Phu Yen Province – 5.045 km2 of love
After all the business of preparing for our Big Day, it was time for us to enjoy the private moments of a sweet honeymoon. Having visited most of the famous attractions along the Central coast of Vietnam, we chose Phu Yen Province, a new land with which it was love at the first km.
With an area of 5,045km2 and a 200km long coastal line, Phu Yen is like a sleeping princess awaiting someone to stir her nature from its rest.
The northern stretch of road
Xuan Dai Bay – Mang Lang Church – Da Dia Reef – Ganh Den lighthouse – Bai Xep
From Tuy Hoa City, we drove along the northward along the 1A highway toward Giang slope to visit Xuan Dai Bay. The Bay retains its charms with different shades of green and blue, from the wine dark sea to the clear sky and from lush coconut trees on beach to dark green mountains. The most intriguing experience while travelling by boat in the bay is sightseeing around the fishing villages, mountains take on different shapes, and white sand beaches are dotted with rocky outcrops. Nhat Tu Son Island and the Tu Nham sand dunes in the distance add the final touches for this picturesque landscape.
Mang Lang Church
I marked Mang Lang Church on my map before the trip to make sure that we wouldn’t miss the oldest church in Vietnam. The church sits upon a spacious area of 5,000m2. Stand in front of it and you will easily recognize the Gothic design with the Holy Cross set between two bell towers. The flanking towers have stylized pointy arches. The interior impresses visitors with its stained glass windows, buff colored walls, and wooden ceiling with antique chandeliers You can access a hidden cellar in the front yard. Built in a man-made hill, this cellar is home to paintings and sculptures evoking the story of St. Andrew – the first priest in Phu Yen.
Da Dia Reef
Of the most visited destinations in the north of Phu Yen, Da Dia Reef is without equal. The pentagonal and hexagonal stone formations of varying size are stacked upon eachother like a giant black beehive arranged by the hand of a masterful artist. If you stand near the edge of these stones, you might get wet as the strong waves and white foam can “attack” you at anytime.
Ganh Den Lighthouse
Unlike many visitors who just stop at Da Dia Reef, we followed a small path about a km to the Ganh Den lighthouse, which silently stands in the entrance to Xuan Dai Bay, Ganh Den Lighthouse is painted with white and red stripes amid the backdrop of the blue sea. Because of its small size, we couldn’t enter; however, at its height, it’s easy to peer out to Chao Bay and catch sight of the tiny boats drifting on waves. An endless field stretches toward the skyline, and fantastic stone formations surround us. The last rays of sun cast their colors upon the place. That time, all we wanted to do was to sit shoulder to shoulder, smell the salty scent of the sea, and listen to the whispers of the waves.
Bai Xep Beach
On the way from Da Dia Reef to Tuy Hoa’s center, we dropped by Bai Xep for “tickets to our childhood”. To take in the beauty of Bai Xep, we strolled down a path to the cliff. The scenic green hill covered by cacti and wild flowers appeared gradually. Upon reaching the hilltop, you’ll be enchanted by the long breezy coastline, the sunlight hitting the sandy yellow beaches, and the melodies of the waves.
The southern stretch of road
Vung Ro Bay – Hon Nua – Dai Lanh Lighthouse
Having learned by heart the saying of of locals “Quê tôi nằm giữa hai đèo / Nam là đèo Cả, bắc là Cù Mông” (literally meaning Our hometown is nestled between two mountain passes/ the Capass in the south and Cu Mong in the north), I quickly recognized the Ca Pass when heading toward Khanh Hoa Province. The Ca Pass looks like a winding strip of silk along the sea. Soaring cliffs on one side, the endless sea on the other, and small islands faraway all together create a poetic scene.
The Ca Pass looks like a winding strip of silk along the sea
We continued our trip to the famous Vung Ro Bay and the Dai Lanh lighthouse –. Viewed from the Ca Pass, Vung Ro Bay appears small against the calm sea, a bustling port, and majestic mountains. As the natural border between Phu Yen and Khanh Hoa Province, the bay is embraced by three high mountains; Deo Ca, Da Bia, and Hon Ba. With this prime position, Vung Ro used to be the transshipment place when the no-number fleet transported thousands of tons of weapons from the North to South Central Vietnam and Tay Nguyen (Central Highlands Vietnam). We stopped by the display area of the legendary no-number fleet and burned incense for our heroes.
Vung Ro Bay
Departing from Vung Ro port we arrived at Hon Nua island after about 45 minutes. There is a 500m long white sand beach where you can soak in the crystal clear water. The stone outcrops get higher and higher toward the sea. We climbed up these outcrops and enjoyed the endless blue ocean dotted with fishing ships. We sighted a small cairn as a mark between Phu Yen and Khanh Hoa.
Under the scortching afternoon sun, I was so excited to dance in the water and play with the pretty colorful fish. If only we brought enough food and a tent to spend a night watching the stars on this pristine island!
Saying goodbye to Hon Nua, we went back to Mon Beach and the Dai Lanh lighthouse. The Dai Lanh lighthouse stands imposingly on a strip of land jutting out into the sea. There are staircases with white fences from the foot of the mountain to the lighthouse and from the peak to the beautiful beach. We climbed to the lighthouse first to take in the panoramic view of the area. The rocky mountains seemed to fade out above the immense sea under the sunset.
The Dai Lanh lighthouse stands imposingly on a strip of land jutting out into the sea
Across rough stones, we visited Mui Dien, which is the first place in Vietnam to greet the morning sun.. Set-up a tent, stay the night under the stars, and wake up with the first morning rays while the rest of Vietnam is still shrouded in night. This is an unparalleled experience that only Bai Mon can offer!
The city “in a hand”
Many visitors spend much time visiting destinations that are dozens of km from Tuy Hoa without knowing that this small city bears intriguing secrets; among them is Nhan Tower. Built on the summit of Nhan Mountain in the late 11th – early 12th century, this tower is a typical Cham work in Central Vietnam. Worshiping the deities, the tower lights up in evening, making it stand out in the dark. We were so lucky to visit Nhan Tower on a Saturday night to enjoy special performances including traditional music such as hát bài chòi, hò khoan, hát vọng cổ, đàn đá, Phu Yen folk songs, and Cham dances.
It doesn’t take much time to get around this small city. The Tuy Hoa market, open from 7am to 5pm, is the most bustling area of the city. Follow the main road to sea and stop at the city square where teenagers ride bicycles and play sports. In the late afternoon, we drove to Da Rang Bridge to enjoy the fresh sea breeze. Tuy Hoa is quiet and sparkles with thousands of shimmering lights.
Phu Yen impresses me with not only its pristine beaches, bays, and lighthouses but also because of its friendly people. The locals are always willing to stop their tasks to show us shortcuts, or bring us to destinations. These simple things make visitors like us happier on our journey and not want to leave.
+ Time: The best time to visit Phu Yen is from February to August. . In the rainy season, from September to December, it’s not pleasant to go sightseeing. You should spend about 3-4 days to explore the province.
+ Transportation: You can hire a motorbike to go around Phu Yen for VND100,000/motorbike/day (~$US 5). Groups of 4-6 people can hire taxis during the day. Another choice is renting a car and driver.
+ Hotel: Cendeluxe Hotel and Viet Star resort (5-star), Kaya Hotel and Saigon Phu Yen Hotel (4 star) and Long Beach Hotel (3 star). There are many hotels on Hung Vuong and Nguyen Hue street.
+ Souvenirs: single-sun dried beef, banh it la gai, dried fish, prawn, squid, and handicraft products made from shells.
Read more Vietnam travel guide at here.