operators speak no English and probably won't understand your pronunciation of the street names when you request pick-up, so the most effective strategy is to ask a Vietnamese-speaker to make the call on your behalf.

Taxis can also be hailed on the street, but there aren't many empty cabs driving around. Standing on the street and waving in vain at full taxis does tend to attract locals, though, who might kindly call a cab for you.

A typical short ride within the city costs 15,00030,000 dong. From the far east side to the west costs about 60,000.

By bicycle

Quy Nhơn is pleasant for bicycling as the city is fairly flat and traffic is light.

The main promenade runs directly next to the beach, and with views of the ocean and mountains, a perfectly flat road and very little traffic, it makes for a delightful little jaunt. Bicycles are also great for day-trips to explore surrounding temples and beaches which are too far for walking.

Bicycles can be rented at a few hotels, but bike rentals aren't common and most hotels won't be able to help you. Cafe Ô Mê Ly, a slightly shady karaoke club on the west side of the Coopmart shopping complex on Lê Duẩn street, has a small street-side business offering a few bicycles for rent, including tandem (2-person) bicycles. Prices are negotiable; locals pay 20,000 dong for an hour and 100,000 for a day.

On foot

On the one hand, Quy Nhơn is a wonderful city for walking. Traffic is very light and doesn't present the life-threatening hazards of crossing streets in the bigger Vietnamese cities. People are friendly and constantly greet foreigners with "Hello". And many of the lanes are very picturesque: old wooden houses, street vendors on every block, peeks of local family life visible through the always-open doors, and sidewalks lined with trees and Vietnamese flags. Additionally, the well-maintained beach promenade is beautiful for a stroll and quite often nearly empty of other people.

And if you're just going for an ocean holiday and will stay at a hotel close to the beach, you can definitely get by on foot and with the occasional taxi.

On the other hand, although it's not a huge city, Quy Nhon is quite spread out, and winding streets can make walking times slightly longer than what you'd expect given the as-the-crow-flies distances. Even at a brisk pace, it could be 2030 minutes to walk from the central areas to the beach, while a walk from the far southwest end all the way to the eastern tip takes about 90 minutes. And the beaches and architectural sites in the surrounding countryside are definitely too far for any walking trips.

There is no metro, bus, or public transport of any type which is useful for getting around within the city.

Bottom line: If you want to explore the city itself and don't fancy walking for hours, plan on taxis or your own motorbike. But if strolling for hours as you explore quaint streets sounds like fun, then it's a fabulous walking city for you.

By cyclo

Quy Nhơn cyclo driver and passenger

Until fairly recently, cyclos were a major form of transport in Quy Nhơn. They've gradually fallen out of favour, but there are still more than 100 full-time cyclo drivers in the city.

In contrast to bigger cities where the cyclos are often marketed to foreigners, cyclos in Quy Nhơn are mainly used by locals. Customers are often either older residents who don't drive or street vendors transporting food and goods cheaply. The drivers are all men who are usually older than 45.

Because of their local customer base, the cyclo drivers generally wait for customers in the main streets of the city rather than at the beach. They often congregate near local markets, such as the central market at Tôn Đức Thắng and Trường Chinh streets.

Prices are negotiable. A short ride of 11.5 km costs locals about 7,000 dong. Cyclo drivers are not used to foreign customers, but most likely will initially request higher prices from tourists than they offer to locals; a little friendly bargaining should get them down to local levels. Drivers generally speak no English.

By xe ôm (motorbike taxi)

A few xe ôm (motorbike taxi) drivers exist, but in contrast to cities such as Saigon, motorbike taxis are fairly rare and cannot be relied on as a normal mode of transport.

Although full-time xe ôm drivers can be quite difficult to find, enterprising locals will often offer foreigners a quick ride for a fee or even for free.

You negotiate xe ôm fares in advance before starting the ride. The price should be a slight discount to what a taxi would cost for the same route, but drivers often ask foreigners high prices for small trips, e.g. 60,000100,000 dong for a trip that should cost 20,000.

By bus

There are no local bus routes of any real use servicing the streets of the central city.

