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.
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 English. Hotels are outdated and even the newer ones are of pretty middling quality. Most of the ancient archaeological 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 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-km 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 km.
And everywhere in Quy Nhơn, you'll be charmed by the people. 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 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.
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 Bình Định countryside in the northwest. Most sites of interest to tourists are to the south of Trần Hưng Đạo; to the north are 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 east–west 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 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 east 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.
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 chart (explanation)|
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 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.
For a small region which is often overlooked by 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 Vietnam-American War.
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 Da Nang (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 km safely back from the coast.
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 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. The Hindu shrines of the Chams 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. There are few beggars on the streets of Quy Nhơn, but if you see any, odds are high that they are Cham from these surrounding villages. 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.
As a traveller in Bình Định, the most visible part of the Champa past you'll come across are the archaeological sites, 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. The sites in the countryside are bigger and more complete, but 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 archaeological day trip from Quy Nhơn is great fun.
The next brush of national fame for Quy Nhơn and the surrounding Bình Định villages came as the birthplace of the Tây Sơn rebellion, a peasant uprising in the 18th century which conquered the ruling feudal overlords in the north and in the south, beat back Chinese invaders and created a unified and independent Vietnam. The three brothers from Bình Định who led the movement are revered national heroes celebrated throughout Vietnam and the diaspora for their military victories and Robin Hood-like support of the common people.
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 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 five 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 three 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 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.
With its strategic position as a port city and as a highway transportation nexus, Quy Nhơn and the surrounding Bình Định countryside played an outsized role in the Vietnam-American 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 (the glass was used 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 narrow mountain passes created ideal positions for both Viet Cong troops and North Vietnam's 3rd Division (the "Yellow Stars"), and by the early 1960s, the countryside around Quy Nhơn 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 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 arrived in 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 (9 mi) south of Quy Nhơn.
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. Describing the carnage wreaked by the Tigers in one such incident, a U.S. soldier said: "I've never seen so many broken necks and caved-in ribs in my life. We helped clean up what was left."
Language was a constant issue for the Koreans, but they devised a wordless solution to communicate their message to Bình Định locals: public exhibitions of soldiers using their bare hands to break 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 red-brown apes making loud barking sounds—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 presented by the arrival of hundreds of thousands of soldiers, 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 existing airport and its small runway smack-dab in the centre of the city (near the present-day Coopmart), 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.
"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, 80 km (50 mi) northwest from Quy Nhơn on Highway 19, Phù Mỹ, 50 km (30 mi) north of Quy Nhơn on the coast, and Bồng Sơn, on the coast 80 km (50 mi) 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, with an estimated 30,000 people living in squalor in makeshift shelters on the beach or simply sleeping on the sand.
Quy Nhơn 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.
These caves 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 16 km (10 mi) north of the city centre in order 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 Lyndon Johnson to order his generals to rescind the ban and promote the use of chemical weapons.
As part of the "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. 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 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. The date is commemorated each year as provincial liberation day.
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 Da Nang (Đà Nẵng) and Biên Hòa airbases, Phù Cát was classified by a joint U.S.-Vietnamese investigation in 2010 as one of the most contaminated hotspots in the country, and it was 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.
Phù Cát airport ((IATA: UIH, ICAO: VVPC), the main civilian airport serving Quy Nhơn and the Bình Định area today, was built in 1966–67 by the U.S. Air Force 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 served by carriers Vietnam Airlines, VietJet Air, and JetStar/JetStar Pacific with a total of eight daily return flights with Saigon and two with Hanoi. A one-way ticket from either city typically costs US$60–90 on the budget carriers and US$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 US$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 350,000–450,000 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 or motorcycle
As the biggest city between Hội An and Nha Trang, Quy Nhơn is often used by 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 (25 mi) per hour throughout the whole journey.
Hội An lies 290 km (180 mi) 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 (20 mi) per hour.
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 120,000–175,000 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 station in central Quy Nhơn, but if your train does, it's a cheap and convenient 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 beds in the four-person berths, sell out frequently; at high times, it's best to book a week or more in advance.
Approximate prices and trip length:
- Da Nang (Đà Nẵng): 6 hours. Hard seat 150,000 dong. Soft seat 200,000. Hard bed 250,000.
- Nha Trang: 4 hours. Hard seat 110,000 dong. Soft seat 145,000. Hard bed 175,000. Soft bed 210,000.
- Saigon: 13 hours. Hard seat 300,000–555,000 dong. Soft seat 350,000–700,000. Hard bed 550,000–735,000. Soft bed 650,000–1,000,000.
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 in advance or on the day of travel 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 cancelled. But at most other times, tickets are almost always available for next-day travel and quite often for same-day travel. Tickets purchased in Quy Nhơn tend to cost slightly less than the reverse route purchased in a bigger city.
Quy Nhơn's small-town fairness extends to bus tickets. In contrast to other Vietnamese cities, you won't be charged more because you're a foreigner: as long as you buy directly from the bus company ticket window in the Quy Nhơn bus station, you'll pay the same price as locals.
Quy Nhơn is hundreds of kilometres from other major cities, and bus companies offer many different options for covering the distance: the price, length of journey, quality of bus, and number of stops vary considerably between different buses. In general, direct buses from Quy Nhơn are 25,000–75,000 dong more expensive and can be a few hours faster than those which make local stops. Overnight trips tend to be faster and more reliable in their estimated arrival times than daytime journeys. As in other cities in Vietnam, bus companies in Quy Nhơn are notorious for driving at breakneck speeds through the countryside. But they still invariably end up arriving later than the very optimistic time estimates they give you. Be prepared that your bus ride might end up taking at least an hour or two longer than promised... and maybe a lot more.
As a rough guide, the trip length and typical prices for one-way tickets from Quy Nhơn are:
- Dalat (Đà Lạt): 9–12 hours. 175,000 dong.
- Da Nang (Đà Nẵng): 6–9 hours. 110,000 dong.
- Huế: 8–11 hours. 200,000 dong.
- Nha Trang: 5–7 hours. 90,000 dong.
- Saigon: 12–15 hours. 235,000 dong.
- Vinh: 16–20 hours. 410,000 dong.
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, Da Nang or even Nha Trang. Cars are much less common than 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 rent the bikes out, 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.
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 15,000–30,000 dong. From the far east side to the west costs about 60,000.
- Sun Taxi, ☎ . Largest taxi service in Quy Nhơn. Fare: 5,000 dong for the first 500 metres, 11,300 for each additional kilometre up to 30.5 km, 9,300 for each kilometre after 30.5 km.
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 beaches and archaeological sites in the surrounding area 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 (two-person) bicycles. Prices are negotiable; locals pay 20,000 dong for an hour and 100,000 for a day.
On the one hand, Quy Nhơn is a wonderful city for walking. Traffic is very light, and crossing the street isn't the life-threatening hazard that it is 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 Nhơn 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 20–30 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 archaeological sites in the surrounding countryside are definitely too far for any walking trips.
There is public transport of any type that is useful for getting around within the city.
Bottom line: if you want to explore the city 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.
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 and 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; for example, there are usually a handful waiting at the southern end of the central market at Tôn Đức Thắng and Trường Chinh streets.
Drivers speak no English, but they're expert in the geography of the city, so to get started, just point on the map to your destination or show them its address. Prices are negotiable. A short ride of 1–1.5 km costs locals about 7,000 dong. Most cyclo drivers in Quy Nhơn aren't used to foreign customers. They might initially request higher prices from you than they offer to locals, but in contrast to other Vietnamese cities, they're not mercenary: a smile and a little friendly bargaining will quickly get them down to local levels.
By 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 initially ask foreigners high prices for small trips, e.g. 60,000–100,000 dong for a trip that should cost 20,000.
There are no local bus routes of any real use serving the streets of the central city.
For trips to the bays and coast south of the city centre, there is a bus between Quy Nhơn and Chí Thanh which stops in Bãi Xép, the tiny fishing village 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.
- Bãi Xép beach and village. With deserted beaches, hilly islands close to shore, and round wooden fishing boats bobbing in the water, the tiny village of Bãi Xép 10 km (6 mi) south of the city centre has become a popular destination for international tourists looking for seaside tranquililty. It's part of the city, but the little hamlet is a world of development away from even sleepy Quy Nhơn's decided lack of buzz and feels more like a remote island than a suburb. The access road to the village is a tiny lane running down the hill from Highway 1D. At the bottom, the lane splits into two one-metre wide passages between the villagers' houses: the left leads to the cove used by the fishermen, while the right takes you to a secluded beach and two guesthouses run by and for foreigners. At the south end of the Bãi Xép cove past a fence is the only luxury hotel in the region, the Avani Beach Resort; it shares the same tranquil waters and postcard view of the nearby islands, but its end of the beach is private and off-limits to non-guests.
Running over the mountains and high above the shore, the road between Quy Nhơn and Bãi Xép has jaw-dropping views, and there are many points along the highway where you can stop to take panoramic pictures of the city and the coast. North and south of Bãi Xép are many bays below the highway. The most popular are the bucolic hamlets of Bãi Bàng and Bãi Bầu, 5 km (3 mi) south of Bãi Xép, but there are dozens of little coves which you can explore between the jagged rocks along the entire stretch of coast.
- Beach promenade and city beach. Nha Trang is stark. Much of the Quy Nhơn beach is unused and empty even in peak tourist season. There are no commercial watersports, boat rides, surfing or tours. In the more central areas 1 km on either side of Nguyễn Tất Thành street, locals play football (soccer) and volleyball on the beach, Vietnamese tourists run (often fully clothed) into the water, and families enjoy picnics. The few vendors scattered along the promenade selling food and drinks to local tourists are low-key and don't aggressively tout their wares. In the central beach area, a few hotels and private individuals offer lounge chairs in the summer months. A tiny semi-permanent amusement park in a grassy area next to the beach offers carousel rides primarily for kids.
With grainy sand a dark shade of yellow, slightly murky water, no international food options, no nightlife, a sleepy atmosphere, and a notable lack of tourist infrastructure in general, Quy Nhơn is far from a typical beach paradise... which is precisely the draw of this beautiful setting for those looking to escape the mass tourism of big resorts.
