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Experience the Authentic Culture of Nha Trang on a Countryside Drive and River Cruise
Posted On 08/26/2019 16:38:09
Trip Date 03/12/2011
Destinations | Cruises | Asia | Vietnam | Nha Trang | What to See in Vietnam | Pham Tours | Dung Pham | Vietnam Tour Guides | Tours of Nha Trang | Po Nagar Cham Towers
After departing from Tianjin, China, the port city nearest to Beijing, we sailed
the Diamond Princess. We cruised down the Asian coast spending one day each in the
of Nagasaki, Shanghai and Hong Kong. Although saying our goodbyes to
Japan and China were difficult, we were excited for our upcoming two ports of call in
We took a break with our planning and joined a private tour in Nha Trang that another
member of our Cruise Critic Roll Call had planned.
If you are considering cruises with destinations around Asia, this post will help you to
the question about what to see in Vietnam. If you already started researching the port city of Nha
Trang, you may already have some familiarity with the beaches as well as Po Nagar Cham
Towers. A tour led by Dung Pham of Pham Tours is definitely one to consider
see both as well as much more. While there are certainly plenty of Vietnam tour guides offering
of Nha Trang, we loved our small private tour which cost far less than those offered by the cruise
People of all walks of life travel to the coastal city of Nha Trang located in southern Vietnam. It is
known for its beaches and for water related activities including scuba diving. Reachable by boat,
several nearby islands are also highly sought after for their surrounding reef. Nha Trang is popular
both with residents of the country of Vietnam as well as from the rest of the world. Getting to the
Nha Trang Port following arrival into Nha Trang Bay requires a ride aboard a
The Beach at Nha Trang
For visitors who desire seeing something other than the beach, Nha Trang is probably best known
the temple complex of Po Nagar Cham Towers. Near the temples, Thap Ba Hot
Spa and Mud Baths is quite popular for soaking. The resort of Vinpearl Island is
with amusement park lovers. The resort also has both a water park and an aquarium. Finally, for
those who love shopping, the Dam Market is the city's largest. (The market sits on what
previously a muddy pond. The peculiar word "dam" in Vietnamese is derived from the Dutch
meaning to "live by a pond".)
Born and raised in the city of Nha Trang, Dung Pham, the founder of Pham Tours, was the guide
our private day tour. Although we did not coordinate this group tour, the information passed
our group indicated that Dung was very organized and prepared. On the day of our arrival, he
as our tender was coming to shore, showed us an awesome day exploring his home town and
us to the port as promised. We really enjoyed having a local guide who was able to answer
and truly describe life in Nha Trang.
Just a short distance away from Nha Trang's beach front is the picturesque countryside dotted with
palm trees, fruit orchards and irrigated rice paddies. Our tour allowed us to explore the country
town, village life, farms and pagodas giving us intriguing insight into the real lives of the everyday
people of Vietnam. Dung customized a longer day tour for our group by combing the regularly
countryside tour with a shorter river tour allowing us to see the best of both. We found it an
way to experience the real Vietnamese countryside while also enjoying a more leisurely cruise
the Cai River.
XQ Silk Hand Embroidery Picture
Knowing that our tour included a stop at a Silk Embroidery Factory, we both had visions of
large assortment of silk clothing available for sale. What a surprise we got upon our arrival at
Silk Hand Embroidery Picture when we witnessed young girls embroidering unbelievably
pictures on to silk.
Designing and Embroidering
Working at the Silk Embroidery Factory
From design to sewing, these women do it all, and many of these projects take months to
The time that we spent in the factory was almost like walking through a museum. Every one of
finished works looked like paintings, but all were done with embroidery thread on silk. There were
even some amazing two sided works with completely different images on each side.
Stacy Admiring an Embroidered Panel
It's Embroidery . . . not a Painting!
In addition to designing and creating intricate and exquisitely embroidered items, the factory also
offers the handcrafted silk items for sale.
