What could be more enjoyable than experiencing the most beautiful aspects of a tropical coastal region without facing any hardships?
The rocky spikes emerge in the midst of sea waves at dawn, appearing charming yet standing strong and mighty.
I arrived in Quy Nhon on a day at the beginning of summer in May, while my neck felt stiff. I anticipated the trip would be somehow tiring and burdensome, but in modern terms, I must admit it had a ‘healing’ effect on my neck pain. I don’t particularly like this word so much, hence I put it inside quotation marks.
The weather of Quy Nhon in May was very pleasant, unlike the typical harshness of summer; the sunshine was comfortable and ideal for sea lovers, while being filled with cool breeze, so I had nothing to complain about.
I was so astounded at the warm reception from the hotel owner, as well as my spacious room with minimal decorations yet outstanding conveniences for a solo backpacker, accompanied by a view towards Ba Hoa Mountain right in the heart of the city.
After settling myself down I jumped on my rented motorbike from the hotel to head northwards. My mind was inundated with questions about where I should go to capture the sunset, or how I would arrange my destinations for a few hours left in the first afternoon here. Ultimately, I decided to travel to Nhon Ly first, followed by returning along the road beside Thi Nai Marsh at dusk.
The expansive road leading to Nhon Ly was National Highway 19, crossing the 2.5km-long Thi Nai Bridge over the sea, and trailing along DT639 provincial road or National Highway 19B to reach the destination. This 22km-long journey would take me 3 hours to accomplish in the city, but here I would have needed only about 30 minutes if I had been familiar with the route beforehand.
Of course as a first-timer here, things looked so alien that I would stand irresolute in front of any roundabout, and take caution amidst the blow ready to throw me down while riding on Thi Nai Bridge. Sometimes I would stop by the roadside and enjoy my mung bean mixed with grass jelly juice bought at the beginning of the journey.
In some way I was deviating to Eo Gio first, which is a famous scenic place with rocky promontories constantly being battered by crashing waves. As this location is pretty well-known, you may have difficulty finding an unobstructed view spot.
After staying for a while I decided to resume my journey by passing through Thi Nai Marsh along DT639 provincial road, which was a wise choice because I could have a beautiful view of the sunset in the western sky, getting lost in the rural roads and venturing into the most remote corners, bypassing the alleys used for drying leaves, while the ambience was filled with cheerful sounds.
To say in correct terms it’s the sunset of the first day, as the next day I would come back to the marsh too, but on a different side with a different scenery.
The local aquafarmers by the marsh were so genuine, when they noticed me - a stranger carrying a bulky camera, they willingly offered to strike some poses.
It’s such a perfect weather condition for a glorious sunset scenery, the typical violet dusk radiating over the shrimp farms, while the mountains made their imprints against the horizon in the distance.
But the most wonderful thing was the present from the sun as I made my way back to the city via Thi Nai Bridge in the westward direction, I couldn’t resist stopping every few hundred meters just to admire the landscape. The other travelers on the road seemed solely focused on their ride, perhaps because this scenery was a familiar sight to them. In a place of high-rise buildings like Saigon urban, you can’t have such similar chance.
After crossing a series of bridges spanning Ha Thanh River, I finally reached the city, for this time I would try bun ram (thornback crab rice noodles), which had been recommended by my hotel owner.
In the second morning I was determined to get up early for catching sunrise along the coastal roads, the plan seemed almost successful as I had been awakened even before the cock-crow, but it failed at the end because the hotel employee had fallen into a deep sleep that I couldn’t rouse him to open the gate.
Not a big problem though, as sitting inside the room, gazing at the violet dawn outside and savoring a cup of instant noodles wasn’t less interesting at all.
Under the radiant sky, I then was on my scooter heading southwards on a wide street, along the slightly winding Mong Cam road and National Highway 1D, where the morning sunshine was penetrating through the lush green canopies on the side of the mountains.
This journey was nowhere different from an aimless wander, as I would drop by any place with gorgeous scenery along the way. I had heard of a popular beach called Quy Hoa, where Han Mac Tu had spent his last days in the leper colony, but I didn’t expect at this time Quy Hoa was still an uncrowded, isolated area inhabited by the families of the leprosy patients, rather than a highlighted spot attracting travelers.
To enter the leper colony I needed to pass through a narrow gate by the cemetery and paid a tiny amount of parking fee. Then the spacious roads inside became entirely mine, as I calmly rode along the beach full of casuarina trees, passing by the weathered houses, chapels and the crucifix.
In contrast to the bald hills making space for the modern resorts, here is enveloped in the green foliage provided by trees having thrived for over half a century, a place that truly sets our minds free and helps us escape from our daily life for a few hours. As the residents are also patients, it’s advised you should behave yourselves, keep silence and act courteously to the people.
Despite its compact area, it’s really a maze. I recommend you not come at night if you feel panicky because there’re some large cemeteries and there’s only one entrance/exit (Google Maps seemed useless as it had given me a wrong exit direction).
On my way back to Quy Nhon I stopped by Hoang Hau Beach, which costed me only a few bucks for entrance; here I could have a perfect vantage point towards central Quy Nhon, where the blue waves of the sea crashed into the rocky shoreline.
I believed this would be a very ideal place to witness sunrise, but when I asked the gatekeeper he told me that it’s only open from 6am, whereas the summer dawn here occurred as early as 5am.
To the north side of Quy Nhon, on Tran Hung Dao street stands Quy Nhon Twin Towers - the ancient towers that still preserve the antique architectural features from the Cham Pa era.