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 caught out in the 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.
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 a vast 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.
- Phương Mai peninsula. The Phương Mai peninsula (see sidebar) is the easiest—and probably only—place in Vietnam to enjoy kilometres of beach in utter solitude. The beach on the northeast side of the peninsula is almost completely empty for over 10 km. Just leave your motorbike anywhere you like on the side of the highway and scramble over the 300-metre wide sand dunes to reach the coast. Take off your shoes and enjoy: in dry season, the pale-yellow to crystal-white sand squeaks pleasantly underfoot. Small sand hills line the coast; those who manage to scale their slippery heights are rewarded with views of the mountains in the north and of the never-ending coast stretching off to the horizon in the south. There are no stores and no shade, so be sure to take water and lots of sunscreen.
In contrast to the rolling sand dunes of the northern part of the peninsula, the shore at Bãi Kỳ Co in the south-central area is sharply framed by rocky boulders and stunning cliffs. Jump from the 10-metre (30-foot) cliffs into the clear blue ocean, play in pools of fresh water trapped amongst the inland boulders, swim in salt water lakes connected by underwater passageways to the ocean, hop in a wooden boat for a one-hour jaunt with fishermen to explore the islands just off the coast, or scramble up the jagged cliffs closest to the shore for perfect photo opportunities of the ocean and coast. If you're really adventurous, hike the trail through the mountain forests: the three-hour trek from the top down to the beach takes you through spectacular boulder passes and mountain creeks. And anywhere you are, you can't miss the largest Buddha statue in Vietnam, the 30-metre (100-foot) golden statue constructed in 2014 of Avalokiteśvara, the embodiment of infinite compassion of all Buddhas, looking out over the water.
But Bãi Kỳ Co is changing rapidly: after years of plans deferred and broken, luxury development began at the end of 2015. An 18-hole golf course drafted by Jack Nicklaus's design company had a partial opening in February 2016 and is the anchor of Hanoi-based FLC Group's drive to build Vietnam's first seven-star luxury resort in the area around Eo Gió beach. So enjoy the area while it's still in its natural state... and still open to the public.
The mountains on the mainland just to the north of the peninsula have several attractions which are popular with local Bình Định tourists. One kilometre north on Highway 640 past the junction with Highway 19 is the Buddhist Temple Chùa Ông Núi. Founded in 1702, the temple sits on the mountain to the west of the highway and has stunning views of the coast and the ocean. Near the temple closer to the shore is a massive stone and metal sculpture which commemorates the capture of Bình Định by People's Army's forces in March, 1975. Behind the cafe on the road opposite the sculpture, a steep boulder walkway carries an odd mix of selfie-shooting locals and gruff fishermen down to a picturesque cove crammed with round wooden trawlers sandwiched between the water and the cliffs.
The easiest way to explore the peninsula from Quy Nhơn is to rent a motorbike and drive over via the Thị Nại bridge. From the city centre, take Nguyễn Tất Thành to Trần Hưng Đạo. At the large intersection, head north on Võ Nguyên Giáp. You'll cross four small bridges as you pass through industrial parks and agricultural fields on all sides. After 3 km, the road bends east and you'll see the 2.5-kilometre long Thị Nại bridge stretching forlornly across the sea. At least, hopefully you'll see it: the crossing is notorious for being covered in fog and strong winds even when the city is sunny, so take care when on the bridge not to get blown over by the gusts of air, water and sand. After reaching the peninsula and passing a petrol station on the right, you'll reach a confusing series of roundabouts; most head to factories and the not-yet developed areas, so be careful to follow the signs for Highway 19B. Once you're on Highway 19B, it's a straight line north for 20 km (12 mi) to the top of the peninsula.
- Tháp Bánh Ít (Banh It Cham Towers, Silver Towers), Đại Lộc village, Tuy Phước district (halfway between Quy Nhơn and Phù Cát airport). Daily 07:00–11:00 and 13:30–17:00. One of the best large sites of Cham ruins still surviving, and certainly the most accessible and best restored in the countryside, Tháp Bánh Ít (Banh It Cham Towers) is a cluster of four towers built in the 10th–11th centuries on a hilltop overlooking the river 17 km (10 mi) northwest of Quy Nhơn. The Cham constructed the Bánh Ít site to fit in harmony with the environment, and while not as enormous as ancient sites in Angkor or Borobudur, the site even today is a beautiful medley of rolling countryside hills, river and towers. Although the site had nothing to do with silver, early French colonialists named Champa sites after minerals, and their name of "Silver Towers" stuck and is still used today by many foreign sources. The most common name used for the towers by the Vietnamese, Bánh Ít, is also the name of the local sweet cake specialty.
Approaching from the east, the first tower is the 13-metre (42-foot) gate. Up the hill from the gate are the three larger towers. The biggest is 20 metres (65 feet) high, with intricate carvings of humans, birds, flowers, and the elephant god Ganesa and the monkey god Viyu in dancing pose. The architectural style is unique among Cham ruins for the vertical columns and grooved tiles, the use of sandstone for the roof edges, and false doors topped by soaring arches in the shape of spears. The site held many statues, but sadly, most of them were shipped off to Europe by French colonialists in the late 19th century. The most impressive of the artworks, an intricately-carved 11th-century statue of a three-eyed Shiva seated on a lotus, is held in the Musée Guimet in Paris, while copper statues of Genesha, Uma, and Brahma vanished into private French collectors' hands in the early 20th century.
If you're feeling particularly adventurous, the undeveloped countryside around the main towers is full of small centuries-old ruins. Although only the four complete towers survive, the area had many more buildings, and poorly-funded archaeological surveys haven't had the resources to completely investigate the grounds. Small fragments are hidden in many places in the undergrowth, and, with luck, you can even find complete corner pieces of several buildings overgrown by trees, particularly to the east of the main site. But don't disturb anything: you're allowed to explore the ruins, but it's illegal to take, sell, export, or damage any historical relics in Vietnam.
The Bánh Ít site is just east of the junction between Highway 1A and Highway 19. Halfway between Quy Nhơn and Phù Cát airport, you can easily combine a visit with a trip to or from the airport. As with all sites outside the city centre, driving your own car or motorbike is the most convenient transportation option as it gives you the flexibility to explore the surrounding countryside. A taxi from the city takes 15–30 minutes to the towers and costs about 100,000 dong from the north centre of the city and up to 200,000 dong if coming from the southwest beach side. Two bus routes, T4 and T6, run infrequently from stops in the city at the Quang Trung roundabout and Tháp Đôi Towers, leaving you a 20-minute walk from the towers at at the junction of Highway 1A and Highway 19. The bus costs 10,000 dong, but if you're tight on time, stick to a taxi: the bus schedule is infrequent and even the scheduled buses often fail to appear.
Another transportation option is the airport shuttle bus which services arriving and departing flights. From the airport, the shuttle bus travels south down Highway 1A. If you stand on the west side of the road, you can hail the bus. Tickets normally cost 50,000 dong from the airport, but if there's space in the shuttle, the driver will pick you up and take you to the city for 25,000 dong from the towers. Entry to the towers is 10,000 dong and parking 5,000 dong, but the site is little visited and it's possible you might enter and never see anyone or be asked for money.
- Tháp Dương Long (Duong Long Cham Towers) (50 km (30 mi) northwest from Quy Nhơn). Daily 07:00–11:00 and 13:30–17:00. Three Cham towers built in the late 12th century, about 50 km (30 mi) outside Quy Nhơn. These impressive towers are the tallest Cham structures still remaining in Vietnam: the centre tower is 24 m (78 ft) high, while the two outside towers each measure 22 m (72 ft). The bodies of the towers are made from bricks, while the bases are built from massive carved boulders. Patterns carved into the bases show a glimpse of ancient Cham culture: flowers, gods, elephants, large human breasts, dragons. The towers were in the middle of a civic area, which now can only be seen in the ruins and artefacts strewn about on the surrounding grounds. The site feels abandoned and wild. Money for preservation and restoration was cut in the late 2000s, and except for the occasional presence of a caretaker, the site is utterly empty and you'll probably be alone as you explore the area. There is no information at the site.
Renting your own motorbike is the cheapest and most convenient transportation option. A taxi from the city costs 500,000–600,000 dong one-way. There is no bus. The towers can be combined with a day trip to the Quang Trung museum 10 km to the west. Entry ticket—when the caretaker is present and awake—costs 3,000 dong.
- Tháp Đôi Cham Towers (Thap Doi Cham Towers, "The Twin Towers"), Trần Hưng Đạo (between Đặng Xuân Phong and Tháp Đôi). Daily 08:00–11:00 and 13:00–18:00. 2 km from the city centre, the Tháp Đôi are the most accessible Cham towers in the country. The Hindu Cham people started construction on the two 20-metre (65 ft) towers in the 11th century after establishing Vijaya as the capital of their empire and the port city of Quy Nhơn as its economic engine. Three towers were planned, but for unknown reasons, only two exist, and the site became known to the Vietnamese as Tháp Đôi ("The Twin Towers"). Unusually for Cham architecture, the Twin Towers eschew the traditional multi-storey square construction in favour of a large rectangular base topped by a carved pyramid structure. The towers were built from brick in the typical Cham style in which pieces were tiled closely together and then baked into a solid block, with the unusual addition of crushed stone for support. The outer structure and external sculptures were made from sandstone. The art and architecture share many characteristics with Angkor sites in present-day Cambodia thanks to the frequent exchange—in both peace and war—between Champa and the Khmer kingdom. This later Cham period is particularly characterized by the intricate and ornate animal statues and carvings which the Cham adopted after moving their capital to Bình Định. The holy bird Garuda rests on top of the vegetation-covered roofs, protecting the towers from evil forces, while below are detailed carvings of giant lotus bases, elephants, lions, monkeys and humans dancing. The towers were restored in the 1980s and 1990s with help from a Polish archaeological team, and the area around them has been developed into a small park, with trees and grass surrounding the archaeological site and shielding it from the traffic outside (ironically, one of the only noisy stretches of road anywhere in the city is Trần Hưng Đạo street directly in front of the towers). The neighbourhood just to the north of the towers is a pleasant and quiet residential area on the banks of the river, with a few local cafes and restaurants. Entry ticket costs 10,000 dong per person. Unlike the Cham towers in the countryside, ticket collectors at Tháp Đôi are always present and awake, so you'll definitely be asked to pay.
