Beauty bedevilled

Vietnams stunning beaches deserve every accolade that comes their way but some degree of protection is needed.

By Don Wills on April 06,2018 09:24 AM

Beauty bedevilled

Photo: HelloRF Zcool

‘I HAVE ALWAYS LOVED THE BEACH. THE SMELL OF THE SALTY WATER, THE WIND IN MY FACE, THE GENTLE ROAR OF THE WAVES ALL COMBINE TO CREATE A SENSE OF PEACE AND CALM.’

It’s not on record who is quoted above, but whoever it was summed up the universal attraction of beaches perfectly. If you love the beach as much as that writer clearly does (and as much as I do), you’re spoilt for choice in Vietnam. There are 3,260 km of stunning coastline here, and you’ll never have to go far to find yourself an idyllic beach getaway of your own.

BEACHES ARE THE JEWEL IN VIETNAM’S CROWN AND ITS MAJOR TOURIST ATTRACTION, BUT IT’S BY NO MEANS GUARANTEED THIS WILL ALWAYS REMAIN SO. 

Nha Trang has twice been voted one of the world’s most beautiful bays in the world and its Nha Trang Beach is one of the most popular. It has more than 6 km of fine white sand set against a backdrop of forested hills and clear turquoise water, with excellent swimming, snorkelling and scuba diving, as well as a cool sea breeze, stately coconut palms, sun umbrellas and beach chairs. No hassles, no pressures, no reminders of home. Sheer bliss.

Danang’s coastline has a 30-km stretch of spotless white sand, clear blue water, and waves big enough to set any surfer’s heart racing. It was also where US soldiers were sent for their R&R, though they wouldn’t recognise the beach today. The ramshackle buildings and plywood bars of its war days have been replaced by swish hotels, mega malls, ultra-modern condominiums and trendy restaurants. On a hot day, scores of local people throng the beach, swimming, kicking around a football, playing beach volleyball, or snacking on seafood. School kids descend upon any foreigner on the beach to practice their English.

The 10-km-long beach at Mui Ne is lined with palm trees and blessed with blue skies much of the year round. The possibility of rain is minimal; Mui Ne gets just 50 cm a year. Although the water is warm, it’s less than ideal for swimming. The waves can be unruly, and there’s often a strong riptide. It’s only in the very early morning or on the odd calm day that swimmers can do their thing without unduly worrying. Mui Ne Beach is renowned for its water sports, with wind surfing and kite-boarding the main attractions. A strong cross-shore wind creates the ideal conditions for them to do what they do. If you’ve never wind-surfed before, no problem - there are plenty of wind surfing schools at hand. Another attraction is the spectacular sunrises and sunsets.

The beaches around Con Dao Island, (scenic An Hai; charming Dat Doc with its backdrop of mountains; rarely visited Lo Voi; Ong Dung with its mischievous monkeys; and picture-perfect Dam Trau), are a delight. The appeal of these beaches is that they’re undeveloped and likely to remain so because of Con Dao’s status as a national park.

I could go on and on but I won’t. I don’t want to bore you with a repetitive list of Vietnam’s best beaches and their outstanding qualities. There are just too many of them, and anyway if it’s lists that you want you can look them up on the internet. They all carry the same old story: ‘A crescent of white sand, turquoise sea, great swimming, sun-kissed coast, palm trees, cooling sea breeze, fairy-tale setting, idyllic atmosphere, blahdy, blahdy, blah.’ Yes, yes, yes, anyone who has set foot on any of the beaches here already knows that. The only things that differentiate one beach from another are their accessibility, their size, and the degree to which they are developed or undeveloped.

Beaches are the jewel in Vietnam’s crown and its major tourist attraction, but it’s by no means guaranteed this will always remain so. Why is that? Because of the rise in sea levels caused by global warming. According to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MoNRE) in 2009, over the last 50 years, Vietnam’s average temperature has increased by 0.5 to 0.7 degrees Celsius, and sea levels have risen 20 cm. Scientists warn that this situation will continue and very likely accelerate. As Vietnam’s coastal region sits mostly less than a metre above sea level, that is very bad news indeed.

But it’s not only the rising sea level that is eating away at Vietnam’s shoreline. An example: the stunning Cua Dai Beach in Hoi An, a prime tourist attraction, has been gradually eroding for quite some time. Between 2009 and 2014, 20 ha disappeared into the sea. The rate of erosion picked up in October 2015, alarming UNESCO officials and the government. Plans for luxury resorts along the coast have been scrapped as developers watched their proposed construction sites snatched away by the waves. The Vietnam Administration of Seas and Islands claims it’s because the sand needed to replenish the beach is being prevented from reaching it. The hydro-electric plants on the Thu Bon,   De Vang and Co Co Rivers are blocking the passage of sand down to the estuaries. Without that sand, it is feared that Cua Dai will eventually disappear altogether.

Here’s another example of human interference threatening the shores of this country. In April 2016, people started noticing hundreds of dead fish being washed up along 200 km of coast straddling four provinces: Ha Tinh, Quang Tri, Quang Binh and Hue. Fishermen lost VND115 billion (more than 5 million USD) worth of their harvest, and tourists by the thousands cancelled their plans to visit the area.

Rising sea levels and other causes of beach erosion are not just Vietnam’s problem, but a global problem. And the solution must be applied globally. Scientists and the general public are well aware of what measures must be taken; it’s only the governments of the major nations that remain unconvinced.

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