Its natural beauty is easy on the eyes, but as with most resort towns, tourists find a way to crowd out the beauty to be replaced by high rise hotels and trendy beach bars. The city is overwhelmed with Russian tourists due to the one way flights serviced from Moscow. Signs and menus are posted in Vietnamese, French, Russian and English. The Russians seem to be a hard bunch to impress and walk around with faces that seem to ask, “Is this all ya got?”
The party area is loaded with backpacker bars and restaurants/pectopahs. There is an amazing place called Louisiane Brewhouse (29 Tran Phu) with six house brewed beers. I ordered the sampler and wasn’t disappointed. The cheeseburger; however, was a total letdown. It was under-cooked and had the amateur hour problem of meat patty being smaller than the bun. But, wifi was fast, there is a pool, and perhaps the overpriced seafood was better.
I also went to I-resort. A short ride away over the bridge into the locals-only part of town (some of the roads aren’t even paved yet). They offer a range of services, but for 300,000 dong (15$) you can get 20 minutes in a mud bath, floating in delicate minerals that alleviate a variety of health issues, all-day access to warm mineral pools and comfortable lounge chairs. I spent the day pruning my hands in the soothing water, tanning and reading.
The food was not impressive. I stayed four days, ate two big fish (which were pretty good), a decent pizza, decent tikka masala, a terrible eel dish, and two very poor, under-cooked cheeseburgers (I-resort and Louisiane Brewhouse). I did eat a very delicious bacon cheeseburger at Booze Cruise Bar (110 Nguyen Thien Thuat). I know I shouldn’t be eating so many burgers, but there’s just something about being at the beach that makes me crave a “cheeseburger in paradise!” Below is a nice Indian food breakfast beside the beach, and a terribly bony eel dish.
This place, NT Fitness, owned by a few expat bros from England, was a huge highlight and allowed me a chance to get in a few curls, watch a Russian guy bench 200kgs and get in a nice banana protein shake. It was top notch for any city in the world, four floors of various equipment and hardwood exercise rooms.
I stayed at Mojzo Inn (120 Nguyen Thien Thuat), a cute place with irrepressibly cute staff. They were helpful, cheery and greeted me with the same, “Hey Wirl,” at all times of the day. The rooms are clean and well equipped.
I kept hearing how lots of backpackers have begun skipping this city completely due to negative word-of-mouth. Yes, it’s crowded, loud, pushy, and has mediocre food, but…I’m not sure how to finish that sentence. I didn’t hate it; I didn’t love it. You can party here, get a tan, shop for expensive goods, eat fresh seafood, ride the longest cable car over water in the world, drink beer that isn’t yellow, float in clean mud, or get a bike and ride to the distant beaches 20km north or south of the main city.