Welcoming the sun at Hang Rai
Hang Rai in Ninh Hai district is about 30 km northeast of Phan Rang city. Dawn is the best time to visit. ‘You can hardly claim to have been to Hang Rai if you haven’t been here at daybreak,’ one local man said.
The first rays of sunshine come shooting over the horizon, covering the sea and lighting up mossy rocks of different shapes and sizes. Its natural features make the whole area look like a scene from a fairy tale.
The most exciting part of any visit is climbing over a small wooden suspension bridge to reach a huge coral reef spanning a few hundred metres. You can take in the fresh air and admire the sky and the vast sea, and at times be startled as big waves hit the cliff, spraying water in different directions.
The south-central province of Ninh Thuan has long been known as a scorching, windy, sandy area, but its attractions can still mesmerise visitors.
Such attractions include Vinh Hy Bay, Cham Towers, Hang Rai, vineyards, and Bau Truc Pottery village, with Vinh Hy Bay being among the Top 9 most beautiful bays along the coast of Vietnam.
The ideal time for visitors or photographers really is when the seas are rough, usually between November and March. On sunny days you can also take pretty pictures with the moss and light dancing together.
From a distance, carpets of green moss on the rocks and among the coral in the clear water look like huge emeralds in the sea. If you want to stay at Hang Rai longer, you can drop by some nearby huts for a little rest.
‘Hang Rai has the most beautiful scenery in Vietnam, with a huge coral reef being a very special feature,’ says photographer Huynh Nam. ‘Professional photographers who want to take beautiful shots by using lots of light on waves with darker water in the background should come to Hang Rai. The scenery here is at its best when there are rough seas with huge waves. The waves rush in, cover the entire coral reef then retreat slowly, making it indescribably beautiful!’
Nam added that the most beautiful photos are taken at sunrise or sunset, and you need to have a tripod to take shots of ‘the most wonderful moments of nature’.
Vinh Hy Bay
After welcoming the sun at Hang Rai, you just take Provincial Road No 702 north for about 5 km. After passing countless green masses in Nui Chua National Park you’ll see Vinh Hy Bay in front of you, with mountains and forest on one side and the bay on the other, sprinkled with fishing boats.
Standing on the road, you may feel as though the bay zooms in in front of you, looking beautiful and peaceful surrounded by high cliffs. Vinh Hy Bay is not as large or as busy as Cam Ranh Bay and doesn’t have as many islets as Halong Bay, but it has its special features that make it charming and attractive in its own right.
You can make a visit to Vinh Hy more enjoyable by buying a ticket to get on a boat to go around and admire the coral in the bay just 2 km from land. Sitting on a glass-bottomed boat, you can see a dozen of types of coral in different shapes, colours, and sizes. Some resemble lingzhi mushrooms while others look like needles. Other clumps stand about a metre tall.
If you want to go swimming in the sea, the boat will come to Ba Dien Beach or Bai Coc Beach, where the sand is white. You may even want to go snorkelling and see the coral right in front of your eyes or chase schools of fish.
Several companies provide glass-bottomed boat tours. Vinh Hy Discovery has a fleet of ten boats with 20 to 50 seats each. They can be rented for VND800,000-VND2,000,000, but it’s worth bargaining.
A friend and I paid VND500,000 to rent a boat with 35 seats and a tour guide for a three-hour cruise. The boat owner said he would normally rent visitors a smaller boat without a tour guide for such an amount, but all of his other boats had already been rented. We began our tour and the guide told us about the bay, including the Swift Cave and a legend about Ba Dien Beach.
Visitors can enjoy other things nearby, like surfing or eating seafood on a raft. If you have plenty of time, you should visit Hon Rua (Turtle Island) and spend a night there to get to know more about local turtles, which climb on to Hon Rua at night to lay their eggs.
Along Provincial Road No 702 on the way to Vinh Hy Bay, you will pass several vineyards covering large areas of land in Ninh Hai. Ninh Thuan is a dry place, with minimal annual rainfall, making it perfect for growing grapes. The grapes are so big and so numerous I initially thought they were plastic!
Its best to rent a motorcycle in Phan Rang and head to Ninh Hai. The 25-km ride is a great experience, passing through a wide variety of beautiful landscapes.
The smell from fish and fish sauce processing plants are sure to catch your attention but it only lasts a few moments. At the vineyards you’ll see dozens of baskets by the side of the road with about 50 kg of grapes in each, waiting for dealers to buy. We pulled over at a shop to buy a few kilos, and the shop owner gave us more than we asked for. Fresh grapes sell for about VND20,000 per kg, and visitors can also enjoy wine or grape syrup, which local people make by hand to guarantee quality.
Visitors can reach Ninh Thuan by train, bus or car, or fly from Hanoi or HCMC to Cam Ranh Airport and catch a bus that takes you the 50 km to Ninh Thuan. The coastal province is so lovely and has a host of famous products that encourage many visitors to return.