For trips to the south bays, there is a bus between Quy Nhơn and Chí Thanh which stops in Bãi Xép, the tiny fishing village on the coast which has become popular among Western tourists. From Bãi Xép to the city, the bus route passes along the coast and north over the mountain into Quy Nhơn, heads past the main bus station and makes several stops along the beach promenade before ending on the west side of the Coopmart shopping complex. It runs hourly from 05:30 to 17:30.

See

Nighttime view of Quy Nhơn from Highway 1D

Beaches



Bãi Kỳ Co on Phương Mai peninsula

Sandy Solitude

Since 2005, provincial authorities have promoted the barren Phương Mai Peninsula as an economic development zone. They completed the longest sea bridge in Vietnam, constructed a highway down the spine of the 20 km (12 mi) long peninsula, built infrastructure, and even meticulously planted thousands of trees and bushes. Happy with their work, they marketed it to investors as a site for oil refineries, industrial factories, and tourist resorts.

But nature had other ideas. It turns out there's too much sand... and it never stops coming. High winds from ocean storms push the sand over the land, covering the roads, the vegetation, the factories and any people walking in gusty weather. A decade after completion of the bridge, much of the peninsula is still undeveloped, many investment projects were cancelled or delayed, and the factories constructed must frequently clean out the invading sand. The province tried to fight back  workers shovel the deserted highway clean, and recent projects have been designed to better withstand the sand onslaught  but development has been slow and the empty peninsula has the eerie feeling of a "build it and they will come" scheme gone bad.

Sand, sand, sand

What's tough news for the economic development zone is good news for travellers. The beach on the east side is enormous and much of the northern half is empty of people or development. It's hard to find such an enormous stretch of undeveloped and desolate beach so close to a city anywhere in Southeast Asia. It's a fortunate mix of just enough development to make it easy to reach but not enough to blemish the pristine coast. That situation won't last long  as of 2016, development of luxury tourism sites, oil refineries, bottling plants and lumber factories is underway  so take advantage while you can: hop on a motorbike, take a drive over the bridge, and enjoy in solitude the never-ending piles of sand.


Cham towers



Tháp Đôi Cham Towers


Buddhist temples

Chùa Phổ Minh on the riverbank in the north of the city
Chùa Minh Tịnh
Tượng Phật đôi, 30 m (100 ft) Buddha statue towering over the coast on the Phương Mai Peninsula


Christian churches


Museums and buildings



Quang Trung museum


Martial Arts in Bình Định: Birth, Death, and Rebirth

Martial arts statue on beach promenade

Bình Định has been the heart of martial arts in Vietnam since the 15th century. According to local legends, it was developed by peasants who needed to defend themselves against invasions, thieves, and rabid mountain animals in the secluded and lawless region.

Combat skills were honed and passed down through the generations, and 300 years later, Bình Định martial artists were front-line troops when local hero Nguyễn Huệ unifed the country in the 18th century. In gratitude, after becoming emperor he organized a state-sponsored system, with schools, competitions, certification and official military roles.

But those glory days were short-lived. After Nguyễn Huệ's death in 1792, the new feudal dynasty stamped out all traces of Bình Định's martial arts. Schools were closed and competitions banned decade after decade as each successive ruling power - the imperial Nguyễn dynasty, the French colonialists, South Vietnam, North Vietnam - all feared the legendary strength of Bình Định's martial arts warriors. But the fighters continued training, secretly hiding away in Buddhist pagodas when necessary, and passed down their traditions through the next 200 years.

By the late 20th century, as official attitudes towards Vietnam's cultural traditions warmed (and martial arts fighters were presumably seen as less threatening to the national defense), Bình Định martial arts came out from the shadows. Schools and competitions restarted, and the international success of local fighters led to a resurgence of popularity. By 2012, times had changed so much that the provincial government once again started support of martial arts both as an activity for locals and as a tourist attraction.