- Chùa Hiển Nam, 3 Trần Thị Kỷ (between Diên Hồng and Hàm Nghi), ☎ . Medium-sized Buddhist temple a four-minute walk from Coopmart just west of Nguyễn Tất Thành Street. Several of the buildings and statues are under re-construction in 2016, but the grounds and temple are open to visitors daily from morning to evening.
- Chùa Long Khánh, 141 Trần Cao Vân (main entrance between Tăng Bạt Hổ and Phan Bội Châu). Large and very important Buddhist temple in Quy Nhơn city and Bình Định province. The temple was first constructed in the early 1700s, but nothing of the original structure remains. The current main building was erected in 1956, and the Buddha statue and lotus pond were completed in 1972. The 1.7 m (5.6 ft) high, 700 kg (1,500 lb) bell was believed to have been cast in 1805. Inside is a statue of Avalokiteśvara, the embodiment of infinite compassion of all Buddhas, who uses his thousand arms to reach out to help the suffering masses. To the side of the temple is a 17 m (56 ft) bluestone statue of Amitābha (Vietnamese: A-di-đà), the celestial Buddha, resting upon a 5 m (16 ft) lotus base. Entrance is free every day from early morning until late evening.
- Chùa Minh Tịnh, 35 Hàm Nghi (between Võ Lai and Ngô Mây). Large and active Mahayana Buddhist pagoda complex in the city centre a 10-minute walk west from Coopmart. Founded in 1917 outside the city, it was moved in the 1960s to its current location in order to make room for the expansion of the airport during the Vietnam-American war. The well-maintained temple, which is surrounded by a spacious and peaceful grounds with many colourful statues, is an active and working centre of spiritual studies, community outreach, charity activities. Visitors welcome daily from morning to evening.
- Chùa Phổ Minh, Lê Thanh Nghị (northern side of riverside quay, 50 m (160 ft) east of the bridge). Impressive and little-visited Buddhist temple of 800 m² (8,600 ft²) set on tranquil riverside grounds of 1,800 m² (19,000 ft²). Work began on the site in 2011. Soon after, five workers were gravely injured in a major accident when the concrete and steel of the third floor collapsed. Construction was suspended, but with the prayers of the monks and the enthusiastic support of the injured workers, the community overcame its grief and the temple was finished in 2013.
- Chùa Tâm Ấn Tự, 58 Ngô Quyền (entrance at southwest corner with Tăng Bạt Hổ). Active Mahayana Buddist temple on a tranquil 2,000 m² (21,000 ft²) site. A small hut on the grounds began serving as a spiritual home for monks in the 1920s, but was destroyed during war activities in the 1940s. The temple was restarted under new spiritual advisers in 1955, and the structure was built out very, very slowly. After 40 years of glacial progress, construction on the current temple picked up pace in the 1990s and was finished in 1995. The well-maintained temple boasts a 150-kg (330-lb) bell. Open to visitors daily from morning to evening.
- Chùa Tịnh xá Ngọc Nhơn, 999 Trần Hưng Đạo (100 m (330 ft) west of busy intersection with Đống Đa). Buddhist temple in the northwest of the city. Nestled amidst the trees and set back against the mountain, the temple's 2,500 m² (27,000 ft²) grounds are a surprisingly peaceful contrast to the bustle of the heavily-trafficked street outside. It was built in 1959, and was restored from 1995 to 1999. Open to visitors daily from morning to evening.
- Chùa Trúc Lâm, 512 Trần Hưng Đạo (at corner of Đoàn Thị Điểm), ☎ . Well-maintained six-storey Buddhist temple in the northern end of the city centre. Open to visitors daily from morning to evening.
- Tượng Phật đôi, Eo Gió, Nhơn Lý (from Quy Nhơn city centre, follow directions to Phương Mai Peninsula; once on the peninsula, the statue is off Highway 19B at Bãi Kỳ Co cove on the south-central east coast). Towering above the ocean on the Phương Mai Peninsula, this 30-m (100-ft) golden Avalokiteśvara, the embodiment of infinite compassion of all Buddhas, is the tallest Buddha statue in Vietnam. Constructed in 2014, the base is designed to hold the ashes of 8,000 local families.
- Giáo xứ Hòa Ninh, 128 Nguyễn Huế (near intersection with Phạm Ngọc Thạch).
- Ghềnh Ráng Church, 21 Tây Sơn (near intersection with Mai Hắc Đế).
- Quy Nhơn Cathedral (Nhà thờ chính tòa Quy Nhơn), 122 Trần Hưng Đạo (near junction with Lê Thánh Tông), ☎ . First built as a local parish in 1892, the church underwent a massive expansion in the 1930s when it became the seat of the regional Catholic Diocese. The 47-m (155-ft) spire houses a 1,800-kg (2-ton) bell donated in 1962 in Catholic outreach efforts by the predominantly Polish congregation of St. Pancratius Church of Chicago. During the war years in the 1960s, the Quy Nhơn Cathedral served as a refuge for displaced locals, and as a place of worship for American soldiers.
- Quy Nhơn Evangelical Church (Chi Hội Quy Nhơn), 71 Hai Bà Trưng (10 m (33 ft) west of intersection with Lê Lợi), ☎ .
Museums and buildings
- Bình Định Museum (Bảo Tàng Bình Định), 26 Nguyễn Huế (between Lê Lợi and Lê Thánh Tông). Tu–Sa 07:00–11:30 and 13:30–17:00. Located in the east of the centre near the Municipal People's Administrative buildings, this small building has a large collection of Cham artefacts making it more interesting than you'd expect for a small provincial museum. The museum's Cham collection has grown significantly over the last two decades as new expeditions jointly conducted with Belgian and Japanese archaeological teams and Polish restoration experts have excavated and preserved new pieces in the province. The museum, founded in 1980, also houses several American weapons, including a tank and howitzer artillery guns, which were captured in the province by the Vietnamese government in 1975. Oddly, the weapons are haphazardly interspersed amidst Cham artefacts, both inside the museum and in the surrounding outdoor gardens. An additional highlight of the museum, the currency collection, is continuing to expand as scholars work with Chinese experts to survey the artefacts. But unfortunately, the museum itself is underfunded, poorly maintained, and has very little useful information in English. Entry ticket 5,000 dong.
- Municipal People's Government Offices, 30 Nguyễn Huệ (at corner of Lê Lợi). Imposing and stern complex of several multi-storey buildings housing the city-government offices built in classic communist architectural style. The largest of the buildings towers over the surrounding neighbourhood and is visible from the beach. Its stern architecture is the butt of many popular jokes among the less reverent locals. The complex is lit bright at night with white and red lights. No organized tours are available, but the office workers are happy, albeit surprised, to give a tour from bottom to top if you ask.
- Quang Trung Museum (Bảo tàng Quang Trung), Phú Phong, Tây Sơn District (44 km (27 mi) northeast of Quy Nhơn on Highway 19/19B). Daily 07:00–11:00 and 13:30–17:00. Emperor Quang Trung, also known as Nguyễn Huệ, is the most celebrated of the Tây Sơn brothers, rebels who led a peasant uprising in the 18th century which conquered feudal houses in the north and south and created a unified and independent Vietnam. He's a revered national hero who was—and still is— celebrated throughout Vietnam and the diaspora for his military victories and support of the common people. Quang Trung and his two brothers were born in Tây Sơn village, and the town's museum honoring him and his family is very important in national politics, with many past and present leaders having visited since its 1978 construction to pay their respects publicly. For Vietnamese—in Vietnam and in the diaspora—who spent their childhood learning his legends, the museum can be very interesting. But for foreigners who have never heard of him, it's less exciting. The complex houses artefacts from the battles as well as art, costumes, and original documents from the Tây Sơn period. But the collection is poorly displayed, there is little information in English, and the location is far enough from the city centre that it's only worthwhile on its own if you already are deeply interested in Quang Trung. But if you're already in the area exploring Cham ruins or travelling between Quy Nhơn and Pleiku, the grounds are very lovely and there are several martial arts performances each month. Special events are held each year on January 5, the anniversary of the Battle of Ngọc Hồi of 1789, when Quang Trung defeated invading Chinese troops after imploring his peasant troops to "fight to keep our hair long, fight to keep our teeth black."
Renting your own motorbike is the cheapest and most convenient way to reach the museum. A taxi from the city costs 400,000–500,000 dong one-way. There is no bus. The museum can be combined with in a day trip to the Dương Long Cham Towers lying 10 km to the east. Entry ticket 10,000 dong.
Martial arts in Bình Định: birth, death, and rebirth
Bình Định has been the heart of martial arts in Vietnam since the 15th century. According to local legends, the techniques were first 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 unified 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 temples 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.
- Beach Promenade Amusement Park (in the park on the beach promenade 100 m (330 ft) south of the central plaza at the intersection of An Dương Vương and Ngô Mây streets). Tiny amusement park squeezed between the trees lining the beach. Semi-permanent rides include a small carousel and wee-sized autos. Squatting vendors offer Vietnamese snack food and painted presents for children. Very low-key atmosphere with beautiful views on the beach and ocean, although the small area can become crowded with local children during high season. The attractions are open to all kids from ages 2 to 92 but are probably most enjoyed by children 4 to 9. Rides 10,000–20,000 dong.
- Children's World, 48 Nguyễn Công Trứ (corner of Lương Định Của), ☎ . Bright and cheerful two-storey children's wonderland. Games and fun. Focused on younger children ages 2 to 7.
- CGV Cinemas, Kim Cúc Plaza (Quốc Lộ 1D, P. Ghềnh Ráng). CGV, the only large movie theatre in the city, is in the Big C complex in the far southwest of the city.
Sports and activities
- Carpet football (soccer) and handball (corner of Lê Lai and Diên Hồng). Pick-up and organized games. Teams are informal and welcome newcomers to join in.
