Want to get off the well-worn tourist track? Vietnam’s South-Central province of Phu Yen offers pristine beaches, stunning views and solitude
Cacti grow on rocky slopes, their spines poking up against a cloudless sky. In Vũng Rô Bay, the sea stretches to the horizon. I can make out a few small islands where fishermen go to collect firewood.
While life in Phú Yên is simple, the area has a wild, lavish beauty. Sandwiched between Bình Định, home to Vietnam’s traditional martial arts, and the proud province of Khánh Hoà, Phú Yên is like the youngest sister in a big family, the one who has been ignored and neglected.
With its beauty, Khánh Hoà, the land of sandalwood, has attracted great numbers of tourists. So far, most visitors have overlooked Phú Yen’s arid and rocky coastline.
Yet, at the end of the day, something miraculous has happened. Visitors are drawn to Phú Yên precisely because of its untouched simplicity. Over the past decade, eco-tourism has become trendy. The South-Central Vietnamese province of Phú Yên is an ideal destination for travelers who want peace and quiet.
Phú Yên offers a sense of solitude. I loved bathing in the clear water of Vũng Rô and hiking up to Tháp Nhạn Tower. I was amazed by the strange rock formations at Đá Đĩa. And I enjoyed visiting the Trân Dynasty stele that stands on the top of Đá Bia Mountain.
While Phú Yên is making efforts to attract investors, its sense of isolation remains. For those who value nature, this is invaluable. You won’t find beaches lined with all sorts of resorts like those found in Hội An or Phú Quốc. But you will find a long stretch of white sand and two new five-star resorts, the Thuận Thảo and the Sao Việt.
In 2017, Phú Yên hosted a successful nation-wide music contest called Sao Mai Điểm Hẹn (Morning Star-Rendezvous) organized by Viet Nam Television. This event drew investors to the province, and some new tourism developments are underway.
On the surface, Phú Yên looks simple. But it has a lot to offer. Đá Đĩa is an amazing natural rock structure consisting of millions of stone slabs arranged in hexagonal and circular patterns. Brightly colored cactus flowers blaze between the rocks. It is beautiful.
At the moment, this tourist site stands alone. There are no buildings where visitors can escape the scorching sun, let alone restaurants, spas or massage parlors. There is just the sun, the wind, and the sea spray crashing against the rocks.
Vũng Rô Bay also feels desolate. Gazing out at the Đại Lãnh Lighthouse, I thought of the stories about people who, during the American War, had anchored boats laden with ammunition in this bay. These unknown fighters later sacrificed themselves and exploded their boats in strategic enemy locations.
Today, passing fishermen still salute those unsung heroes. Without headstones or monuments, their stories are carried by the wind and by flowers floating on the blue ocean.
I love Phu Yen’s simplicity and its surprising beauty. I love the rocks and the cacti, whose spines seem to challenge the sunny sky. I love the sound of human feet running towards the ocean in the early mornings. Day in and day out, life’s simple rhythms play out in the fresh sea breeze.