One week on the Central South Coast and Central Highlands of Vietnam
I love motorbike loops. They’re the best way to explore the offbeat side of Vietnam.
And they’re the most fun when you create your own loops!
"When it comes to real Vietnam travelling.. it is all about motorbike loops!"
Here’s the loop I planned to do:
So now you know why I called it the heart loop.
The idea is to travel slowly and spend as less time on the motorbike as possible.
"When given a choice between traveling fast and slow, I would always pick slow travel.
I choose to drive around 100kms each day on these loops. This ensures I’m moving but not driving a lot."
The roads on this loop were fairly new with not many people driving, especially along the coast line, so it’s easy to cover 100kms in less than 2 hours with small stops.
I was in Ninh Binh when I planned the loop on 16 March.
16 March — Ninh Binh > Bus to Hanoi > 17 March — Hanoi > Fly to Cam Ranh > 18 March Cam Ranh loop starts
18 March: Binh Tien > 19 March: Ninh Chu > 20 March: Phan Rang > 21 March & 22 March: Da Lat > 23 March: Nha Trang > 24 March: Cam Ranh
So it’s basically a lot of beach > a lot of hills > a lot of beaches
I chose to take the motorbike from Binh Tien (in Cam Ranh) instead of Nha Trang since the airport I’d landed was in Cam Ranh. (even though it’s sometimes referred to as Nha Trang Airport)
Here are the highlights from the loop:
# Bãi Nước Ngọt
The beach with a freshwater stream
It was not an easy ride to the beach. There’s a dirt road which runs next to the river stream. Just follow the same for around 2 kilometers.
You probably won’t see anyone else on the way. That’s how you know you’re going the right way.
Once I was at the beach, it was time for a nude swim! I had to use the privacy and I love nude swims ;)
That’s the beautiful view I had the honor of being with.
And Yes — No people around :)
I also had a nice natural bathtub to chill with the view of the sea.
I spent around 2 hours here and then headed back to the road..
Meet my beautiful ride and friend for this journey: Honest, reliable, and peaceful.
Also, the Honda Lead has a lot of storage. You can keep a supermarket on wheels with this one.
I stopped at a few more beach views before reaching Vinh Hai.
And the next stop was for some local red wine..
# Thái An, Vĩnh Hải
The winemaking coastal village
This was my next stop.
Located between the coast and protected by the hills on the other side, this village is known for making special local red wine.
It was a very drinkable and tasty wine.
You could see the fresh grape farms near who while enjoying it with the locals working around — adding to the experience.
You can also explore the Vineyards around.
Cost of the bottle: 50k VND (around $2)
And then, I was hungry!
# Hang Rái
A beautiful stop for lunch
I found myself driving along the beach and noticed a small river. I knew I wanted to explore this river-sea union.
I spotted a restaurant right next to the river and stopped for lunch there.
"I had views of the river on one side and the beach on the other. Beautiful life."
Also, cost of the meal with the drink: 90k VND ($4)
# Phan Rang
The peaceful city with a Cham history
As soon as I arrived in Phan Rang, I noticed something very different about this city.
It is extremely unique. It has a Cham past and you can see many Hindu temples around.
But let’s talk about the present...
"The women are beautiful, they have a lot of vegan restaurants, many people speak English, their houses look beautiful, with many musicians and create artists around!"
Talking about beautiful homes, here’s the Airbnb I stayed in while I was at Phan Rang:
I got a lot of work done here owing to the beautiful environment.
I love exploring bnbs and was so happy to find this one.
There was also a lot of amazing local vegan food in Phan Rang.
Not the touristy kind which you get in Hoi An (khong ngon) but really tasty food.
If you’re vegan and somehow find yourself in Phan Rang, try any restaurant there — they’re all good.
But I know you need at least one recommendation so go for ‘Thanh Tin’:
There was another one very close to my bnb with no Google maps listing but if you explore around and just look for ‘Quan Chay’ or ‘Com Chay’ you’ll be just fine.
Cost of one meal: 25k VND (Around $1)
After 2 nights in Phan Rang, it was time to ‘Du lịch Đà Lạt’.
# Da Lat
Exploring the beautiful hill station
Da Lat is famous for being the “romantic” stop in Vietnam.
Being a solo travel, my romance was with nature and hence I decided to make the most of it.
Which, for me, means I experiences the most beautiful sunset and sunrise there.
This is a beautiful lake called ‘Tuyen Lam Lake’ in Da Lat. It’s a little outside the city center but the view is worth driving there.
You can also stay around the lake for a more peaceful Da Lat experience.
There are a lot of resort options but only a few cheap options nearby.
Since I don’t prefer spending a lot on sleeping, I chose to stay in a local homestay inside the city.
Here’s the sunrise from next morning:
Yes, that’s a cemetery.
Watching the sunrise over the dead is a different experience.
This was a wonderful experience for me.
"It was a very Stoic way of starting the day — A gentle but beautiful reminder of death."
I would prefer to start every morning like this and then squeeze all the juice out of each day in this short life
# Da Lat to Nha Trang
A beautiful, scenic drive from the hills to the beach
Driving in the hills is always fun, especially when you know you’re heading to the sunny beach!
Here are some highlights from this drive:
And then, I made it to Nha Trang..
# Nha Trang
Just chill on the beach
After the drive, I didn’t want to do much except chill on the beach.
So that’s exactly what I did in Nha Trang.
Must say the beach was absolutely clean.
However, when it comes to coastal cities of Vietnam, Da Nang beats Nha Trang for me any day keeping in mind both the quality of the city as well the quality of the tourists there.
# Cam Ranh
Completing the Heart Loop :)
I wanted to leave the noise of Nha Trang behind. It’s beautiful quite touristy at the same time.
I moved to a more peaceful town of Cam Ranh which is where I’d started my loop.
Spending the last days of the loop with family was the best way for me to close the loop!
It is amazing how being a nomad lets you be open. Open to connections, new experiences, and new family. Open to life.
You live a new life everyday. And then you leave it behind… Because you must.
You must move.
And you must learn.
You must learn to…
To see no possession but you may possess it, enjoying all without labor or purchase, abstracting the feast yet not abstracting one particle of it,
To take the best of the farmer’s farm and the rich man’s elegant villa, and the chaste blessings of the well-married couple, and the fruits of orchards and flowers of gardens,
To take to your use out of the compact cities as you pass through,
To carry buildings and streets with you afterward wherever you go,
To gather the minds of men and women out of their brains as you encounter them, to gather the love out of their hearts,
To take your lovers on the road with you, for all that you leave them behind you,
To know the universe itself as a road, as many roads, as roads for traveling souls.
And hence, I was back on the road.
The heart loop was a great experience all the way and it ended up giving me amazing new friends, new family, new culture, and new learnings.
The loop really match the name I’d given it. It will always stay in my heart.
Thanks for reading!
P.S. Find the links to places I stayed in and ate in below.
1. Minimalistic, friendly bnb in Cam Ranh:
2. Beautiful, artistic bnb in Phan Rang:
3. Beach restaurant ‘Bình dân quán Hang Rái’:
4. Vegan restaurant in Phan Rang:
. . .
Nomadic Dev, March 2019.