- Happy Billiards, 34 Tôn Đức Thắng (between Mai Xuân Thưởng and Nguyễn Đáng), ☎ . Indoor and outdoor billiards club with nightclub music blasting over massive loudspeakers.
- Hà Huy Tập Sports Courts, 31 Hà Huy Tập (at Trần Nguyên Đán and Chu Văn An).
- Two nicely-maintained tennis hard courts. Often unused. 100,000 dong for one hour, although you are often 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.
- Nguyễn Tất Thành Tennis (corner of Nguyễn Thái Học and Nguyễn Tất Thành). Two nicely-maintained hard-surface courts. Courts are unused on most weekday mornings and afternoons. Official price is 100,000 dong for one hour, but you can usually enter and play for free. Evenings from 17:00 to 20:00, a group of 25 male office workers at low-intermediate level play short doubles matches. If you have your own racket, you can join and play with them for free. The courts are visible from Nguyễn Tất Thành street, but the main entrance is from the parking lot behind the airport office building at the corner of Phạm Hùng and Mai Xuân Thưởng).]
- Railway Tennis, 2 Phó Đức Chính, ☎ . Two nicely-maintained red-and-green tennis hard courts in the north centre of the city. Available most mornings and afternoons, including weekends. The fee is 100,000 dong per hour, but you can usually enter and play for free.
- Sports Complex Tennis (northeast corner of Tăng Bạt Hổ and Lê Hồng Phong). Two nicely-maintained green hard tennis courts for use at the entrance of the sports complex. Available most mornings and afternoons, but usually booked out in the evenings by nearby office workers. 100,000 dong per hour.
- Victory Club and Châu Thành Billiards (corner of Võ Xán and Nguyễn Đáng). Two large billiards clubs directly across street from each other in a leafy upper-class neighbourhood.
- Watpo Yoga Centre, 105F Hai Bà Trưng, ☎ . Clean and modern yoga centre and wellness spa.
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 and Mango.
The majority of the city's stores—and the cafes and restaurants and guesthouses—are operated from 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.
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 open in the mornings around 08:00, close for a long lunch break from 11:00 or 11:30 until some time around 14:00–15:00, and re-open in the afternoon until 20:00.
Most local businesses in Quy Nhơn are cash-only. Higher-budget hotels accept credit cards, but almost all low- and mid-budget hotels are cash-only. Very few stores, cafes or restaurants accept credit or debit cards.
There are ATMs throughout the city. Most accept foreign bankcards with no problem. The maximum withdrawal limit varies by bank, ranging from 2,000,000 to 3,500,000 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 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 you less problems.
Several gold and 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.
- An Phú Thịnh Plaza (entire block of Trần Quý Cáp between Trần Hưng Đạo and Phan Bội Châu). Multi-storey shopping centre in east of city. Low-budget semi-permanent shops offering domestic and imported (mainly from China) clothes, bags, household items. Some electronics.
- Big C, Kim Cúc Plaza, Quốc Lộ 1D, P. Ghềnh Ráng (north of Metro, opposite the intersection of Tây Sơn and Chương Dương streets). The Quy Nhơn branch of Thailand's Big C hypermarket lies off Highway 1D close to the Metro bulk store and the bus station in a sparsely-populated area at the foot of the mountains. Offers household products, clothes, and dry foods. The huge building, opened to great fanfare in 2014 for its first-in-the-area green technology, is designed from glass and white aluminium to look like a massive QR barcode.
- 1 Coopmart, 7 Le Duan (main entrance on Nguyễn Tất Thành between Trần Thị Kỷ and Vũ Bão streets). Daily from 08:00–20:00 with no lunch break. Opened in 2003, Coopmart is the only supermarket in the city. Offers household products, clothes, and both fresh and packaged food. Compared to Coopmart stores in larger Vietnamese cities, the Quy Nhơn branch has noticeably fewer fresh food products and significantly slower check-out lines. The store serves as the flagship of a local-style shopping centre which covers the entire square block and features a smartphone store, local-clothes vendors, KFC, a Bánh Mì Đất sandwich shop, and a small amusement park and entertainment centre. Public toilets are available for 2,000 dong per use at the back of the entertainment centre behind the water-ship ride.
- Kitty's House, ☎ . Hello Kitty heaven: clothes and shoes for children and adults, hats, bags, pens, etc.
- 318b Nguyễn Thái Học.
- 55 Lý Thường Kiệt.
- Metro Cash & Carry, Quốc lộ 1D, P. Ghềnh Ráng (south of Big C, opposite the intersection of Tây Sơn and Chương Dương). The Quy Nhơn branch of the German-born, Thai-owned self-service bulk wholesaler Metro lies off Highway 1D in a sparsely-populated area at the foot of the mountain in the far south of the city. The yellow-on-blue Metro sign is visible from kilometres away and serves as a reference for drivers in the area.
- Tan Phát, 2a Lý Thường Kiệt, ☎ . Small store selling imported Hennessy and Belvedere.
- Thể Duc Thể Thao, 124 Lê Hồng Phong. One of several exercise and fitness store in a one-block area. Sports equipment, athletic apparel, tennis rackets. This block of Lê Hồng Phong is the most convenient—and only—location within a few hundred kilometres to find specialty sports paraphernalia.
- Văn Hưng, 158 Ngô Mây, ☎ . Stylish little store selling imported alcohols, principally whiskies such as Jack Daniels and Johnny Walker.
- Vĩnh Thụy, 99 Lý Thường Kiệt (between Phó Đức Chính and Trần Phú streets), ☎ . One of the only local stores offering a large selection of domestic and imported alcohols.
- Central Market, Tôn Đức Thắng street (between Nguyễn Công Trứ and Trường Chinh streets [the name of the street Trường Chinh changes to Tăng Bạt Hổ at the roundabout corner of Tôn Đức Thắng]). Large market in the centre. Consists of a large area partially covered by tarpaulins in the space between Tôn Đức Thắng and Lương Định Của streets, plus vendors—mainly women—spilling out from the covered market area onto both sides of Tôn Đức Thắng street selling fresh fruits and vegetables from blankets. Mangoes, dragonfruit, pineapples, cherimoya, pomelo, coconuts, etc. Unrefrigerated cow meat, pork, fish, crabs. Fresh flowers. Mornings are peak times, but some vendors work all day.
- Covered market Chợ Đầm, Hoàng Hoa Thám street (between Nguyễn Chánh and Hoàng Quốc Việt streets). One of the larger and more diversified outdoor markets in Quy Nhơn. In the north centre of city. Fruits and vegetables, freshly cut (and unrefrigerated) beef and chicken. Shellfish. Live chickens and fish. Fireworks products. Incense. Many roving vendors on the surrounding side streets cook bánh xèo on portable charcoal grills. Open from the early morning to evening.
- Fish market, Phạm Ngọc Thạch (between Tô Vĩnh Diện and Nguyễn Huế [the name of the street changes from Phạm Ngọc Thạch to Phan Đăng Lưu at the corner of Nguyễn Huế]). Outdoor fish market. Vendors—mainly women—sit on low plastic chairs selling freshly-caught fish, shellfish, snails, crabs, lobsters, and oysters from blankets spread on both sides of the street. Usually open in the early morning and late afternoon, but the vendors set their own hours and come and go based on their supply of fish.
- Indoor/outdoor market, centred around Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai and Vũ Bão. Largest covered food market in the centre of Quy Nhơn. Next to the Minh Tịnh temple and a 10-minute walk west from the Coopmart. The market encompasses a cavernous indoor space housed in a proper building in the area bounded by Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai, Võ Lai, Hàm Nghi and Vũ Bão, as well as an outdoor area on Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai and nearby streets where vendors sell from blankets laid out on the pavement. Fruits, vegetables, unrefrigerated meats and fishes, tofu, beans. In addition to the usual food products, the market also boasts a large section of vendors selling uncooked noodles, including the provincial specialties of string-noodles and double noodles.
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 province. And for a small city, Quy Nhơn can boast of a surprisingly huge selection of vegetarian restaurants.
Compared to other Vietnamese cities, restaurants are informal and cheap. Customers usually sit directly on the street or inside the multi-use living room of the restaurant owner. In all but the most expensive places and a few mid-budget venues, tables and chairs are wobbly and often-broken contraptions made of cheap plastic and aluminium. 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—an entire plate of shellfish costs less than one shell in Saigon—and you can easily fill yourself for just a few dollars in most restaurants and for less than a dollar in vegetarian places.
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.
- Bánh bèo chén ("Waterfern cake cup") is a steamed rice-cake in a cup with fried shallots and dried shrimp on top, served with dipping sauce. Very common in Bình Định province. Students and workers eat cup after cup—the usual portion is 10 cups per person—sitting at small street-side tables throughout Quy Nhơn city. Vendors set up on many street corners in the afternoons and early evenings. 1,000 dong per cup.
- The sweet cake bánh ít lá gai ("Little cake with gai leaf") is made from sticky rice, sugar, mung beans, ginger and (sometimes) coconut, enveloped by mashed gai leaf and then all wrapped up in a banana leaf. The gai leaf—common English name: pinnate leaves; botanical name: Boehmeria nivea var. tenacissima—isn't well-known or often used outside Vietnam. Mashed up and steamed, it turns a greenish-black colour and adds a slightly bitter and chewy contrast to the aromatic sweetness of the other ingredients. Bánh ít is sold in stores and by street vendors, e.g. just outside the central market on the northeast corner of Tôn Đức Thắng and Trường Chinh streets. The banana-leaf wrapped treat is also offered at many restaurants, where they're stacked up on on the tables; you just take as many as you like and are charged per piece. 3,000 dong per cake.
- Bánh hỏi are strings of rice vermicelli woven into small packets, served with pork and fried shallots or with oil and onions. You can find them ready-made for eating in restaurants or for take-away by street-side vendors. The most famous street vendors sell from the morning to the evening at the corner of Trần Phú and Nguyễn Công Trứ streets. A take-away order of bánh hỏi wrapped in banana leaf with oil and chives costs 10,000 dong, while a plate for immediate consumption, served with cooked pork and shallots, costs 20,000 dong.
