Pristine beaches and fresh seafood have lured Russian tourists, part of the top-ten travellers to Viet Nam during the past five years, to the coastal cities of Nha Trang and Phan Thiet.
Peaceful beauty: Mui Ne beach in Phan Thiet city is an ideal destination for tourists. — Photos courtesy Novotel Ocean Dunes&Golf Resort
Russians mainly opt to travel to the coastal beaches of Viet Nam between November and March, the coldest time in Russia, drawn by the fresh air, beautiful nature, friendly locals, cheap seafood and a series newly constructed resorts in the cities.
Nha Trang city hosts 19 islands and two bays that tourists can explore or dive at leisure.
Mud and hot spring baths, available at resorts around 5km from the Nha Trang city centre, will help visitors relax after a hot summer's day spent in the sun while coral reefs off Hon Ong Island, 100km offshore of Nha Trang Bay, hosts various types of colourful deep sea life for those interested in being lost in wonder.
Nguyen Lan, a Nha Trang city tour operator, said that Russian tourists were not fastidious and enjoyed Nha Trang beach life.
"Russian travellers mainly go for a good guide and transport, a white sand beach, sunlight and, for those coming over for a week of more, slightly more windy conditions," Lan said.
"While Vinpearl Island is the most well-known luxury resort in Nha Trang, tourists can sail around other islands including the eco-tour Hon Lao Island or Monkey Island, home to thousands of monkeys," the tour operator said, adding that fishing was also a popular passtime.
"Nha Trang has always been the top choice for Russian tourists, the city receiving around 26,000 Russian visitors per year compared to beach resorts in Phan Thiet and Phu Quoc Island," according to deputy director of the Focus Travel Agency, Nguyen Viet Trinh.
"We have witnessed an increasing number of Russian travellers touring Viet Nam, especially in Nha Trang and Phan Thiet," Trinh said, adding that tourists could swim with buoys and enjoy drinking at floating bars in the sea, operated by local boat owners.
The travel agency offers a seven-day, US$1,200 p/p package to five-star Vinpearl Resort in Nha Trang.
Last December, Russian Vladivostok Air opened up a direct route to Cam Ranh Airport in Khanh Hoa Province with one flight every two weeks.
Fun in the sun: Russian tourists enjoy the fresh ocean climate in Nha Trang city. — Photo courtesy Focus Travel
Russian tourists regard Mui Ne in Phan Thiet city as on of the most spectacular beaches in Viet Nam with its magnificent red and white sand dunes.
The city alone hosted 62,000 Russian visitors in nine months last year, expecting to increase by 50 per cent during this year.
Fomina Svetlana and Nazarova Galina, businesswomen from Novy Urengoy City, spoke highly of their stay at the Terracotta-Mui Ne resort, where they spent their nights in bungalows.
"Although we had toured Da Lat and HCM City, the bungalows in Mui Ne were by far the highlights of our trip," Svetlana wrote through e-mail.
"Our trip through Viet Nam was a completely eye opening surprise," she added.
Karachurin Marat and Kolegova Olga, both from Traikovskiy, said that they had fallen in love with Viet Nam, its friendly people, amazing landscapes and, especially, Mui Ne's sunny beach.
Ngo Thu Huong, a sale person at the Phan Thiet-based Ocean Dunes Resort, said that there were many options for tourists to explore and spend their holidays in Phan Thiet and surrounding areas.
"Options include one morning in Phan Thiet, visiting the Mui Ne Dunes, touring the city by sampan and cyclo and travelling along the Mui Ne Beach by jeep," Huong said.
She said that families could book tours that offer additional activities such as rock climbing, mountain biking, trekking, canoeing and windsurfing in Mui Ne. Visitors could also fish from the Ke Ga lighthouse, constructed by the French in 1899, or visit the ancient Cham Towers.
Huong added that the White Lake and the Sakyamuni Buddha in Taku Mountain, 700m above sea level, together with the Binh Chau hot springs, were some of the most visited destinations along the southern coast.
With the approach of summer, travel agencies are revving in order to deal with increasing numbers of visitors to Phan Thiet.
"We expect to host a double figure of Russian tourists to Nha Trang and Phan Thiet this year," Trinh said. — VNS