The martial arts scene today is booming. Dozens of small schools have opened in the villages surrounding Quy Nhơn, with each offering its own take on one of the two main Bình Định styles, staff fighting and "empty hands" combat. The Quang Trung museum honouring Nguyễn Huệ puts on a martial arts gala each year on the anniversary of Vietnam's 1789 defeat of invading Chinese forces. A separate biannual martial arts festival and competition started in 2006 brings together thousands of fighters from across Vietnam and from abroad (Russia, in particular, has produced several high-quality fighters of the Bình Định school). One-off exhibitions are held several times each year in the central plaza in the city. Statues of famous martial arts fighters from Bình Định's past line the beach promenade.

And in 2015, thousands of students, many times what had been expected, showed up when Quy Nhơn schools began offering extracurricular martial arts classes. In contrast to other martial arts traditions, girls were historically important in Bình Định fighting (a famous traditional song advised young unmarried men throughout the country to "Head to Bình Định, to find beautiful girls performing powerful martial arts"), and centuries later, that tradition was also resurrected when girls - without any official targeting - represented almost half the new students.

Centuries after being forcibly banned and driven underground, martial arts came full circle and was once again a pillar of Bình Định cultural life.

Do

Children


Movies


Sports and activities

  • Two nicely-maintained tennis hard courts. Often unused. 100,000 dong for one hour, although you are often simply allowed to enter and play for free.
  • Two volleyball courts (one across the street). Pick-up games most afternoons and evenings. Low-intermediate skill-level. Visitors very welcome to join in and play.


Buy

Quy Nhơn is not a shopping paradise.

In the centre there's a Coopmart supermarket, and in an undeveloped area in the far southwest there's a Big C hypermarket and a Metro bulk store. That's it for big stores.

Outside of that, Quy Nhơn has almost none of the chain stores that exist in bigger Vietnamese cities. There are no convenience stores such as Family Mart or Shop&Go. There are no department stores. And the city is far, far off the radar screen of the international retailers with operations in Vietnam such as Gap, Nike, or FCUK.

Outside of the traditional markets, the majority of stores in the city  and the cafes and restaurants and guesthouses  are operated out of family homes. Clothes, phones, motorcycle helmets, drinks, sports equipment... whatever you buy, it's likely that the family selling it to you lives in the floors above the shop.

Siesta time

The afternoon siesta has faded away in most Vietnamese cities, but it still reigns supreme in sleepy Quy Nhơn. Most businesses  all banks, most offices and retail stores, a bizarrely large number of cafes even  close down for several hours in the afternoon. The exact hours vary by business, and many of the more local places don't have fixed hours in any case, but a rough guide is that most places are open in the mornings from 08:00, close for a long lunch break from 11:00 or 11:30 to some time around 14:0015:00, and reopen in the afternoon until 20:00.

Money

Most local businesses in Quy Nhơn are cash-only. Higher budget hotels accept credit cards, but almost all mid-budget and low-budget hotels and guest houses are cash-only. Very few stores, cafes or restaurants accept credit or debit cards.

ATMs are located throughout the city. Most accept foreign bankcards with no problem. Maximum withdrawal limit varies, but is usually 2,000,0003,500,000 dong per withdrawal.

The biggest concentration of ATMs is found just north of the Coopmart on Trần Thị Kỷ between Nguyễn Tất Thành and Lê Duẩn streets. Six different banks offer ATMs within a short distance from each other: Techcom, VietinBank, Agribank, Dong A Bank, ACB, Maritime Bank.

U.S. dollars can be exchanged at numerous bank offices throughout the city. Bills must be fairly recent and in good condition; bills which are slightly worn or older than 10 years are often rejected. No passport required.

Some bank branches might be able to also exchange euros, British pounds and Australian dollars, but it's a bit of a chance, and new U.S. dollars in good condition will cause less problems.

Several gold/jewellers shops in the centre also exchange dollars quickly and often at rates slightly better than the banks. They are also more willing to accept older or more worn bills, albeit at lower rates.

Stores

  • 318b Nguyễn Thái Học.
  • 55 Lý Thường Kiệt.

Markets


Eat

Quy Nhơn street vendor

With hundreds of fishermen hauling in their daily catch each morning and kilometres of open-air beach restaurants, Quy Nhơn is a great city for fresh seafood. But beyond its well-earned fame as a year-round pescatarian paradise, it also offers the adventurous traveller the chance to try specialties little known outside Bình Định. And for a small city, Quy Nhơn has a surprisingly large selection of vegetarian restaurants.