- Nem chợ huyện ("Huyện market roll") is a pork roll with peanut sauce, chili and herbs. Known as a specialty of the Phương Mai peninsula, the roll packs salty, sweet, sour and spicy in one small bite. It can be made with either fresh pork, which is grilled over charcoal with sugar, salt and pigskin, or fermented pork, which is wrapped in a guava leaf for three days to give it a sour pungent flavour and then covered with a banana leaf for serving. One roll can be eaten as a quick snack, or many are eaten together as a full meal. You can find the rolls in many local restaurants and street vendors throughout Quy Nhơn city. Or head to their birthplace, the Huyện market in the tiny Phước Lộc district of Tuy Phước village, 2 km (1 mi) from the Bánh Ít Cham Towers and 18 km (11 mi) northwest of Quy Nhơn, where 17 shops just off Highway 1A have been churning out thousands of rolls each day for over 100 years. 3,000 dong each.
Beach seafood 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 beach 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 seafood is all locally caught, so prices fluctuate based on the season and fishing conditions, but a rough guide is: plate of oysters, scallops, snails, clams, mussels, or cockles: 30,000–45,000 dong; plate of oysters: 40,000–60,000 dong; plate of grilled shrimp: 60,000 dong; grilled squid: 60,000–80,000 dong; grilled fish: 50,000–120,000 dong; hot pot (for 2–4 people): 200,000 dong. Prices just a block off the beach are 30-50% cheaper, but without the phenomenal ocean views.
Restaurants are found at many spots along the waterfront, but 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 is another big cluster of seven slightly cheaper places.
- Bảy Quán, 47 Mai Xuân Thưởng (corner of Trần Phú). Two-storey restaurant specializing in sizzling steak and eggs (bò neé). Very popular with students and local workers. Combo meal of steak and eggs, salad, soft drink, and bread for 30,000 dong.
- Bê Thui Cầu Mống, 249 Nguyễn Thái Học (between Võ Mười and Vũ Bão). Small restaurant offering the famous Quảng Nam specialty of spit-roasted veal. The calf, carefully selected at a young age and at a weight of 30–35 kg (66–77 lb) so as to be not too large and not too small, is roasted whole on a long rod over an open street-side fire of burning charcoal. The blackened skin is then scraped off, and the pink meat is shaved into thin slices and served with salted anchovies, rice paper, chili, garlic, fish-oil dipping sauce, green banana pieces and herbs. 150,000 dong.
- Bốn Quang Tuấn, 85 Lê Lợi (corner of Tăng Bạt Hổ), ☎ . Very good value barbeque/hot-pot restaurant in the centre. Family operation with just six tables. Very popular among students for its low-cost beef and pork barbeque. Pot of clams in spicy sauce 30,000 dong. Hot pot 60,000.
- Hai Thái, 351 Trần Hưng Đạo (between Nguyễn Văn Bé and Đào Duy Từ streets), ☎ . Cavernous indoor and outdoor restaurant in the city centre specializing in goat meat. All parts of the goat offered: stomach, intestines, etc. The smell of many goats being grilled simultaneously can be overwhelming if you're not used to it. Private eating rooms available off the main restaurant space. Goat meat on a stick 27,000 dong each. Goat meals 90,000–200,000 dong.
- Hương Việt Cafe, 35 Nguyễn Lương Bằng (corner of Tôn Đức Thắng), ☎ . Large upscale cafe and restaurant in the centre, east of Nguyễn Tất Thành and just north of the central market. Beautiful and atmospheric setting where customers sit inside pagoda structures which are connected by wooden bridges and surrounded by topiary and bonsai trees, all accompanied to the sound of classical music from both Europe and Vietnam. Popular with the upper-classes of both local residents and Vietnamese tourists. Standard Vietnamese food and drink on offer. Coffee 20,000 dong. Tea (several varieties offered) 20,000–25,000. Food prices about 50% higher than same fare at other Quy Nhơn venues.
- Mià Hàng 07, 7 Trần Phú (on southwest corner of intersection Hà Huy Tập), ☎ . Large seafood restaurant set underneath a semi-covered tin roof in a parking lot on a desolate stretch of road in the southwest of the city. Five-minute walk from the beach. Despite the semi-disreputable appearance (of both the restaurant and the customers), it attracts a loyal local crowd of older intellectuals, who while the day and night away in semi-drunken and fully-rehearsed arguments about the last millennium of Vietnamese history. Vietnamese language knowledge is obviously helpful to follow the twists and turns of the intricate debates, but thanks to involvement with American soldiers in the 1960s, several of the older men can happily hold forth in English after a few grilled octopus and beers. Restaurant offers the same shellfish and seafood options of the restaurants on the beach promenade for prices around 20–40% less.
- Ốc Biển, 21 Trần Cao Vân (between Nguyễn Trãi and Nguyễn Huế), ☎ . Small shellfish-restaurant two blocks north of the beach in the southeast of the city, close to the People's Municipal Building. Eight types of shells daily: grilled oysters, scallops grilled with peanuts and shallots, snails, clams, mussels. Popular with local residents for its prices half those on the nearby beach promenade. 15,000–20,000 dong per plate of shells.
- Phượng Tèo Bún Chả Cá, 211 Nguyễn Huệ. Large and very popular low-budget restaurant for fish cake noodle soup. 25,000 dong per bowl.
- Quán An Cô Bốn Bún Thịt Nướng, 232 Trần Hưng Đạo (20 m (70 ft) east from Ngô Thời Nhiệm). Standard Vietnamese local canteen. Pork, chicken, beef stews with rice or noodles. It's neither particularly good nor particularly bad: there are dozens of identical places throughout the city. However, this particular restaurant has become something of a cult-hit among Western tourists to Quy Nhơn after one foreign customer discovered that the owner speaks fairly proficient English thanks to his five-year stay in San Francisco and Oakland. Several years after that first foreigner's review, this small canteen has improbably amassed by far the most English-language reviews online of any restaurant in the city, much to the bemusement of the owner and the few local residents who are aware of it. 20,000 dong for a plate of rice or noodles with different meat dishes.
- Quán Dê19, 19 Nguyễn Công Trứ (at corner of Bà Triêu), ☎ . Goat-meat in a small corner-restaurant in the city centre. All parts of the goat prepared. Cheaper than larger goat restaurants. Goat meals 30,000–100,000 dong.
- Quán Dê35, 121-123 Hoa Lư (50 m (160 ft) east of Tháp Đôi street on south side of river quay), ☎ . Goat-meat in a roof-covered, open-air restaurant on the northern riverside shore. Views onto the river, bridge and temple across the water. All parts of the goat prepared. Goat meals 50,000–150,000 dong.
- Trần Quang Diệu Shell restaurant (northeast corner of Mai Xuân Thưởng and Trần Quang Diệu). Very good value shellfish dishes. Offers three daily specials of freshly-caught shells: clams, snails, grilled oysters, mussels, scallops, etc. Cooked with spices, garlic, lemongrass, and coconut milk, served on small appetizer-sized plates. Customers sit inside the small space indoors or in a tarpaulin-covered space on the street corner. Very popular at lunchtime among students and local office workers as a quick and good-value snack. Each plate of shells costs 10,000 dong.
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 style of south Vietnam, the bánh xèo in Quy Nhơn is cooked without tamarind and is small and thin. 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 each place has its fans who swear that their place is the absolute best—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 churning through every afternoon and evening. A world away on Đống Đa and surrounding side streets on the north shore, particularly near the covered market Chợ Đầm, 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 every evening.
- Gia Vỹ. The most famous bánh xèo restaurant in Quy Nhơn has two branches. The largest—and definitely the most touristic—of bánh xèo venues in the city is Gia Vỹ 2, which lies at the northern end of a cluster of four restaurants competing side-by-side on Diên Hồng street. Factory-like in its efficiency and size, circus-like in the bustle of the cooks, waiters, and boys running around trying to corral passing motorcyclists inside, the restaurant offers indoor and outdoor (across the street) seating. The original Gia Vỹ, on Đống Đa in the northern end of the city, is much smaller, more local and massively more tranquil than the second branch. Prices are the same at both branches: 25,000 dong per plate of two pancakes.
- 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; three-minute walk from the airport shuttle-bus drop-off spot).
- Cô Hai bánh xèo, 48 Lý Thái Tổ, ☎ . Family-style restaurant offering delicious bánh xèo. Good quality at budget price. A 10-minute walk from the beach on a pleasant, tree-lined street in the southwest of city. 4,000 dong per pancake.
- Quán An, Ngô Văn Sở (northwest corner of Trần Đột). The largest of several small street-side bánh xèo restaurants in the little night-food area just off the beach promenade on Ngô Văn Sở and surrounding alleys between Nguyễn Huế and Nguyễn Lạc. The bánh xèo is the same at all the restaurants in the small area. Price is highly variable at Quán An; it's one of the very few restaurants in Quy Nhơn which sometimes charge foreigners different prices than locals pay. A plate of four pancakes costs locals 15,000–20,000 dong; tourists are typically charged 25,000–30,000 dong.
- Breakfast bánh xèo, Trần Quang Diệu (between Nguyễn Công Trứ and Tăng Bạt Hổ). Several vendors offer bánh xèo for breakfast in front of their homes on the small, tree-lined street of Trần Quang Diệu between Nguyễn Công Trứ and Tăng Bạt Hổ. They cook daily on most mornings from 07:00 to 10:00, or until they run out of ingredients. 3,000 dong per pancake.
- Bánh xèo market vendors, Covered market Chợ Đầm (at Hoàng Hoa Thám and Hoàng Quốc Việt streets). Numerous bánh xèo vendors rove the streets around the local market Chợ Đầm in the northern end of the city near the riverside. Very local. 1,000–2,000 dong per pancake.
As everywhere in Vietnam, there are hundreds of bánh mì (baguette sandwiches) stands scattered throughout the city. Prices are 6,000–10,000 dong for most standard sandwiches, and 12,000–15,000 dong for fancier ingredients.
- Bánh Mì Đất. Local chain of three sandwich shops. Fixed-location stores but no seating. Offers more variety of options than the typical specialized street-side sandwich stall, as well as choice of warming the baguette. One sandwich 10,000–15,000 dong.
- 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 (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.
