The central coastal city of Nha Trang has long been famed for its beautiful palm-fringed beach, breath-taking vistas and succulent seafood. But if you’re bored with lazy days by the beach, Nha Trang Xua (Old Nha Trang) is the place for you.
It’s hard to believe the resort, which occupies 2ha in Thong Thai Village at the foot of Giang Huong Mountain, is just 3km from the chaotic city centre.
The resort has 11 bungalows nestling in a field of yellow rice – at least when I was there. The air is scented with the sweet smell of lotus flowers, and a gentle breeze wafts your cares away.
The resort is owned by Truong Dinh Ngoc Yen, a Nha Trang-born woman, who loves peace and quiet.
“I used to spend a lot of time living with my grandma in the village when I was a child,” she says.
“Later, I went to university in Nha Trang, before opening a business in the bustling city. However, I always longed for the peaceful atmosphere that I remembered from my childhood.
“I love seeing small birds pecking at food on the ground. I have always dreamt of building a small secluded garden like my mum’s. My childhood is full of fond memories.”
She followed her dreams and bought a small plot of land which she turned into a picturesque garden.
Visiting friends, urged her to open the garden to the public, so she established Nha Trang Xua in 2009.
In the beginning it was just a small garden and a food court. But even then, about 200 people would visit daily – three times that number on the weekends.
To create a local atmosphere, Yen has bought plants native to the area to her garden. There are also vegetables, fruit trees and herbs.
“The resort reminds me a lot of my grandparents’ house in Vinh Phuong Village 30 years ago,” says local resident Huynh Phuong.
“Every corner of the resort is a reflection of different parts of Nha Trang in days gone by. The wet yin-yang roofed house in the middle of the garden, the pond, the mossy brick path.”
Yen has relocated houses dating back 100 to 300 years to the resort, which now comprises 11 houses; a food court capable of accommodating 250 diners; a food centre for package tourists and formal functions, which has a capacity of 700 guests; and a seven-room hotel.
The restaurants offers more than 100 traditional local dishes, which are served authentically.
“The resort is unique, local but professionally run,” says Bui Minh Thang, director of Phuong Thang Tourism Company. “Nha Trang lacks places like this. It gives visitors an incite into local culture.”
However, Thang says the owner should advertise the place better to foreign visitors and provide better car-parking facilities.
But these shortcomings do not put off Beth Keyser from Australia.
“I like the small cosy and nature-friendly atmosphere of the resort,” she says. “I have stayed in similar places in Thailand, but here, I feel like I’m experiencing Vietnamese life as it was in the early 19th century. All the furniture inside the old house is authentic.”
Yen says she wants visitors to feel like they are in a time warp.
“I want visitors to see a different world, to escape from the hustle and bustle of city life and return to the old peaceful days when people had time for one another. I want people to hear birds singing in the morning, smell the scent of flowers and discover themselves, something that can only happen in a place of quietness and harmony,” she says.
Lovely as the resort is, Yen is not happy – she has expansionist plans.
“I want to relocate more old houses so that I can host wedding parties. I love to imagine a wedding procession proceeding down the path in a field of mature rice,” she sighs. — VNS by Le Huong