Situated on the south-center coast of Vietnam, Phu Yen is a quiet, charming province characterized by beautiful mountains, rugged coastlines, and Cham culture. Life here is slower and simpler than in many other places in Vietnam.
If you are looking for tranquil beaches, an authentic local lifestyle, fresh seafood at a price that can sock everyone, and warmhearted people, Phu Yen is the place to go. You can find in this blog 10 reasons why I fall in love with Phu Yen. The feelings never fade, no matter how long since the day I said goodbye to the land.
Put Phu Yen on your bucket list, you won’t regret it. I promise.
Phu Yen is famous for azure bays embraced by rugged cliffs
If you take a road trip to Phu Yen, you’ll see breathtaking coastlines running along the road. Dramatic rugged cliffs and arches embracing azure bays are the iconic images of Phu Yen beach. Every place I stopped on the way, I found another ravishing beach and striking white sand. This forgotten beach province has sprung up with domestic visitors after a movie named “Yellow flowers on the green grass” was filmed in 2015. But for some reason, Phu Yen is still underrated, keep its beaches untouched and pristine. Driving a little bit far from the city, you will find beaches that lack tourists. Sometimes, you might have the whole beach for yourself.
The sun shined its mesmerizing light on the ocean and fishing ships at 5.30 AM
Something about the sunrise in Phu Yen makes it different from other sunrises I’ve ever seen in Vietnam. On the first day at Phu Yen, I was at the beach by 5.30 AM, and it seemed too late. On the second day, I woke at 4.30 AM, walked to the beach that was just 5 minutes walking from my hotel, and waited silently for the first light of the day. And I didn’t have to wait for long. The first sunlight appeared, lighted the dark sky to orange. Then the whole sky changed in front of my eyes, like the most beautiful slow-motion video. And there was the sun, splendidly as a ball of fire, coming up gradually from the skyline, dying everything that it touched its light on, into brilliant orange-red color.
The young woman woke up early and sat patiently on the beach waiting for her husband to come home from his morning catch.
If you want to feel the authentic vibe of local life, Phu Yen is the right place. This province seems to be forgotten by modern life where people live and work as their elder generations have done for years and years. Where else do you see wives sitting on the beach, waiting patiently for their husbands? You will see fishermen rowing small basket boats, with their share of fish, after the catch. You will also see their wives running into the water, helping their husbands to pull the basket off the water to the sandy beach. Husbands do the fishing. Wives take the catch to the local market to sell. That’s how duties are divided among a family in fishing villages in Vietnam for generations.
Don’t expect that you will always see trawlers. There are fishermen rowing basket fishing boats carrying only 10 or 20 kilograms of fish, enough for a family's daily expense.
A morning market that is a few steps from my hotel in Ganh Do Bay. The market opened at 3 AM and closed at about 9.30 AM. This is a fishing village so the fishes were all fresh.
An old couple making Bánh Xèo for me at the morning market. Each Bánh Xèo was cooked on a small pan. 1 dollar can buy 10 vegetarian Bánh Xèo. If you want seafood Bánh Xèo, you can buy squid or lobster from the market, clean the seafood yourself from a nearby water tap and give it to the old lady.
Banh Can is a specialty and a popular dish of Cham people. Banh Can is made from rice powder and cooked on a soil stove. With 1 dollar, you can buy 20 - 25 Banh Can.
Morning markets in Phu Yen open early to collect the morning catches from fishermen. I stayed at Ganh Do, a fishing village in Xuan Dai Bay. Just a short walk from my hotel was a morning market. Being a woman who grew up and lived in the city, I found this market a treasure. Opened from 3 AM, the market sold everything necessary to the local everyday life. Fishes, squids, and lobsters were fresh and smelled like the ocean. Fish sauce, rice paper, fresh vegetables, and seasonal fruits were displayed on the ground. Sellers and buyers, who were actually neighbors, were excitingly chatting. I soon learned that ordering breakfast here was different from other markets in Vietnam. I had to buy squids and herbs, then gave them to a woman who made me the best pancakes I’ve ever had from my ingredients at a surprisingly cheap price. I had my breakfast with squid pancakes for $1 at 5.30 AM.
