Getting Oriented

The neighboring coastal towns of Phan Thiet and Mui Ne take five to six hours to reach by car from Ho Chi Minh City. Further north along the coast is Nha Trang, a one-hour flight from Ho Chi Minh City and an easy overnight train journey. From Nha Trang, many head farther north toward Hoi An, a trip that can be broken up at the small beach town of Quy Nhon or, farther north, the Son My Memorial near Quang Ngai. West of Nha Trang, along windy mountain roads that lead to the cool Central Highlands, is the former French hill station of Dalat and the ethnic minority villages in the remote regions around Buon Ma Thuot, Pleiku, and Kon Tum. It's possible to skip some of the road journeys through this region by flying into Dalat, Buon Ma Thuot, or Pleiku from Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi.

The Southern Coast. The resort town of Mui Ne is the preferred beach getaway for expats living in Ho Chi Minh City, as well as a destination for thousands of international visitors seeking a beach break. For those interested in local life, Phan Thiet is a great place to explore and people-watch.

Nha Trang. The natural wonders of Nha Trang, which sits between a beautiful bay with warm, clear water studded with islands and green-clad mountains can be enjoyed by swimming, scuba diving, relaxing on the palm-lined beach, or exploring local waterfalls. More indulgent activities can be undertaken at the many resorts that overlook the bay.

The Central Highlands. Dalat, 1,500 meters above sea level, was founded in the early 1900s as a "sanatorium," or health retreat, for the French elite and remains a popular destination for local and international visitors. It is also the gateway to the Central Highlands, home to many ethnic minorities, dense jungle, waterfalls, and picturesque scenery. The towns of Buon Ma Thuot, Pleiku, and Kon Tum make good bases for exploration.

North of Nha Trang. Heading north from Nha Trang by rail or road takes you past some of the country's most picturesque scenery, including glimpses of lovely long white beaches, rocky coves, green-clad mountains, and bucolic countryside scenes. Quy Nhon is a quiet seaside city that's a great place to break the long 482-km (300-mile) journey between Nha Trang and Hoi An.

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