- Oishi Quán, 105D Hai Bà Trưng (between Lê Hồng Phong and Trần Cao Vân), ☎ . Hot pot restaurant popular at night with university students. Seating both indoors and at stylish wooden tables on the street. Hot pot 110,000–150,000 dong.
- Quyết Thắng, 282 Diên Hồng (near corner of Lê Lai). One of many hot-pot restaurants in a small area near the corner of Diên Hồng and Lê Lai. Offers the option of either grilling your food or the traditional style of boiling it in a pot of simmering stock. Hot pot 200,000 dong.
- Buratino, 380D Nguyễn Thái Học (15 m (50 ft) south of Ngô Mây), ☎ . Daily until 23:00. One of the only restaurants in Quy Nhơn—if not the only restaurant—specializing in Western-style food such as pizza and pasta. The restaurant is often recommended by the bigger hotels to Western tourists looking for comfort food similar to home. But it's a small restaurant and Quy Nhơn is not an international city, so the food is suited to local tastes and ends up being more Vietnamese-style than Westerners expect. Dishes from 50,000–100,000 dong, combo meals 200,000–270,000 dong.
- Jollibee, Nguyễn Thiêp (corner of Nguyễn Huệ), ☎ . The Philippine fast-food chain.
- KFC, 7 Nguyễn Tất Thành (entrance on Nguyễn Tất Thành between Trần Thị Kỷ and Vũ Bão streets). The only Western fast-food chain restaurant in the city, in the southeast corner of the Coopmart shopping centre.
- NamSushi, 334A Diên Hồng (30 m (100 ft) north from the roundabout with An Dương Vương and Ngô Mây), ☎ . Daily 10:00–14:00, 17:00–22:00. Large and elaborate sushi restaurant. Two storeys: the lower floor seating is at normal tables, while the upper floor has views towards the sea and seating on pillows and a no-shoes-allowed shiny hardwood floor. The quality of the food might not be at the standards of sushi in Tokyo (or Beijing, Moscow or Los Angeles), but it's the best and most modern sushi in the not-so-international-yet Quy Nhơn. It's a two-minute walk from the central beach and a five-minute walk southwest from Coopmart. Tuna maki 40,000 dong, sushi 30,000–80,000 for two pieces, temaki salmon hand roll 45,000. Basic combo sushi sets 125,000 dong for 14 pieces, 345,000 for more elaborate 25 pieces. Sake 150 mL 85,000 dong, 250 mL 145,000, 1.8 L 250,000.
- Pizza H-P, 68 Trần Cao Vân (between Tăng Bạt Hổ and Hai Bà Trưng streets). Small pizza restaurant in the city centre with the English-language motto "Be Different". Offers hot pot and Western pizzas done Vietnamese style. Pizza: small 50,000 dong, large 100,000.
- Pop Gelato, 118B Nguyễn Thái Học, ☎ . Modern gelatto shop in west of city. Popular with young people.
There are dozens of vegetarian restaurants in Quy Nhơn.
The majority of the restaurants are very small family-homes 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.
- An Bình, 141 Trần Cao Vân (directly north of main entrance to the temple, between Tăng Bạt Hổ and Phan Bội Châu). Mid-sized vegetarian just north of the temple. Slightly more upscale setting than most vegetarian restaurants in the city, with tablecloths and flowers on each table. Open hours officially 07:00–21:00, although often closes for long breaks. One of several vegetarian restaurants near the Long Khánh Buddhist temple. Vegetarian bánh xèo 10,000 dong. Plate of daily vegetable dishes with rice 18,000 dong.
- Hiển Nam, 3a Trần Thị Kỷ, ☎ . Medium-large vegetarian attached to the Hiển Nam temple just west of Nguyễn Tất Thành street. A four-minute walk from Coopmart. Picturesque views of the temple through the open back gate of the restaurant. Daily lunch of rice with several vegetable dishes plus soup: 15,000.
- Kim Ngọc Bánh Mì, 108 Ngô Mây (at corner of Biên Cương). A permanent street stall one block south of Minh Tịnh temple selling vegetarian baguette sandwiches (bánh mì). One sandwich 8,000 dong.
- Minh Hoa, 115 Nguyễn Du (at corner of Ngô Quyền). Standard mid-size vegetarian restaurant. Plate of vegetable dishes with rice plus soup 15,000 dong.
- Nhà hàng, 114 Tăng Bạt Hổ (between Lê Hồng Phong and Trần Cao Vân), ☎ . Very large vegetarian restaurant on the south side of Long Khánh Buddhist temple. Dependably open long hours from morning until night, including holidays. Slightly more expensive than the many smaller, family-run vegetarian restaurants in the area. Noodle and rice dishes 25,000–50,000 dong.
- Pháp Duyên, 55 Nguyễn Lữ (between Võ Lai and Ngô Mây), ☎ . Mid-sized vegetarian one block southeast of the Minh Tịnh temple. A five-minute walk from either the central plaza on the beach or from the Coopmart. Mixed vegetables, rice, soup: 17,000 dong.
- Sáu Thu, 79 Hai Bà Trưng (between Ngô Quyền and Lê Lợi). Mid-size vegetarian restaurant next to the Quy Nhơn Evangelical Church in the eastern end of the central city. Both the setting and the food are a slight step above similar vegetarian venues. One plate of assorted vegetable dishes plus rice 30,000 dong.
- Thanh Minh, 151 Phan Bội Châu (between Mai Xuân Thưởng and Trần Cao Vân). Small family-run vegetarian restaurant on the north side of Long Khánh Buddhist temple. Generally offers several vegetable-based dishes, as opposed to the meat-substitute dishes found at typical Vietnamese vegetarian restaurants. Mixed vegetable dishes, rice and soup: 20,000 dong.
- Thanh Tấm, 41 Ngô Mây, ☎ . Mid-sized vegetarian restaurant one block south of the Minh Tịnh temple. Daily lunch of mixed vegetables including rice and soup for 15,000 dong.
- Thanh Vân, 161 Trần Cao Vân (between Tăng Bạt Hổ and Phan Bội Châu). Very tiny vegetarian restaurant in a family-home in a small alley off the main street. One of several vegetarian restaurants near the Long Khánh Buddhist temple.
- Tịnh Tâm, 149 Trần Cao Vân (between Tăng Bạt Hổ and Phan Bội Châu), ☎ . Small family-run vegetarian just north of the Long Khánh temple. One of several vegetarian restaurants near the temple. Extremely kind family owners often invites foreigners to explore their home and culture.
- An Lạc, 6 Nguyễn Lữ (just off Ngô Mây). Small family-run restaurant serving cơm (rice with assorted toppings): 20,000 dong. Very kind and friendly owners who will appreciate if you can say even a few words of Vietnamese.
- Bánh Kem Ngọc Nga, 319-323B-325 Lê Hồng Phong, ☎ . The largest, most elaborate—and commensurately most expensive—bakery in Quy Nhơn. Intricately designed and decorated cakes, for example shaped as animals (frogs, dogs, bunnies, dragons) and human figures (Buddha, princesses). Cake flavors include green tea (matcha), tiramisu, and standard cream cakes. Also offers vegan (pure-veg) baked products. The bakery spans three adjacent stores, with one specializing in cakes, the second in cookies, sweet breads and chocolates, and the third in general baked products. Unusually for Quy Nhơn, the bakery has a website, and the site is even available in English. Mid-size cakes 60,000–200,000 dong, larger and more elaborate cakes 200,000–400,000. Cookies and chocolates 5,000–15,000.
- Đúc Tỏ Baguette Bakers, 83 Đống Đa (100 m (260 ft) to the northeast from the busy intersection with Trần Hưng Đạo), ☎ . Long-standing family operation that bakes the baguettes used for bánh mì sandwiches. Reputed among locals to be the highest quality baguettes in the city. 1,300 dong for one hot baguette fresh out of the oven, 15,000 for 12.
- Hoàng Yến Bakery, 211 Tăng Bạt Hổ (close to corner of Trần Cao Vân), ☎ . Small bakery offering big cakes. Cakes 100,000–250,000 dong. Chocolate lollipops 10,000.
- Phương Ngá Bakery, 46 Trường Chinh (corner of Lê Duẩn), ☎ . Small bakery offering cakes and chocolate pieces. Offers all the standard cakes and decorations, with a specialty in tiramisu cakes and fruit-jelly cakes (including passion-fruit cake). Unusually for Quy Nhơn, sells pieces of cakes in single servings, rather than entire cakes. Whole cakes 50,000–150,000 dong. Single-serving piece of cake 10,000–20,000. Chocolate letters (for spelling out words with chocolate) 2,000 each.
- Tamba Bakery, 335A-B Nguyễn Thái Học (at Vũ Bão Võ Lai street), ☎ . Spacious and clean bakery in the southwest of city with the English motto "Good Food—Good Life." Cakes, cupcakes, cream buns, pork floss buns. Prices around 20–40% less than most Quy Nhơn bakeries. Cupcakes 10,000 dong, cakes 30,000–150,000.
- Tinh Hoa Bakery, 105 Trần Cao Vân (corner of Hai Bà Trưng), ☎ . Corner bakery very popular among locals for birthdays, holidays, and family meals. Cakes 50,000–200,000 dong. Cupcakes 15,000. Chocolate hearts 5,000. Squares of coconut and sticky rice in powdered sugar 3,000.
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, you find them 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.
- Bookafe, 86 Lê Duẩn (corner of Vũ Bão), ☎ . Very large higher-end cafe with both outdoor and indoor seating. Three minutes by foot southwest from the Coopmart. Extensive lighting in the evening makes it a popular spot for couples at night. Gelatto ice cream available. Somewhat confusingly, the cafe's name is spelled "Bookafe" on internet sites and Facebook, but the logo is designed as "Bookkafe", where the middle "k" is stylized to be both the "k" of "book" and the "K" of "Kafe". Lassi 50,000 dong, coffee 35,000, yoghurt smoothies 50,000.
