Article: Tran Thi Duyen
Photo: Nguyen Phuoc Hoai
In recent years, Quy Nhon has been a top vacation spot for families, couples, and backpackers. It is a wonderful destination for those who wish to explore the sea and islands, learn more about the area’s culture and history, or simply relax. While quieter than some of Vietnam’s other coastal cities, Quy Nhon has a poetic charm woven from its colorful local life.
Situated in Binh Dinh province, Quy Nhon covers around 300km2 and is home to some 600,000 people. When it comes to tourism, Quy Nhon stands out not only for its idyllic islands but also because it bears marks of the once prosperous and culturally rich ancient kingdom of Champa. Some of the most beautiful and spectacular Cham towers in Vietnam stand in the heart of the city and in surrounding areas, of which the most prominent is the Banh It Tower Complex in Tuy Phuoc district.
This complex boasts four Cham towers dating from the late 11th – early 12th centuries. It is considered an architectural marvel with unique artistic value. The main temple tower, reaching nearly 30m in height, is the tallest and located on the top of a hill. Three smaller towers, namely the Gate Tower, the Fire Tower, and the Stele Tower, stand nearby. While each has a distinctive design and appearance, together, they form an elegant and monumental complex. The mossy brick walls, elaborately carved roofs, and the many reliefs depicting sacred entities like dancing apsaras never fail to amaze visitors, making them feel like they have stepped into the mysterious world of the ancient Cham people. Vietnamese archaeologists consider this to be the most diverse Cham tower complex in the Central Region and one of extraordinary artistic importance.
Quy Nhon has much to offer tourists beyond its Champa architecture. Visitors can relax, explore, and learn about the local culture and daily life. Visiting coastal villages is interesting for those who wish to see fishermen working on their boats, and breathe in the salty sea air. One of the best places to enjoy such unforgettable experiences is in Nhon Ly village.
Located about 25km from the city center, a decade back, Nhon Ly was just a remote fishing village reached by a small track. Now, this village is a tourism and economic hotspot in Binh Dinh province. Nhon Ly has long been renowned for its uniquely flavorful seafood, which is said to taste unlike that found anywhere else. Visitors will see the village’s hardworking wives and mothers sitting on the sandy beach and chatting. They aren’t just waiting for the sunrise but for the return of their menfolk, who fish just offshore at night.
Freshly caught fish is hauled back in basket boats and distributed to markets in Quy Nhon city or in neighboring villages. This is how the days start in Nhon Ly.
Visitors should rise early to walk on the beach, watch the fishermen work, and visit the vibrant fish market. Like the locals, they should stop by a small shop to eat bánh xèo (crispy savory rice crepes)for a delicious breakfast.
While the bánh xèo in other places are filled with meat, shrimp, and eggs, the ones here typically contain squid. Fresh squid is cooked into the sizzling hot pancake, imbuing it with a sweet flavor. The crispy and crunchy squid makes this breakfast delicious and memorable. This dish is a gift from the sea and the friendly locals.