At that time the sky was blazingly sunny, I decided to hurry towards some street vendor and savored a good glass of mung bean grass jelly juice, followed by a lunch amidst the hot weather.
This should be the most highlighted section of the trip, as it embodied the spirit of spontaneity and unpredictability, while also showcasing the beauty occurring only when you take an unplanned route. This time was Thi Nai Marsh again in the late afternoon, however, I would go along the western route passing Phuoc Thuan villages to reach the destination.
At the big roundabout at the head of Thi Nai Bridge, instead of proceeding to the bridge, you can opt to travel on National Highway 19 in the opposite direction, passing by the neatly arranged but unpopulated townhouses to head to Binh Dinh rural area. After crossing Ha Thanh River, you turn right onto a small road to reach Phuoc Thuan, turn right one more time and keep riding until the marsh on the horizon is in sight.
I was mesmerized by the village scenes, the newly sown paddy fields, and the sudden appearance of flocks of ducks.
You’ll know whether you’re heading in the correct direction as ahead of you sits the peaks on Nhon Ly side, while on the serene surface of the marsh the boats calmly cruise.
I continued on the narrow path while surrounding me were the vast aqua fields, sometimes I thought I would reach a dead end, but it turned out to be an endless path. I decided to stop at a bend, from there I could witness Con Chim (literally, ‘Birds Islet’) in the distance, where the distinct white wings of the birds flapping over the mangroves caught my sight.
At that moment I found myself unsure of what to do next, hence I just ordered a sugar cane juice to quench my thirst. But I soon realized it’s also a rather bustling pier to fetch visitors to Con Chim. It’s 4pm already, so making decision for the next activity was very important not to miss the approaching sweet gold sunset light.
Like a fortunate destiny, a kind-hearted woman advised me to wait a while until the next boat ride on the boundless water of Thi Nai, where I would be with the local children from Con Chim. It’s somehow novel to me - a city resident - to board the boat, but the following story was unforgettable. It wasn’t a high-tide day and I could only go for one round without reaching Con Chim, anyway which didn’t seem to be a big disappointment at all.
Being seated and hearing the lively chatter of the kids on the boat, while the waves kept splashing onto my face and the sparkling light blanketed the lone fishermen’s back in the middle of the vast water, what could have been better than that humble, inexpensive experience?
I timed my departure back to the city at 5pm, right at the time the sun was setting in the west to my right side.
I ventured onto the unnamed roads and the newly sown paddy fields under the sunshine, where the farmers appeared like magnificent sculptures.
I again crossed the irrigational bridge structures and experienced an emotional burst when encountering a fisherman’s boat calmly moved matching the sunset’s rhythm. The local seemed unaware of the scene, but as someone from the city, it’s ultimately a gorgeous scene. Why don’t we stay there for long to appreciate it?
Back to Phuoc Thuan, now the traffic was busier and busier as I was approaching the national highway; the orange-pink rounded sun floated over the power poles and the church bell towers of this countryside.
To wrap up this section, I will select the photos captured when crossing Ha Thanh River at the exact moment the sun disappeared from view.
I was determined to catch sunrise on my last day here, and it’s successful after I woke the hotel employee up to open the gate at 4am.
It’s been by far my most adventurous journey ever, as I crossed the windy Thi Nai and the newly constructed, unpaved streets on the sandy landscape of Nhon Hoi, in the faint electric light without any human in sight at that time.
An extraordinary effort will be rewarded with an invaluable present which isn’t attainable by everyone.
Nhon Hai is situated in the opposite direction of Nhon Ly; the beach isn’t very exceptional, but tranquil. The local were already up to do exercise by the beach even before my arrival.
The atmosphere was abuzz with cheerful, lively chatters. The weather was perfect for a color-transforming sunrise scenery.
To the north of the fishermen’s village you can come across Hon Kho Stone Beach, a natural masterpiece at dawn you shouldn’t miss. When the sun is up at 7am, the defined shapes of the rocky promontories are ideal subjects for landscape photography, which look great when used as desktop wallpapers.
On my return journey, the road was much more effortless to navigate without the presence of darkness. I also had a chance to stumble upon Phuong Mai Bay with its crystal-clear water mirroring the surrounding mountains.
This time I once again visited Nhon Ly, not to the same location, but a famous village where house walls are uniformly painted blue, adorned with white and pink bougainvillea canopies.
The aging houses along the sea front currently are being destructed, perhaps unable to withstand the wave of tourism-driven reformation. Here and there are left with some old grey walls surrounding desolated alleys, which eventually will be replaced by new fancy houses.
While admiring the beauty of the anchored fishing boats floating on the sea, the kids approached and asked me to help disentangle their two bicycles. Maybe it’s the last memorable thing I had of this place. Now that I could be back to the city and enjoy dishes like bun cha ca (fish cake rice noodles) or kem bo (avocado cream).
This post is a part of the Vietnam series.Written in September 2023 © Zuyet Awarmatik.
Zuyet Awarmatrip is a subsidiary identity within the personal ecosystem of Zuyet Awarmatik, focusing on travel and photography.
A Vietnamese usually regarding himself as a carefree solo Eastern backpacker, alongside with his main profession as a UX engineer. Neither being a freelancer nor a digital nomad, this website is built for the purpose of recording his life experience and happenings instead of letting them go into oblivion. He hopes these photos here shall always deliver the colorfulness of this worldly reality.
“Mưa Tháng Sáu” by Văn Mai Hương × Grey D × Trung Quân
How I hate summer with incessant raining, scorching sunny days, and its being the time of breakup, contrast to those beautiful cold days at year's end.