Compared to other Vietnamese cities, restaurants are informal and cheap. Customers sit directly on the street or inside the multi-use living room of the owner. In all but the most expensive places and a few mid-budget venues, tables and chairs are wobbly plastic and aluminium contraptions. Even nicer places are often set inside a semi-open garden rather than what you'd imagine as a more typical indoor restaurant. The price of any dish in Quy Nhơn is much cheaper than in bigger cities  a plate of shellfish costs less than one shell in Saigon  and you can easily fill yourself for just a few dollars.

Still very far off the international traveller circuit, restaurants cater only for the tastes of local residents and Vietnamese tourists. As long as you stay away from the very few places marketed to international visitors, you'll almost always be the only foreigner anywhere you go as you discover steamed rice-cakes, guava-leaf pork rolls, fish-cake noodles, pots of shellfish simmering in lemongrass broth, scallops still in the shell grilled with peanuts and chili sauce over open fires, spit-roasted veal, goat skewers, snails cooked in herbs and coconut milk, and vegetarian dishes in homestay-style settings. It's the stuff of underground foodie fantasies: a coastal city with a wide range of locally-caught and freshly-prepared food choices, completely unspoiled by international chains and still undiscovered by mass tourism.

Take a plunge into the local restaurant scene and you'll experience a side of Vietnam that you can't find anywhere else.

Local specialties

Bánh bèo chén

Restaurants

Just across the street from the beach promenade are dozens of open-air restaurants specializing in fresh and locally-caught seafood: snails, oysters, clams, crabs, mussels, prawns, jellyfish and many types of fish. Most of the restaurants are run by families who live above or just behind their restaurants on the narrow Trần Đức street. The food is cooked on open fires and charcoal grills which spill out everywhere on the street. Waiters scurry back and forth across the road while dodging motorcycles, potholes, wandering cats and dogs, and occasional fires raging out-of-control. Customers eat at low plastic tables and chairs set haphazardly on the grass and between the trees of the wide median strip between Xuân Diệu and Trần Đức streets, enjoying sweeping 180-degree views of the beach, the bay and the mountains. Most of the restaurants are very similar in price, quality and selection, but a few offer more unusual or expensive choices such as lobster (year-round) and King crab (spring season). The highest concentration of places is on both sides of Trần Đức at Phan Đăng Lưu street, with 11 restaurants side by side. Just west of Lê Lợi street are seven slightly cheaper places.


Bánh xèo

Bánh xèo is a very popular food in Quy Nhơn, sold in a wide range of venues including specialty restaurants, semi-permanent stalls, and temporary stands in front of homes.

Locals take great pride in their bánh xèo, earnestly proclaiming that several key culinary differences make their version by far the best in Vietnam. In contrast to the more well-known version of south Vietnam, the bánh xèo in Quy Nhơn is cooked without tamarind and is small and thin in size. A crepe of rice flour and water is fried with bean sprouts on a sizzling oil skillet. The customer selects the main ingredient; options vary from vendor to vendor, but can include prawn, pork, beef, chicken, squid, and quail's eggs (trứng cút). The cooked pancake is folded and served to the customer, who wraps it together with fresh cucumber, mint, cilantro, and lettuce into a semi-stiff piece of rice paper which has been dipped in water enough to give it some flexibility but not enough to lose its crunchiness. The roll is then dipped into the famous local sauce, a sweet brown concoction made from roasted peanuts, fermented soy beans and palm sugar.

Certain neighbourhoods of the city have developed into bánh xèo specialty areas, where restaurants or street-side vendors congregate in friendly competition with each other. The atmosphere, setting and price varies widely among locales, but  although fans swear their dying love to one particular place  the food and preparation is quite similar everywhere in the city. The most famous area is on Diên Hồng street just south of Lê Duẩn in the city centre, where four adjacent restaurants produce hundreds of pancakes per hour for the huge streams of customers throughout the afternoon and evenings. Đống Đa and surrounding side streets on the north shore, particularly near the covered market, is the heart of the city's bánh xèo tradition; two full restaurants and numerous street-side vendors offer their versions of the dish in settings that are both less hectic and less touristic than Diên Hồng. And at the small night-food market just off the beach promenade, on Ngô Văn Sở and surrounding alleys between Nguyễn Huế and Nguyễn Lạc, several small- and mid-size vendors prepare bánh xèo each night.