Lac Tho Pagoda Orphanage
Our entire private tour group was excited (and prepared) for our visit to the Lac Tho Pagoda
Orphanage. In addition to taking a tour of the orphanage, we were able to spend some time
playing with the youngsters.
Lac Tho Pagoda Orphanage
Buddha at Lac Tho Pagoda Orphanage
Abandoned, orphaned and street children as young as just a few months old and up to the age of
are cared for by Buddhist nuns and volunteers. The volunteers strive to provide necessities that
people take for granted such as a safe and caring home and meals for nourishment. While at the
orphanage, the children also receive healthcare and schooling.
Girls at the Orphanage
Prior to leaving home, our small tour group communicated by email and decided to band together
bring some small gifts to the orphanage. In addition to some essentials like school supplies, we
brought some toys hoping to bring a little more joy into the life of these children. Needless to say,
they were happy to see us.
Children Excited about Guests
A Loving Child at the Orphanage with Scott
Rush Mat Weaving
Our drive took us through some flat rice fields on our way to a rural village. Our short visit gave
the opportunity to interact with local people as they went about their daily lives. We learned a
about their income sources which included farming as well as other creative home industries.
Rice Fields in Nha Trang
Walking along a path led us to the home of one extended family who makes their income from the
reeds which grow abundantly in the surrounding area. Rush Mat Weaving also called
Sedge Mat Weaving is an art practiced by this group of village people. Two family
work together and are able to weave about four mats throughout each of their working days.
trade the mats for essentials including food at the local market.
Sedge Mat Weaving
Vietnamese Country House
Before leaving this small village, we were invited to see an example of an ancient home laid out
the traditional floor plan. With many ancestors living and worshiping together, most homes have a
family altar. The shrine of the ancestors is said to be their kitchen! We each even sampled some
the tropical fruits from the nearby fruit orchard.
Fresh Fruit from the Orchard
Conical Hat Making Village
When you picture a typical Vietnamese person in your mind, what are they wearing on their head?
you are like many people, they are likely wearing a cone-shaped hat made of straw with a silk chin
strap. Our visit to a Conical Hat Making Village allowed us to see another tradition which
withstood the test of time in Vietnam.
Beautiful Vietnamese Girl
Making these hats is a manual process but one that requires skill. Conical hats are made from
strings of dried bamboo and are nearly always produced by women. Sewing, and even sometimes
decorating the hats, requires tiny and evenly spaced hand stitching. A steady hand plus lots of
and patience are certainly a part of each hat produced.
First Stages of Creating a Conical Hat
Conical Hat Weaving
Rice Paper Making Factory
Rice paper is a staple used for making rice paper rolls and spring rolls throughout all of Vietnam.
stop at a Rice Paper Making Factory allowed us to see the production of this popular food
action. Steamed rice is processed into very thin and flat ("paper-like") pieces. The pieces of rice
paper are then placed on bamboo racks and left outside to dry from the heat of the sun. Once the
paper is ready for use, it is sold in local inns and shops.
Inside the Rice Paper Making Factory
Working at the Rice Paper Factory
Rice Paper Drying on the Dusty Road
We found it humorous that the rice paper sheets, nicely laid out on bamboo racks, are left along
roadsides for drying. The roads all over this area of Nha Trang are filled with moving motorcycles,
buses and other vehicles. Since the roads are dirt or gravel, the moving traffic kicks up dust and
which has to settle all over the drying rice paper sheets that are later used for food!
Charcoal Stove Making Village
Although some families do use gas cookers, nearly every home in Nha Trang has a charcoal stove.
Our next stop was at a Charcoal Stove Making Village. Hundreds of small cooking stoves
either already completed or in the process of being made from clay right before our eyes.
