My mountainside room has a view, the kind of view that people travel halfway across the globe for — paddy field greenery that sweeps into an infinity of sky, limestone mountains and canals. Yet set in a remote part of southwest Vietnam on the edge of Cambodia, this is the type of sight that few overseas visitors to this country ever see. Until now.
The labor day/liberation day long weekend is upon Vietnam, and for most in the country's major cities, the five-day work hiatus is a good excuse to get out of town. But where to go? The Word editorial team breaks down their favourite travel destinations in Vietnam and southeast Asia that are perfect for the April/May break.
Even though the twin city of Phan Rang-Thap Cham is technically the provincial capital of Ninh Thuan, it’s hard to believe a place where farmers steering herds of cattle down the street is the local nexus of industrialisation. But since Ninh Thuan remains the poorest and least developed province in southern Vietnam, perhaps the city’s rustic simplicity shouldn’t be a surprise.
“I’ve been doing this for nearly 20 years — almost as long as I’ve used this.”
57-year-old Thanh holds a moth-eaten, floppy hat to his chest and nods toward a rusted old sewing machine. Bursts of wind tug at the net he is mending — it’s so strong that a few women nearby have already abandoned their work and are hunched behind a decrepit building. A few braver souls still have their noses inches from their own machines, feeding endless green fishing net through the humming shuttle. The ferocious gusts mean that no boats will go out tonight. Instead, the fishermen focus on preparing for the next outing.
“This one, over here.”
A slight, smiling woman in crisp white linen reaches out for my arm and leads me past a pearly white sedan, my carry-on bag slung over her shoulder. I’ve just arrived at the airport in Nha Trang, and I thought I’d be beckoned to the nearest luxury four-door sedan. It is, after all, transport to a five-star resort. Instead, she leads me a few spaces back to a dusty gold SUV. It’s not exactly what I expected.
On Vietnam’s south central coast, between Phan Thiet and Nha Trang, is a province of extraordinary beauty. Lush forests stretch along pristine coastline while sweeping desert landscapes give way to rare geological phenomena. Home to two national parks, much of the arid scenery and desert flora remains untouched. The culture and traditions of ethnic minorities are preserved in small, rural communities and in centuries-old ruins. Ethnic, religious and cultural diversity flourish while strangers still greet each other with smiles.