  • Bánh Xèo Tôm Nhảy Gia Vỹ, 118 Đống Đa (on north side of Đống Đa street west of intersection with Hoàng Hoa Thám).
  • Bánh Xèo Tôm Nhảy Gia Vy 2. 14 Diên Hồng (one block east of Nguyễn Tất Thành at the corner of Lê Duẩn; 3-minute walk from the airport shuttle-bus drop-off spot).


Bánh mì

As everywhere in Vietnam, there are hundreds of bánh mì (baguette sandwiches) stands scattered throughout the city. Prices are 6,00010,000 dong for most standard sandwiches, and 12,00015,000 dong for fancier ingredients.

  • 8 Ngô Mây (near beach at the corner of Diên Hồng).
  • Coopmart shopping complex (Nguyễn Tất Thành).
  • 307 Lê Hồng Phong (southwest side of the Quang Trung roundabout at intersection with Lý Thường Kiệt street).

Hot pot

Hot pot (lẩu) is by far the most popular food in Quy Nhơn for groups of family or friends eating out. There are dozens of hot-pot specialty restaurants throughout the city. Additionally, even restaurants that don't specialize in it quite often still offer some form of hot pot.

Quy Nhơn hot pot is similar to other regions throughout Vietnam. Beef or pork is typically the main protein, although some venues  including almost all along the beach promenade and nearby side streets  also offer seafood. The cooking style varies between places: most offer a pot of stock simmering on a bucket of coals, while some places give diners a semi-circular metal tray for grilling the food in butter or oil.


Non-Vietnamese


Vegetarian

There are dozens of vegetarian restaurants in Quy Nhơn.

The majority of the restaurants are very small family-homes located within a block or two of a Buddhist temple; look for signs saying "Chay" (vegetarian) in front of houses and small alleyways. The meals offered can be quirky  in a good way  and are often quite pleasant discoveries after the monotony of the standard vegetarian fare in Vietnam. And the setting  eating with every generation of the owner's family smack-dab in the middle of their house at their living room table  makes the experience feel very much like a homestay. However, the opening hours of these little family operations are completely random; on full moon days, they're usually open from morning to early evening, but at other times, it's hit or miss.

The larger vegetarian restaurants offer the advantage of more predictable and regular hours. But they generally have (slightly) higher prices and the food selection is the more typical vegetarian fare in which the meat and fish in the standard Vietnamese noodle and rice dishes are simply swapped out for meat-substitutes like seitan and tofu. Buddhist monks are frequent diners at the vegetarian restaurants; a few of the more gregarious ones speak some English and often chat up any foreigners to learn about life abroad.

Bakeries


Drink

Cafes are the centre of social life in Quy Nhơn. They come in all sizes: huge and impressive, small and quaint, tiny and jammed between parked motorbikes in a family's living room. They're in every style: knee-high tables on street corners, outdoor gardens with wooden verandas, hipster joints infused with attitude, cubbyholes serving milk tea to teenagers on bamboo floors, tables set amidst bonsai forests. And with over 1,000 cafes for a city of only 300,000 people, the cafes are everywhere: on the beach, in the city centre, on the sides of the mountains, on median strips in the middle of streets.

Cafe hours can be tricky to predict. Most cafes are open in the prime hours in the late afternoon and evening, and many are also open in the early morning. But the exact hours vary a lot from place to place. Even at one cafe, the hours will vary from day to day based on customer flows, the weather, and the owner's schedule. Lunchtime is also hit-or-miss: some cafes always take a siesta break, some always work through lunchtime, and many just open or close based on the whims of the day. As a general reference, a typical schedule might be to open at 07:00 or 08:00 in the morning, close for a break from 11:00 to 15:00, then serve until 21:00 or so.

