Azerai La Residence, Hue, the second hotel in a new group formed by hotelier Adrian Zecha, held its official grand opening on February 19.
Ninh Thuan – Nostalgia for the land of golden sunshine and dry wind
The bright golden sunshine, crystal clear turquoise water, and hospitable locals evoke a sense of nostalgia to those who have visited Ninh Thuan. I fell in love with the land at the end of the central coast after days of exploring and creating beautiful memories of a harsh yet beautiful and extremely peaceful land.
PHAN RANG – STRONG WIND AND EXTREMELY HOT SUNSHINE
I visited Ninh Thuan in the early days of September. Arriving at Cam Ranh airport, I picked up a taxi to travel to Phan Rang – Thap Cham, the capital city in Ninh Thuan province. It is about 70 kilometres from the airport. The land located near the end of Central Vietnam welcomed me with its golden sunshine, which was a little hot yet not uncomfortable. When the sun went down, the city suddenly became so tender, as if the dazzling sun at noon had never ever existed. The wind blew gently and the air was cool until early in the morning. Occasionally, the rain poured down for a few moments, just enough to dispel the heat, but not too much to disturb people from walking and working. As it is located in the South Central region, Ninh Thuan often has sudden rainfall much like the weather in Saigon and the southern provinces of Vietnam.
During the few days I spent in Ninh Thuan, I was very interested in the energetic and harsh weather of this land. The locals here burst out laughing when I mentioned this to them. They said I was lucky to visit at the time I did, when the peak season of Ninh Thuan ended not too long before I arrived. For a long time, this place was called “the land of strong wind and extremely hot sunshine”, because from the beginning of summer to August, Ninh Thuan’s weather is always hot, while rain is scarce.
Though the summer weather is extremely harsh, the people of Ninh Thuan are not hot-tempered or difficult; they are really sincere and nice. Renters, food vendors, taxi drivers, and even passersby are willing to help or simply smile nicely at us as a way of greeting a visitor from a faraway land. The cost of living here is quite affordable; prices are much lower than in large cities in Vietnam. I remember one night, my two colleagues and I visited a famous restaurant. We only spent VND150,000 for a delicious dinner which consisted of three duck noodle dishes served by a kind waiting staff.
Phan Rang – Thap Cham is a small city, mainly considered as a transit place for travellers passing through to larger, more popular tourists destinations in the province. The outskirts of the city are surrounded by white salt plains, sparkling in the sunshine. Visiting the residential area, it is common to see many mossed houses which feature yellow walls, green doors, and the architecture of more than half a century ago. Vast vineyards that stretch over many miles with ripe fruit hanging on the truss are a particularly attractive feature here. In the midst of a sunny afternoon, we visited a vineyard, went under leaf-covered grape trellis, held scissors to cut each cluster, and then put them into a trolley. Occasionally, we picked a few fruits and put them in our mouths, which helped dispel the heat of the weather.
In Phan Rang – Thap Cham, there is only one famous tourist attraction, which is The Po Klong Garai Towers. The monument which is located on a hill looks prominent amidst the industrial streets of the 21st century, thanks to its isolated position and extremely eye-catching red bricks. Three main towers, the fire tower, and the gate tower built in the late 13th and early 14th centuries were devoted to worship Po Klong Garai (1151-1205) – the king who has a lot of merit in the ancient Cham kingdom. Not much restoration has been done to the tower, as the people want to keep it intact. Therefore, until now, it is still in the original shape which bears the imprints of time and history. Tourism is not really developed in Ninh Thuan, which is also an ideal aspect which helps to maintain the classical beauty of The Po Klong Garai Towers. The locals, especially Cham people, often come here to worship, pray, go for a walk, or record traditional dance performances.
Arriving in Ninh Thuan because of work, I was privileged to be immersed in the pace of everyday life in Phan Rang – Thap Cham. For me, this is the best city to live in, in all of Vietnam. Though it is modern enough to look like a young, urban city; it doesn’t have the same hustle and bustle as Saigon or Hanoi. I loved the evenings when the cool breeze blew in Phan Rang. After dinner, people often flocked to the city square. Kids ran around, adults walked or found a place in the roadside bar, drank a glass of water, and listened to live music. Time seemed to stop or elapse slowly; people relaxed and temporarily forgot all of their worries.