- Búp Cafe, 37 Ngô Mây (at south side of intersection with Biên Cương), ☎ . Small and cute cafe in the city centre a 10-minute walk northwest from the beach or seven minutes west from Coopmart. Beloved by teenage girls for its cute drinks, caramel popcorn, and Western pop music. The friendy owner Búp, one of the very few cafe owners in the city completely fluent in English, converted his parents' small clothing store into the eponymous cafe in the summer of 2015 after graduating from graphic design studies in Saigon. The cafe shows off some of his design skills. Milk tea 17,000 dong plus 3,000 for toppings.
- Đất Việt Cafe, 11 Trần Lương (50 m (160 ft) from intersection with Lý Thái Tổ), ☎ . Charming cafe built underneath—and hidden amongst—towering trees on a quiet lane a 7-minute walk west from the beach in the southwest of the city. Coffee 15,000 dong.
- Du Mục Cafe, 18 Bùi Thị Xuân (near corner of Nguyễn Công Trứ). Pleasant indoor cafe decorated with many tropical plants on the walls and bamboo-mat hanging from the ceilings. It's in the city centre on an idyllic, narrow street packed with bonsai trees, flags and children playing.
- G.Life Cafe, 1 Phó Đức Chính (corner of Nguyễn Thái Học). Hipster-esque cafe in the northern end of the city. White-brick wall interior. Offers ice coffee blended with tiramisu, cookies or banana. Coffee 10,000 dong, latte 21,000, cappuccino 21,000. Blended ice coffee 25,000. Smoothies 25,000. Cookies and cream 25,000.
- Helen Cafe, 490 Trần Hưng Đạo (between Đoàn Thị Điểm and Hoàng Hoa Thám), ☎ . Cute little cafe near Chùa Trúc Lâm temple. Popular among local teenage girls for its milk tea, bubble tea, iced coffee, and cookies drinks. Seating on pillows on the floor. Walls decorated with bright pink drawings, hipster black-and-white photos, and enormous paintings of Japan and Europe. Milk tea 20,000 dong plus 3,000 for each topping.
- Hello Kitty Cafe, 69 Tháp Đôi, ☎ . All the Hello Kitty drinks, cakes and sweets you could want in a cafe with all the Hello Kitty decorations you could squeeze into a small space. Ignore the trademark violations (shhhh...) and enjoy.
- Inn Cafe, 22 Nguyễn Bỉnh Khiêm (between Tôn Đức Thắng and Nguyễn Trần). Peaceful indoor cafe with picturesque European-style window boxes and white window frames. A two-minute walk south of the central market on Tôn Đức Thắng street. Coffee 12,000 dong.
- Jolly, 121 Lê Lợi (corner of Phan Bội Châu), ☎ . Cafe with a young and modern style in the east of the city. With fishbowl windows facing on the street corner giving lots of natural light, white brick walls, gelato bar, and an extensive menu of cookie drinks, frappuccinos, smoothies, and tea with jam, Jolly has attracted a steady crowd of young people since its 2015 opening. Adorning the walls are chalk-scribbled translations of Vietnamese humor such as "Woman are less dangerous when they have gelato". No smoking. Coffee and smoothie drink mixes 20,000–30,000 dong.
- Like Cafe, 52 Trường Chinh (on south side of three-way intersection with Tôn Đức Thắng and Tăng Bạt Hổ). City centre cafe near the central food market. The modern decor and creative drinks makes it popular with Quy Nhơn's (very small) young and fashionable crowd. Large outdoor seating area, plus indoor tables. One of the nicer public bathroom in Quy Nhơn (damning with faint praise, but modern clean toilets aren't one of Quy Nhơn's specialties). Coffee 20,000-25,000 dong, cacao with yogurt cubes 40,000, smoothies 35,000-45,000.
- Marina Cafe, 5 Trần Quý Cáp (corner of Phan Bội Châu). Mid-market, modern-style cafe in the southwest corner of the An Phú Thịnh Plaza building. Coffee 25,000 dong. Smoothies 40,000.
- Osaka Cafe, 96a Mai Xuân Thưởng (corner of Lương Định Của). Multi-storey cafe in the centre. A two-minute walk east from the airport shuttle bus drop-off. Typical large mid-budget Vietnamese style cafe/restaurant. Nothing to do with Japan other than the name and a painting of Mt. Fuji. Large indoor water-pond display with dozens of small porcelain Buddhas playing under plastic cherry blossoms. Karaoke on upper floors. Big open windows on street. Old but clean toilets. Coffee 15,000 dong, cacao 16,000, yogurt 18,000.
- p.u.q. Cafe, 51 Hoàng Diệu (corner of Lê Xuân Tú). Hip little cafe in the centre. The decor is a mix between urban industrial and Asian kitsch. Stylish smoothies served in an edible glass made of sweet jelly. Espresso 13,000 dong, Cappucino 18,000, Smoothies 20,000.
- Queen Cafe, 110 Ngô Mây (at corner of Biên Cương). Pleasant two-storey treehouse-cafe a 10-minute walk northwest from the beach. Coffee 15,000 dong.
- Reform Cafe, 83 Trần Cao Vân (10 m (30 ft) south of Hai Bà Trưng). Industrial-style hipster-esque coffee shop. Complete with intricate latte art and baristas wielding tough attitudes, Reform cafe could (almost) be at home in London, Paris or Brooklyn. Small indoor and outdoor space. Smokey. Offers more varieties of coffee drinks than most cafes in Quy Nhơn. Espresso 15,000 dong, Irish cafe 20,000, latte 25,000, mocha 28,000, cappuccino 25,000.
- Sam Cafe (corner of Tôn Đức Thắng and Nguyễn Thái Học), ☎ . Very large outdoor cafe set rather unusually amidst dozens of bonsai trees which are for sale. At the entrance waits a human-sized statue of a fisher goddess to greet you. Coffee 15,000 dong.
- Tien Loi Coffee, 323 Trần Hưng Đạo (northwest corner of Trần Cao Vân). Tiny and sweet cafe a block north of the Long Khánh temple in the northeast of the city centre. Small outdoor seating. Milk tea and coffee served in artsy jars tied off with burlap rope designs. Specialty drink of red and green Thai sweet tea. The upstairs has a no-shoes pillow-seating area surrounded by massive posters illustrating Vietnamese fantasy stories.
- Violet Cafe, 1 Tôn Đức Thắng (in front of small tree/grass roundabout at intersection with Hà Huy Tập and Chu Văn An). Very pleasant, modern cafe. Wood tables and chairs. Has a glass-enclosed non-smoking room with pillow-seating on a sparkling-clean hardwood floor. Drinks only, no food. Coffee 15,000 dong, cacao 18,000, yogurt smoothie 18,000-23,000.
Bars and clubs
- Style Pub & Bar, 10 Đô Đốc Bảo (across the street from Coopmart), ☎ . The biggest nightclub in Quy Nhơn. The only one, as well. Lots of blue and green neon lights. Lots of smoke, both from cigarettes and from smoke machines. Mainly Vietnamese music, loud and with the bass cranked up, but some Western pop mixed in.
Quy Nhơn city
Despite the hopes of local officials to turn Quy Nhơn into a mega beach resort similar to Nha Trang, with 10-storey 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.
|This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:|
|Budget||Under 300,000 dong|
|Splurge||Over 600,000 dong|
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. And with very few international travellers, English language knowledge is almost zero: 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 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 for you, 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.
- Anh Khoa Hotel, 34 Trường Chinh, ☎ . Clean, low-budget hotel in centre of city. The building's four-storey outside features a prominent green and yellow art-deco motif which contrasts with the wood or solid colour patterns more typical of buildings in the area. Only basic English spoken. Double room: 200,000 dong.
- Anh Vy Hotel, 8 An Dương Vương, ☎ . Straddling the border between the low- and mid-budget categories, this hotel directly across the street from the beach in the southwest of the city offers rooms which are clean but small and dark. Near Seagull hotel. One of several hotels on the block which cooperate in offering to foreigners semi-scammy tourist services such as plane tickets, car rental, tours, etc. Some English spoken. Double room: 250,000–300,000 dong.
- Ao Co Mini Hotel, 24 An Dương Vương, ☎ . Small low-budget hotel across the road from the city's central waterfront area. Exterior designed like a very narrow German castle. Quirky room decor features lots of floral patterns and garish colours. Rooms not very clean, but adequate for the price. Across the street from Hoàng Yến hotel and a three-minute walk from the up-market Seagull Hotel. Double room: 200,000 dong.
- Barbara's Backpackers. Spend any time online researching Quy Nhơn in English, and you're bound to come across mentions of Barbara's. In the mid-2000s, the hostel, run by a New Zealander who lived in the city, offered decent low-budget accommodation geared towards foreigners. But today, it's locally-run, dirty, and uncomfortable. However, with so little information available in English about the city, the reports from the poorly-researched travel guides of the past and the hostel's own long-ago marketing still float to the top of internet searches—ahead of the uniformly harsh reviews from more recent times—and give the false impression that the hostel is the best and only option in Quy Nhơn. The modern-day reality is that as of 2016, the hostel offers one bug-infested dorm room of precariously-assembled bunkbeds, with a gaping hole in the wall hastily boarded over by wood. An adjacent private room is dank and similarly decrepit. A small cafe and "tourist centre" in the front of the hostel sells overpriced scam-tours and standard backpacker meals such as banana pancakes. Bottom line: there are dozens of hotels in the city which offer better value than Barbara's.
- Bình Hà Motel, 03/1 Dương 31 Tháng 3, ☎ . Budget family-run guesthouse set back in a small alley between the Saigon Quy Nhơn hotel and the shopping centre Plaza An Phú Thịnh. A 3-minute walk to beach. Small, dark, slightly moldy rooms, but offset by the low price and convenient location. No English spoken or understood. Double room: 150,000 dong.
- Hải Yến Tourist Guest House, 104 Hai Bà Trưng, ☎ . Budget hotel offering reasonable value for price. Old, but well-maintained and clean. Friendly, but almost no English spoken. Double room: with window 230,000 dong; smaller windowless rooms: 180,000 dong.
- Nhon Hai Beach Hostel, Nhon Hai Village (end of the beach), ☎ .