As for nightlife.... the answer is no. Quy Nhơn has no real nightlife to speak of. There's one slightly dodgy neon-and-smoke-machine nightclub. Most restaurants open at night have beer  or will find some for you  and many cafes serve cocktails, but there's nothing like a bar scene where people mingle over drinks. The majority of places close by 22:00, and by midnight the city is almost deserted. So kick back in an open-air cafe or restaurant, lap up the sea views and ocean breezes, and enjoy the city's sleepy small-town vibe.

Cafes

Bars/Clubs


Sleep

This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:
Budget Under 300,000 dong
Mid-range 300,000600,000 dong
Splurge Over 600,000 dong

Despite local hopes to turn Quy Nhơn into a mega beach resort similar to Nha Trang, with 10-story chain hotels packing international travellers into every nook of the beach promenade and smaller hotels stretching the tourist zone several blocks back from the coast, accommodation is still very low-key. As of 2016, only a few hotels of more than five floors are scattered over the kilometres of prime beach-front streets, and many blocks in front of the ocean are either completely devoid of buildings or have only a patchwork of small residential houses and gardens.

Almost all visitors to Quy Nhơn are local Vietnamese tourists, and the accommodation options cater to them in terms of hotel styles, food, and service. As for English language, plan on lots of hand movements for communicating in all but the handful of higher-end places. On the plus side, though, you'll find prices that are significantly cheaper than in any other beach cities in the country, no scams or higher rates for foreigners, and a personal friendliness that overcomes all language difficulties (well, many of them, at least).

Online reservations are available through the standard international booking websites for all the more expensive hotels and a few enterprising budget inns, so if you like, you can guarantee yourself a room before you arrive. But you won't find the majority of low- and mid-budget places on the internet: either have a Vietnamese-speaker call by phone to reserve, or just show up and ask when you arrive. Hotel growth hasn't been massive, but it definitely has outpaced tourist numbers in the last decade, and even in the Tết holiday period or peak summer months, you'll never have a problem finding a room for the night if you just ask around a bit.


Budget

Mid-Range

Splurge

Bãi Xép fishing village

Connect

Internet

Covered in a haze of cigarette smoke and usually jammed in the middle of a family's living room and kitchen, hundreds of houses on almost every street of the city have desktop computers you can use for high-speed internet access at low prices. Their customers are almost exclusively local teenage boys playing video games day and night, but the computers all have old-and-illegal but functional Windows operating systems, software for web browsing and headphones for video calls. Many even have Photoshop (again, illegal copies), Microsoft Office and other software installed. One hour of use is 3,000 dong.

If you have your own laptop or smartphone, you'll never be more than a few minutes' walk from a connection, as almost every cafe and restaurant in the city offers free Wi-Fi access for customers. Connection speeds are uniformly very fast and there are no download limits.

Telephones

The area code for Quy Nhơn land lines is 056. To call from outside Vietnam, add the country code and drop the 0: +84 56 XXX-XXXX.

All the major mobile networks provide excellent coverage for both local and international communication. You can purchase SIM cards in any phone shop or small kiosk on the street. Competition between the carriers keeps prices even lower than in bigger Vietnamese cities. Special offers come and go every week, but a typical pre-paid deal for one month is 50,000 dong for 10 gb of internet with 75,000 dong of included credit for calls and texts. No documentation is required and all cards are pre-activated.

There are no public phones in the city.

Go next

Danang (Đà Nẵng) fifth-largest city in Vietnam. Famous to tourists for its beaches, early Champa history, and convenience as a base for exploring Hội An and Mỹ Sơn. 300 km (185 mi) north of Quy Nhơn.

Hội An well-preserved 15th19th century trading port popular among foreign tourists and honoured as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999. 290 km (180 mi) north of Quy Nhơn.

Mỹ Sơn Cham ruins from the 4th14th centuries. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is considered the longest inhabited archaeological site in Indochina. 300 km (185 mi) northwest of Quy Nhơn / 40 km (25 mi) west of Hội An.

Nha Trang booming beach resort popular among international tourists. 220 km (135 mi) south of Quy Nhơn.

Pleiku small Central Highlands city critically important to both sides during the Vietnam-American war for its strategic location. 160 km (100 mi) east of Quy Nhơn.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Saturday, April 02, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.