First published December 2017 | Words and photos by Vietnam Coracle
INTRODUCTION | GUIDE | MAP | RELATED POSTS
The coastline immediately south and north of Quy Nhon city is justifiably gaining a reputation for unspoiled beaches. Away from the mass tourism of more established beach destinations, such as Mui Ne, Nha Trang and Phu Quoc, the bays, coves and inlets around Quy Nhon have all the charm and peace that most travellers seek but rarely find. A small selection of backpacker hangouts, campsites, and a couple of high-end resorts have sprung up in the last few years, peppering the gorgeous honeycombed coastline above and below Quy Nhon. But, for me, the beach I come back to again and again when visiting Quy Nhon is Bãi Rạng. A small crescent of toast-gold sand lined with coconut palms, squeezed between two rocky bluffs topped with tropical foliage, Bãi Rạng is still a local, working beach. There’s no real tourist infrastructure here, despite the bay being in plain sight of the main coast road. A couple of informal seafront eateries with hammocks and showers is all that graces the sand. Other than that, Bãi Rạng is a just a small fishing community nestled on a beautiful beach.
GUIDE: BÃI RẠNG BEACH, QUY NHON
The following guide is a brief overview of Bãi Rạng, including general information about the beach as well as suggestions of places to stay nearby, and my annotated map of Bãi Rạng and the surrounding area.
View in a LARGER MAP
I first visited Bãi Rạng is 2005, when I was on my bicycle, riding along the coast from Hoi An down to Mui Ne. It hasn’t changed much since then, but as travellers, and the travel industry in general, begin to recognize the tourist potential of the Quy Nhon area, there is bound to be significant development in the near future. If you want to see Bãi Rạng as it appears on this page, it’s probably best to visit as soon as you can. Weather is pretty good year-round, but temperatures can be surprisingly cool (locals find it decidedly cold) and skies grey from around December to February. My favourite time to visit is between April and October, when the sun is bright, the sea is clear, calm and blue, and the foliage is bursting with colour.
Bãi Rạng is near the border of Phu Yen and Binh Dinh provinces, 15km south of Quy Nhon city, via a beautiful stretch of coast road on Highway QL1D. It’s possible to take a taxi or a xe ôm (motorbike taxi) from Quy Nhon, but by far the best way to get here is on your own motorbike or bicycle, which, if you don’t have your own, can usually be rented (with some perseverance) from hotels or cafes in and around Quy Nhon. (For travellers riding the length of Vietnam, Bãi Rạng is a stop on my Beach Bum route between Saigon and Hanoi.) Although there’s no accommodation on Bãi Rạng beach, there are a handful of excellent options very close by, including the cheap, cheerful and charming budget digs at Life’s a Beach Backpacker, the mellow and tasteful pastel tones of Haven Guesthouse and Life’s a Beach Apartments, and the serene luxury of AVANI Resort & Spa. (If you have your own tent, you can also ask to camp on Bãi Rạng beach itself, but this takes a bit of negotiating.)
From the main road, Bãi Rạng is signposted down a narrow, concrete lane leading steeply through whispering eucalyptus trees. The lane ends at a small, sandy hamlet of brick and corrugated iron buildings. There’s a parking lot for motorbikes and a couple of hastily-erected beach shacks, consisting of concrete platforms on the sand and brick pillars holding up tin-sheet roofs. Plastic tables and chairs dot the concrete floor, deckchairs sit on the sand, and hammocks swing from branches in the shade of casuarina trees. It’s a very temporary-looking, makeshift setup that’s typical of the early stages of tourism on Vietnam’s beaches. But there’s a charm and simplicity to it, especially with the pitched arc of Bãi Rạng beach curving away beyond the trees.
Food (including fresh seafood) and drink (including cold beer) are available from the beachside kitchen, which appears to be run by an aging, toothless couple who, despite their general hospitality, might rub foreign visitors up the wrong way on account of their direct, no-frills, shouty approach to service. Next to the kitchen, there are showers (dank and dark but clean enough) which you can use for 10,000vnd. Rather worryingly, karaoke systems are available for hire (70,000vnd per hour). This would change the atmosphere dramatically, but in reality this service is only likely to be utilized by domestic tourists on weekends and public holidays. As always on Vietnam’s beaches, try to visit on weekdays if you prefer empty sands and tranquil surrounds.
It’s general etiquette to buy a drink or something from the kitchen before you settle down into a hammock or a deck chair or run onto the sand and jump in the sea. Prices are reasonable and remember that, once this beach is developed, you probably won’t be able to access it at all unless you’re a paying guest. The swimming is good and there’s even some modest coral in the bay. The water is shallow enough to feel safe and the bay is sheltered so it’s generally calm. The beach is fine, golden sand with some rocky outcrops. Casuarina trees grow at one end of the bay, giving way to coconut palms at the other. Coracles, nets and other fishing paraphernalia are drawn up onto the sand. A clutch of blue-painted wooden fishing boats moor offshore. A small fishing community live in a dozen or so simple dwellings under the trees close to the beach. In the mornings and afternoons the children, chickens and dogs play freely on the sand, while the adults work or bathe in the sea. At the southern end of the bay, located on the rocks, there’s an informal eatery called Vuon Luu, which is a good viewing point.
Litter hasn’t been a significant issue on any of my visits to Bãi Rạng. But keep in mind that this is a working beach which is slowly transitioning to a tourist beach. Fishing-related debris can sometimes be an ‘eyesore’ (or even a safety hazard) from the point of view of a Western visitor. Fortunately, the local fishing hamlet is small enough that household trash seems to be relatively under control. On the other hand, tourist trash, in the form of plastic food and drinks packaging, can occasionally be a problem. It goes without saying that you should dispose of your own rubbish responsibly. Also, if you see trash on the beach it’s a good idea to pick it up and put it in a bin: perhaps other people will follow your example.