Shandelle Battersby samples the sights and sounds of Nha Trang on Vietnam's southeast coast

When you arrive at Vietnam's southern port city of Nha Trang, the first thing you notice are the giant towers, supporting a stream of cable cars travelling to Hon Tre Island, home of the Vinpearl luxury resort.

But there's plenty to explore on the mainland of this pretty coastal city.

Take a cyclo tour
Get your bearings from the front seat of a cyclo — a motorised bicycle taxi. Nha Trang's streets are hectic, but nowhere near as frantic as bigger cities like Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh. Start near the beach and head inland, keeping watch for places you'd like to return to on foot. You'll pay about $1.50 per kilometre and be sure to keep a few dong aside to tip your driver — after all, he's done all the hard work.

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See the Buddhist statue at the Long Son Pagoda
Early morning is the best time of day to climb the 150 or so steps to the giant sitting Buddha overlooking the city at the base of Trai Thuy Mountain. You'll need appropriate clothing to enter the historic pagoda below. The views are worth the hike, but be warned there's plenty of rubbish lying around and keep your possessions close.

Long Son Pagoda Buddha.
Long Son Pagoda Buddha.

Soak in a mineral mud bath

Nha Trang is famous for its geothermal mud but this is no Rotorua — there's a distinct lack of sulphur in the air here. There are plenty of places you can head for a soak — I-Resort is one of the nicest. Pour yourself a chocolatey mud bath out of an actual tap, then rinse off and enjoy the hot springs, waterpark and thermal waterfall. The minerals in the mud will leave your skin moisturised for hours. Towels are supplied.

Learn some local folklore
The Hon Chong Promontory, north of the city, is famous for its granite boulders, one of which is said to feature the handprint of a giant. In folklore there are several versions of how his handprint got there, the most likely is he lost his balance when he saw a female fairy skinny-dipping in the bay. We'll leave it up to you to decide.

Visit a seriously old Hindu temple
Among the city's most prized attractions are the four remaining Po Nagar Cham Towers on Cu Lao Mountain, believed to date back to before 781 BC. The Cham were people from ancient kingdom, Champa, who were Hindu in origin. You can enter the towers and see the treasures within, but you must cover up — there are complimentary robes on site — as the site is still actively used for worship.

Nha Trang. Photo / Getty Images
Nha Trang. Photo / Getty Images

Hang out at the beach

Nha Trang's shoreline is the jewel in its crown and Tran Phu Beach is in the thick of the action, offering nightlife, restaurants and shopping. If you're staying at a beachfront hotel you'll have access to its loungers, otherwise expect to pay. There are amazing islands and beaches a little further afield if you have time.