Ever wondered what a random visitor would make of Vietnam whilst on an industry sponsored junket? Well now you can…
Though I’ve had the privilege of visiting Vietnam six times in the past, this was the first time I’d had the pleasure of experiencing the country at the start of a new year. Flying in from Bali, my wife and I landed at Tan Son Nhat Airport late on 29 December. Our plan was to spend New Year’s Eve in HCMC, followed by a week in Nha Trang.
Knowing that we wanted to experience celebration parties as 2012 came to a close, we chose to stay in the city, near a few of the trendy nightclubs. With several very good parties planned throughout HCMC, we decided to make our stop at Q4 on Nguyen Tat Thanh in District 4. Headlined by little known Mark Doyle’s Fierce Angels, the party was one we felt could match celebrations in any other cosmopolitan city.
As our three days in HCMC were during the New Year weekend, there wasn’t much setup for me in terms of business. Our focus was rather to get around and enjoy the sights & sounds of the city.
During the day we often found ourselves passing through Vincom Center, whether it be for shopping or to experience one of the coffee shops on the ground floor. However, having become regular visitors to HCMC, we have also developed a preference for a couple of local restaurants; one in particular was “Tiem Com Dong Nhan” on Truong Dinh. We visited several times this year and a couple of times on past trips.
We enjoyed the streets during the day and the New Year’s celebration at Q4, yet were also able to get out and experience Chill Sky Bar in District 1 during our last night in HCMC. The restaurant at Chill offered a sophisticated atmosphere in which we enjoyed their pan fried Norwegian salmon & pan roasted black cod. I can highly recommend both dishes as well as the other selections on their continental European menu.
Making the move from Chill’s restaurant to their Sky Bar set the tone for the rest of our evening. This chic, funky & fashionable venue provided us with an outstanding view of the city from the open-air bar. I particularly enjoyed following the selection of house music spun by Chill’s DJ.
Late in the afternoon on Wednesday, 2nd January, we made our way back to the airport for our flight on Vietnam Airways. After a 55 minutes we were in Cam Ranh airport, and a 45-minute taxi later, we unpacked for our week in the heart of Nha Trang City.
The Sheraton Hotel & Spa served as our base of operations. Throughout the property, whether it was at the pool, spa, or in one of the 280 guest rooms, there was always a panoramic view of Nha Trang Bay and its beautiful sandy beach.
We spent most of the time exploring the streets and beaches of Nha Trang. A few of our meals were at Steam N’ Spice, the Sheraton’s first floor Asian restaurant where we were able to easily chat with business partners in a professional environment.
The evenings took us up to Altitude, a fashionable 28th floor lounge. As Nha Trang’s highest bar, it provided a relaxing venue to entertain our associates. A couple of talented female DJs entertained us well into the night.
Perhaps one of the draws of Nha Trang is the endless beach which we found to be quite clean and easy to access. Though mostly cloudy and sometimes raining during the first week of January, we spent a few afternoons walking along the beach. The water was a bit cool, so a plunge into the surf wasn’t something we tried. We did however, make our way into the iconic Sailing Club, a trendy beach side restaurant that transforms into a nightclub in the evening.
One of the tourist activities we engaged in was a visit to the Long Son Pagoda. Located at the foot of Trai Thuy mountain, it offered a serene setting from which to view Nha Trang City below.
One of my meetings at Steam N’ Spice was with Jakub Sippl, Director of Food & Beverage at the Amiana Resort, a new lifestyle venue scheduled to open sometime in late February or March. Understated, yet overwhelmingly opulent, I get the feeling the Amiana Resort will be an ideal place to spend a week to relax and unwind. I certainly have the resort on my to-do list for the summer of 2013.
We made an afternoon stop at Diamond Bay Resort & Spa where we met Simon Tinkler, the resort’s Director of Golf. Simon discussed the status of the golf course, with twelve holes completed and the remaining six under development. Diamond Bay’s Caddie Master, Duong Thi Sao, was kind enough to take us around the course.
Though the current clubhouse is a 5-minute drive from the course, we were able to see the construction of Diamond Bay’s new clubhouse coming along well. It’s much better situated for a golfer to make their way from the clubhouse to the first tee.
Designed by Andy Dye, an experienced golfer will certainly notice that this will be one of the top courses in Asia once it’s completed and matured. Personally, I am taken by the layout and how the course used the natural habitat: sand dunes, large pine trees, natural marshes and the open view to the sea which provides warm tropical breezes.
We departed Nha Trang on Tuesday, 8 January for a night in HCMC. With a morning flight the next day, we decided to book a smaller hotel within five minutes of Tan Son Nhat. With a Wednesday morning departure and a 5-hour layover in Kuala Lumpur, we were able to make our way from Saigon back to Bali within a single day.
Bill Healey on Vietnam Golf Magazine