May 10, 2011

Doing the Funky Monkey in Nha Trang

Our friends from Melbourne, Phil and Ron, said that when we are in Nha Trang, we must take one of the ‘Four Island Tours’, so on one of our 3 days there we did just that.  It turned out to be great advice and we had a really fun day out on the water.  And it salvaged our otherwise less than impressed opinion of Nha Trang.

At the Dock
The Largest Aquarium in Vietnam
We were picked up at our hotel at precisely 8:30am and after a short wait, we proceeded to the boat dock by 9am.  The dock was a hectic place, as company after company corralled their guests onto their respective boats.   We were booked with the ‘Funky Monkey Tour’ company, but the boats themselves appeared the same.  Our first stop was to an island to visit an aquarium.  The aquarium itself, other than its unique design like a pirate ship, was ‘ho hum’, despite its claim to being the largest in Vietnam.  Second stop was to drop anchor near the shore of island #2 where we jumped in off the boat for a swim and for a snorkel for about 1hr.  Even Yasmine and Maddy went in for a dip.  We then ferried to near island #3 where we again dropped anchor and the staff transformed the seats to a huge table and set out a smorgasbord of Vietnamese food for lunch, which was included in the tour.  After lunch, the Funky Monkey Boy Band, with the company's director, Loc as their lead singer, set up to entertain us.  They did a wonderful job in getting the United Nations-like passenger list to participate in performing a tune from their homeland.  Jim was chosen as the token Aussie to get up and sing along with Loc to ‘Waltzing Matilda’!  One of the Canadian girls naturally had to sing along to Celine Dion’s, ‘My Heart Will Go On’.  We had people from Sweden, France, England, Ireland, Canada, Australia (us), New Zealand, Japan, and Vietnam on board, and a neighbouring boat was comprised of Cambodians.  Loc sure had an impressive repertoire of international songs!  After lunch, the ‘floating bar’ opened for ‘Happy Hour’.  In order to get your free cocktails, you had to jump in and swim up to the bartender who was seated in a floating ring.  It was certainly unique!  Back on board, we ferried to island #4 where we got a chance to go ashore to sunbathe and swim.  The girls were in heaven and played blissfully in the sand for the next 1.5hrs before we all got back on the boat to return to the dock.  As promised, by 4:15pm, we were deposited back at our hotel, a little sun-burnt around the edges but with many new friends made and a more importantly, a great memory banked.  We highly recommend that if you are in Nha Trang and are thinking of such a trip, book it through Funky Monkey--we really believe that they added that 'extra' touch that made  all the difference.  Loc had delivered on everything that he had promised us about the trip—what a pleasant surprise!  All this for $6.00USD/120,000d per adult, children at half price with Yasmine free.  Incredibly these were the same prices that Phil and Ron paid 5yrs ago! 

Our Boat

Lunch Buffet

Loc and The Funkey Monkey Boy Band

Happy Hour and the Floating Bar

As for the rest of our time in Nha Trang, well, it was a strange one.  It started off on the wrong foot as we arrived on the Independance holiday weekend, which actually lasted 4 days.  The place was packed with domestic holiday-makers. Traffic was horrendous along the waterfront strip and crossing the road here was akin to crossing in Ho Chi Minh City.  Hoteliers were doubling their prices or more, and still rooms were scarce.  One 2-star place we enquired at quoted their double room at $35 USD due to the holiday, but that their normal rate was only $13 USD--and they only had a couple of rooms left on the Saturday afternoon that we arrived.  (We really had no choice but to come to Nha Trang when we did as all the rooms in our price range in Dalat, where we had just come from, were also sold out for the holiday period!)  We did manage to find a small, yet nicely appointed room in a new hotel which had only been opened for 3 days, at a rate of $20 USD per night, which was still slightly inflated from their usual rate, and included buffet breakfast but the girls had to sleep on the floor on their mats as the last room left only had 1 bed.

Nha Trang Beach
Another issue that we had in Nha Trang is that we had a hard time finding good well priced food.  It is a VERY busy touristy city (many compare it to Surfers Paradise in Australia) and most eateries seemed to cater to tourists  only, both foreign as well as domestic, which meant higher prices and smaller portions.  We generally prefer the more ‘homey’ type of restaurants usually aimed at the locals, but even travelling outside of the tourist area here, this was hard to find.  Good availability of economically priced yet tasty food is high on our priority list when we travel!
We also found that the merchants and hoteliers in general were quite difficult and rude to deal with.  They were also quite taken with trying to overcharge you at most every opportunity.  All in all, you really didn’t feel like you were in Vietnam while here in Nha Trang—it was just so touristy and commercial.

Beach Day at Nha Trang Beach
Nha Trang wasn’t a total loss to us-- we finally took our first dip in the South China Sea here and the beach was nice with calm, warm, fairly clean water.  You could rent a comfy beach bed for $1.50USD/30,000d for the day and be shaded under a palm thatched hut if you wished.  Although we didn’t partake, water activities were plentiful on offer, including parasailing ($15.00USD for 2 minutes in the air), jet skiing, ocean kayaking and kite surfing.  There were also lots of activities for children too nearby at the Water Park (open weekends only, $1.50USD/30,000d per child; Adults: $2.00US/40,000) and at the adjoining amusement park at night.  We also hired a scooter for a day and took in some sights including a drive northward along the coast.  Despite first running out of gas on the way there, and then having a flat tire coming back, it was great to get away from the crowds in town. After our day out ‘doing the Funky Monkey’ boat trip, we boarded our night bus to Hoi An, which was an 12hr trip and the next leg of our Vietnam ‘Open Tour’ ticket.  Stay tuned.

At the Long Son Pagoda, Nha Trang

Darn Broken Petrol Gauge!

Phu Dong Water Park (Children: $1.50/A: $2.00)


  1. Jess, we also did the islands tour back in 2001 - sounds exactly the same as your tour, and the boat and food look the same too. We were taught to sing 'Oh my darling Clementine' in Vietnamese! lol. Loving your blog. x

  2. Thanks Jenai. Wow--I can't believe that they've kept it going for that long while keeping it 'original'!! was it the same price back then too? how long were you guys in Vietnam for?

  3. Perfect recommendation for family trip! We are planning the trip to Nha Trang next year and very happy to find out your blog. Seems Nha Trang is one of the best choice for our kids. Thank you so much. So, i've added more free things to do in Nha Trang for whom loves discovering the beautiful city