DINH CAPE – EXPLORING SAND DUNES AND VISITING THE FISHING VILLAGE
Located 40 kilometres away from the centre of Phan Rang – Thap Cham, Dinh Cape appeared in front of me as an endless three-dimensional space. We saw the blue sky, the turquoise blue sea, and a range of mountains connecting with the white sand. The highlight of this poetic background is a few herds of cattle, flocks of sheep eating grass.
The cape in the south of Ninh Thuan became famous for its sub-desert terrain, where golden and white sand dunes connect and the calm space is surrounded by smooth sand. As arranged beforehand, Shymha Sadick and Mai Chia welcomed me and my colleagues at Dinh Cape. Sadick had curly hair, a tanned face, and a sincere smile. Mai Chia was a beautiful woman; her appearance looked sweet yet energetic. Both were very young, under the age of 30, proper Cham people. They worked as tour guides in their hometown and are professional motorbikers, and UTV car drivers. They prepared a UTV car, taking three of us to explore the dunes and look at the venue for a reality show.
Though being excited for a few days, I suddenly felt scared when thinking of the speeding off-road vehicle which runs on slippery sand. However, it did not take me long to become familiar with this fascinating experience. The car ran rapidly yet smoothly down from the top of the sand dunes like a person who was trying the free-fall, sometimes startled by a sudden turn. Sadick and Mai Chia said UTV was a vehicle which could not be overturned as it was designed to run on the sand. Standing on the back of the UTV, I found myself close to nature and exposed to the sun, wind, and sand. Sunshine shone on my face. The wind blew through my hair. Sand caressed my feet, touched my face and hands, and some granules of sand sometimes blew into my mouth. The screams carried a little suspense, trembling, but were just the feeling of excitement mixed with the sound of the wind swirling through my eardrums.
Passing through two vast sand dunes, our team visited a fishing hamlet on the beach. It was called fishing hamlet because there were only a few families, not enough to form a fishing village. Like fishermen in other parts of the country, people in Dinh Cape also sail out to sea every afternoon and return early in the morning with fish and shrimp. Visiting the home of a local family, I was surprised to see the children casually sleeping on the sand. They said the sand was smooth and cool, and served as an ideal bed to enjoy a deep sleep or a short nap. At night, they would take a blanket to enjoy a good sleep that usually lasted till the morning.
In the afternoon, it was windy, I sat on the beach in a quiet space of the fish hamlet, hearing the waves lapping the shore, and felt grateful to have a chance to visit Dinh Cape when it was still not affected by the crowds of tourists and tourism services. That night, following the suggestion of our two hosts, we stayed on the beach a little longer, prepared a stove to bake potatoes and grill dried squids, and rewarded ourselves with a delicious barbecue under thousands of stars on the poetic beach.
+ Climate: Ninh Thuan is hot, dry, and windy. The dry season lasts all year round from December to August; from June to August is the harshest period. The rainy season is only from September to November.
+ Transportation: Ninh Thuan does not have its own airport. In order to travel there, you can fly to Cam Ranh – Khanh Hoa airport or Lien Khuong – Da Lat airport, then continue to travel by car or taxi.
+ Accomodation: Phan Rang – Thap Cham city is a convenient place for you to visit famous tourist spots of Ninh Thuan. Hotels and hostels are the preferred accommodation with a variety of options ranging from affordable to luxury.
+ Visting: In addition to the famous sites of Ninh Thuan mentioned in the article, you can visit many other beautiful places of the province such as Rai cave, Vinh Hy Bay, Ninh Chu beach, and Nui Chua National Park.
+ Souvenir: In Ninh Thuan, you can buy grapes, products made from grapes, handicrafts, or pottery made by the Cham people as gifts for your family and friends.