- Phương Mai Hotel, 254 Nguyễn Thị Định (near intersection with Chương Dương). Low-budget guesthouse in the southwest of city offering good quality for the price. Quiet nondescript neighbourhood, with a 4-minute walk to beach. 25 minutes by foot to Coopmart. Owner manages several hotels, speaks good English after living five years in San Francisco and very good Japanese after studying medicine in Tokyo for 10 years. Double room: 150,000–200,000 dong.
- Quy Hotel, 37 Lê Xuân Tú, ☎ . Low-budget hotel on pleasant tree-lined street in centre just off main Nguyễn Tất Thành Street promenade. By foot, the beach is 8 minutes away, the Coopmart 4 minutes. Rooms are dark, old, slightly moldy, and need reform, but adequate for a budget stay for a night. On the top floor is a massage room. The friendly hotel owner lived in Germany 30 years before and still speaks surprisingly decent German and basic English. Double room: with window 150,000 dong, without window 120,000 dong.
- Thiên Các Hotel, 8 Nguyên Tư (10 m (30 ft) north of Vũ Bão), ☎ . Most low-budget of three adjacent hotels directly behind (due west) of the Coopmart complex in centre. A 3-minute walk to beach. Reasonably clean. Typical family-operated guesthouse style. Double room: 200,000 dong.
- Đông Tây Hotel, 26 Nguyễn Lạc, ☎ . Mid-budget hotel opened at the end of 2015. Directly opposite the beach and offering many rooms with sea views, it's still close to the city centre. The hotel entrance is flanked by open-air seafood restaurants, and a small night-food market is steps away. The Coopmart is a 5-minute walk to the north. Clean, modern rooms with air conditioning, TV, Wi-Fi. Elevator. Basic English understood. Double room: 300,000 dong at normal times, 500,000 during holidays and high season.
- Eden Hotel, 60 Mai Xuân Thưởng (between Bùi Thị Xuân and Lê Hồng Phong, just around the corner from the Công Viên Quang Trung roundabout), ☎ . The only mid-budget hotel in the northeast centre of the city. Rooms are small, but comfortable and clean. Six storeys. Elevator. Karaoke in basement, restaurant on top floor. 15-minute walk to Coopmart or the beach. 3-minute walk from the airport shuttle bus drop-off. Street-facing rooms on top floors have impressive panoramic views over the city, sea and mountains. Only basic English spoken. Double room with breakfast included: 400,000 dong.
- Hoàng Sơn Hotel, 3 Ngô Mây (30 m (100 ft) northwest of roundabout with Diên Hồng and An Dương Vương), ☎ . Standard mid-budget Vietnamese-style family-run hotel. Rooms dark, but clean enough in the southern end of the city centre, a 3-minute walk to the beach and 5 minutes to Coopmart. Double room: 300,000–350,000 dong.
- Sunflowers Hotel, 13-17 Nguyễn Huệ, ☎ . Large Vietnamese-style hotel on a small street 20 m (65 ft) off the beach boulevard at the far eastern end of the city. With its 10 storeys towering over the sparsely populated area at the tip of the peninsula, many of the rooms offer unobstructed views in all directions over the bay, the ocean, the city and the mountains. Simple breakfast included. Elevator. Double room: 400,000 without view, 450,000 with view. Management is noteworthy for wanting to fill unoccupied rooms, so when the hotel isn't full, walk-in rates can be much cheaper than online booking.
- Thái Bảo Hotel, 12 Nguyên Tư (20 m (70 ft) north of Vũ Bão street), ☎ . Multi-storey mid-market hotel. Most upmarket of three adjacent hotels directly behind (due west) of the Coopmart complex in centre. A 3-minute walk to beach. Outdated Vietnamese-style decor, small rooms. Double rooms: 500,000–600,000 dong.
- [dead link] Hoàng Yến Hotel, 5 An Dương Vương, ☎ . Large 3-star hotel directly on the beach in the southwest of the city. Outdated decor, Vietnamese upper-mid business-class style. Two intact, African elephant tusks are displayed proudly in the lobby. Nine-storey building with impressive views of the sea, the mountains and the city from top-floor rooms. Outdoor swimming pool, indoor and outdoor restaurants offering both Vietnamese and Western food, large conference rooms, sauna. Elevator. Good English spoken at the reception desk. Walk-in rates for double room including breakfast buffet: 990,000 dong (city view), 1,150,000 (sea view). Online booking often 20% cheaper than walk-in.
- Saigon Quy Nhơn, 24 Nguyễn Huệ (corner of 31 Tháng 3). Multi-storey four-star hotel across from beach. Soaring lobby. Outdated, impersonal decor. Higher—and more expensive—rooms have wonderful city and beach views. Elevator. Swimming pool, spa, and small gym on top floor. English understood. Walk-in rates starting at 1,200,000–1,500,000 for a double room. Walk-in rates often slightly cheaper than online bookings.
- Seagull Hotel, 489 An Dương Vương, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Multi-storey hotel on the beach in the southwest of the city. 170 rooms. Dated decor, small rooms, but it's the only four-star hotel in this section of the beach. Many of the rooms offer sea views with balconies. Several restaurants offering both Vietnamese and Western food, rooftop bar, swimming pool, spa, tiny fitness centre, gift shop, travel agency. English spoken. Website offered in Russian, although no staff speak the language. Double room including breakfast: 1,100,000 dong (city view), 1,300,000 (sea view). Online booking price and walk-in rate generally the same.
- FLC Luxury Hotel Quy Nhon, Eo Gio, Nhon Ly, Quy Nhon. Along the beach, 900 rooms.
- FLC Luxury Resort Quy Nhon, Eo Gio, Nhon Ly, Quy Nhon. Along the beach, 96 villas.
Bãi Xép fishing village
The bay of Bãi Xép, a hamlet of Quy Nhơn 10 km (6 miles) south of the city centre, has a total population of a few hundred people, dogs, cats and chickens. There is one lane, a handful of wooden homes, a few people selling rice crackers and gum from their creaking verandas, and a hand-pumped water well which doubles as a rather touch-and-go mini electrical station.
But this tiny fishing village has become an unlikely focus of international tourism in the region. With deserted beaches, hilly islands close to shore, and round wooden fishing boats bobbing in the water, it's an ideal destination to stay if you're looking to get away from it all and enjoy a peaceful seaside holiday. The good and the bad of staying here are the same: there's nothing to do except lounge on the beach in utter tranquility.
In an odd twist of fate, the small beach and one-metre wide lane of Bãi Xép is the only place in the entire province where you're guaranteed to find lots of foreigners, and the tiny hamlet is still adjusting to the effects this tourism is causing. Despite some effort by the hotels to minimize their negative influence, it's impossible for 100 rooms designed for relatively-rich foreign tourists not to have a big impact on the environment and the village culture in such a tiny place. And although the hotel managers plead with their guests to respect traditional village ways, tourists shower gifts and money on the local children, which leads the kids—and their families— to lose interest in the fishing life. It's a complicated issue underway right now and it's not at all resolved: there are lots of conflicting opinions from locals, tourists, hotels, and provincial authorities regarding what, if anything, should be done about the situation.
In contrast to Quy Nhơn proper, the hotels in Bãi Xép are all geared towards foreigners. Most of the staff speak fluent English, and many of the managers and workers are foreigners themselves. Online booking is advisable at all times... and an absolute necessity in the peak season. The contrast with the city is also clear in the higher prices: even the low-budget dorm beds in Bãi Xép generally cost as much as—or more than—private double rooms in the city, and at the high end, the tiny fisherman's cove can boast of having the only luxury resort in the province.
- 1 Big Tree Backpackers and Bistro, Khu vực 1, Bãi Xếp, ☎ . Foreign-run backpackers hostel on the beach in the tiny fishing village of Bãi Xép. Offers three simple but clean dorm rooms: one female-only room with private bathroom and two mixed-gender rooms with shared toilets. Shared shower cubicles are open to the sky. Same management as Haven Guesthouse. Single dorm bed from US$8.
- Haven Guesthouse, Tổ 2, Khu vực 1, Bãi Xếp, ☎ . Foreign-run guesthouse on the beach in the tiny fishing village of Bãi Xép. Offers four double rooms and one family room. Restaurant (open to non-guests as well) serves traveller-favourite Western fare and some Vietnamese specialities. Shares the same beach with Life's A Beach Guesthouse, which sits on the opposite side of the one-metre wide alleyway. The luxury Avani Resort lies on the same cove and beach about 100 m (330 ft) to the south, although its end of the beach is private and off-limits to non-guests. Rooms at Haven: 700,000–1,000,000, minimum stay two nights.
- 2 Life's a Beach Guesthouse, Khu vực 1, Bãi Xếp, ☎ . Guesthouse on the beach in the tiny fishing village of Bãi Xép. Run by two Englishmen. Offers bamboo beach houses, beach-view bungalow, treehouse and dorm beds. Shares the same beach with Haven Guesthouse, which is just on the opposite side of the one-metre wide road. Avani Resort is on the same cove and beach about 100 m (330 ft) to the south, although its end of the beach is private and off-limits to non-guests. Private house at Life's a Beach for two people: from US$30. Single dorm bed: $7 (budget) and $10 (luxury room with air conditioning).
- 3 Avani Quy Nhơn Resort & Spa, Ghenh Rang, Bai Dai Beach, ☎ . Luxury resort on the private Bai Dai Beach run by the Avani Hotel Group of Thailand. Previously known as Life Resort, the Avani is the most luxurious hotel in the Quy Nhơn area. 63 rooms and suites. Restaurants with Western and Vietnamese fare, open-air bar, swimming pool, spa offering massage and facial treatments, yoga pavilion, billiards. Entrance to Avani is on the main road 400 m (0.25 mi) south of the turn-off to Bãi Xép village. Avani shares the same cove and beach as Haven Guesthouse and Life's a Beach Guesthouse 100 m (330 ft) to the north, but the beach is divided and Avani's side is private and off-limits to non-guests. Standard suite from $180, deluxe suite offering closet and sofa from $230.
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 you're welcome to use the computers for web browsing. The computers all have old-and-illegal but functional Windows operating systems, web browsers 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-minute 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.
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.
Da Nang (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 15th–19th-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 4th–14th centuries. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is considered the longest inhabited archaeological site in Indochina. 300 km (185 mi) northwest of Quy Nhơn.
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.