Nha Trang has earned its place on Vietnam's tourist mainline partly on merit and partly due to its location. Much has changed here since the days when the Chams knew the area as Eatrang, the "river of the reeds" and the city now supports a population approaching 300,000.
By the time the Nguyen lords wrested this patch of the country from the Champa in the mid-seventeenth century, the intriguing Po Ngar Cham towers had already stood, stacked impressively on a hillside above the Cai, for over 700 years. They remain Nha Trang's most famous image, yet it's the coastline that brings tourists flocking.
Boasting the finest municipal beach in Vietnam, Nha Trang offers splendid scope for mellowing out on the sand, with hawkers on hand to supply paperbacks, fresh pineapple and massage. Scuba-diving classes are available here and several local companies offer popular day-trips to Nha Trang's outlying islands that combine island visits and snorkeling with an onboard feast of seafood.
Nha Trang is much more that a dozy backwater, however. The downtown area, which swirls around Cho Dam ("central market"), its colorful epicenter heaves with life; while the route up to the Po Nagar towers escorts you past the city's huge and photogenic fishing fleet. These, and other lesser sites around the city, are best seen by renting a bicycle for a day.
Should none of this appeal, Nha Trang is still a convenient stopover on the long haul between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh, and blessed with a crop of decent restaurants and hotels.