Creating a Charcoal Stove by Hand
Vietnamese Charcoal Stoves
Lunch and Cai River Cruise
Before cruising on the Cai River, we enjoyed a traditional Vietnamese lunch with a view.
lunch was served at an open-air restaurant sitting on the banks of the river. As we dined, we
the boat on which we would soon travel making its way down the river to dock alongside the
Lunch in Nha Trang
With full stomachs, we boarded the riverboat for a comfortable and relaxing cruise along one of
Trang's largest rivers, the Cai River. In addition to the rice paddies, orchards and other scenery
the banks of the river, we saw fishermen out in their boats. Observing the peaceful life of locals
both sides of the river was a nice change of pace!
Leaving our Lunch Restaurant
Cruising on the Cai River
The Banks of the Cai River
Po Nagar Cham Towers
Built between the seventh and twelfth centuries, Po Nagar Cham Towers are located on
Mount Cu Lao. It is believed that the most beautiful of the towers were built between the
years 813 and 817. The towers originally stood high up on an isolated rock formation at the
to the Cai River. As the flow of the river changed over time, the rock foundation became
part of the land forming the river bank today.
Po Nagar Cham Towers
The Top of Po Nagar Cham Towers
Historical Statue at Po Nagar Cham Towers
With temple settlements in Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam, the Cham people, who once ruled
Vietnam, are known for both their architecture and their sculpturing skills. The four remaining red
brick towers are what remains of ten original buildings which were each a shrine to a different
Visitors to this example of Cham architecture can also enjoy an excellent panoramic view of the
and surrounding area.
View from Po Nagar Cham Towers
View of the River from Po Nagar Cham Towers
Cho Dam Market
As is common for many a tour which we've taken, a stop at a local market is included. While
market stop is typical, seeing different markets around the world is somehow always very
The Cho Dam Market in Nha Trang is the biggest in town - both in size as well as the
of people who visit. The market has been operating since 1974 and is the most popular place for
locals to do business. On some days the Cho Dam Market opens as early as 4:00 AM and usually
remains open until 6:00 PM.
Bringing Goods to the Dam Market
Although the market is housed in a three story building, the stalls of the vendors offering produce,
seafood and meat are mostly located around the outside perimeter of the market. Similar to
and department stores, most items are grouped into departments, so if you know what you are
looking for it's easier to find.
Fruit for sale at Dam Market
For those just interested in "looking" for the experience, there is plenty to see. In addition to
flowers, typical tourist souvenirs and locally handcrafted items, even counterfeit or knock-off items
including clothes, footwear, watches and handbags are available. While much harder to take home
those on a cruise ship or traveling via plane, the market also sells appliances, hardware and parts
motorcycles (the most common means of transportation for the locals).
Motorcycles on the Roads of Nha Trang
If you find something that you must have, you'll probably want to haggle a little bit on the price
the market is such a popular tourist destination.
Cruising China and Southeast Asia
Our next port of call was also in Vietnam, just a little further south in Ho Chi Minh City.
hired an outstanding guide who, along with a driver, helped us to explore the best of his home city
just a days time.
Awesome Sunset on our Nha Trang Sailaway
A subscription to our weekly e-mail notifications will ensure that you don't miss out on the
ports of call from our Asian odyssey. You will receive no more than one e-mail per week which will
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If the cruise that you are considering has a planned port day in Hong Kong, be sure to
about the day that we spent exploring Hong Kong on our own. Titled Seeing the Best of Hong
Kong Island and Kowloon in One Day, you'll find sightseeing ideas for both sides of Victoria
Harbor. Along with a description and photos of some of our favorite sites, we've included ideas for
getting around Hong Kong.
If you were to make a recommendation to someone wanting to visit Vietnam for the first time,
cities would you suggest that they consider and why?
Created On 01/07/2019 17:07:19
Updated On 09/17/2019 16:49:43
Scheduled On 08/01/2019 21:38:09
Posted On 08/26/2019 16:38:09
Last Editor Stacy
Location Po Nogar Cham Towers, Nha Trang