There were only me and a few pedestrians and motor riders passing the bridge. There were fishing nets and oyster rafts on both sides of the bridge.
Ong Cop Bridge is the longest wooden bridge in Vietnam at 800 meters in length. It was built in 1998 from eucalyptus and casuarina wood. Cars are not allowed to go through, so this bridge is tranquil and pleasant to visit. I went there at about 10.30 AM. There were only a few people passing by. I paid the bridge fee to a man who had brown skin from the sun and wind of the beach. The entrance fee was cheap. It’s from 1,000VND to 5,000VND for one way, depending on if you are a pedestrian or a scooter rider. That means, with a group of 20 people, you have to pay only $1 to have a stroll on the bridge.
The best time to visit is late afternoon when the sky and river are colored by red and orange of the sunset.
Da Dia Reef is at its most beautiful in the sunset. Visit it early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid the crowd.
Located 40 kilometers north of Tuy Hoa city, Da Dia Reef is a fascinating attraction made by mother earth. It is a spectacular volcanic rock formation with a collection of prismatic black stone pillars lined up one next to another. The black color of the reef stands out beautifully against the deep blue color of the beach: a dream of all photographers where you can get both golden hours, sunrise, and sunset.
The entrance fee is 20,000VND per person. From here, you can pay to be transferred by a buggy. But if you want to relax to legs for a little bit as I did, there is a path that takes you to the attraction after only 10 minutes. It’s easy to climb down to the rocks.
Squid Banh Xeo at the local market. You can choose between fish sauce or Mam Nem (as in the photo) - a popular sauce with a strong flavor in Phu Yen.
Each dish comes with its own sauce. Add spices to your favorite taste.
While the north cuisine is famous for its delicate taste and the south for its sweet taste, food on the south-center coast is distinguished by its strong flavors come from fish sauces. After two days, I started to be addicted to food. On the dining table of every local restaurant I visited, there was a plate of essential fish sauce with some slices of chilies served with the fish. I dipped the fish meat in the sauce and heard my stomach growling when my nose smelled the sauce. I let the salty flavor of the sea spread throughout my oral cavity and coat all my taste buds before I swallowed the delicious bite.
The ancient look of Mang Lang Church. Just a small church but it holds a long history of Vietnamese Catholicism.
35 kilometers from Tuy Hoa city, and a 15-minute drive from Da Dia Reef, Mang Lang church is one of the oldest Catholic churches in Vietnam. It was built in 1892 by Father Joseph Lacassagne, a Frech missionary, in gothic architecture, featuring intricate patterns and flowery details. Here, you can learn about Roman catholic history in this province. But make sure you won’t miss the most interesting part of the church as many people do. On the right of the church, you will see a low hill that is actually an artificial hill. The secret is hidden under that hill. That’s the chapel to celebrate Blessed Andrew of Phu Yen - the first Christian martyr of Vietnam and display the Catechism Divided Into Eight Days, the first-ever book to be written in quốc ngữ, the modern Vietnamese script, printed in Rome in 1615.
Visit Dai Lanh Lighthouse if you want to see the first sunlight in Vietnam.
This landmark is also famous for its spectacular beach views over the enchanting turquoise water at Bai Mon beach.
Dai Lanh Lighthouse, or Mui Dien Lighthouse, was built by the French in the 19th century. It is considered one of some places in Vietnam to see the first sunrise. The 110 steps of the tower bring you to the watch deck where you are left in awe for a bird's eye view of the stunning seascape with crystal clear water embracing the towering rugged cliffs.
Red bricks are a typical icon in Cham architecture. If you travel the south-center coastline, there is always a chance to pass by a Cham tower that is easy to recognize for its outstanding architecture and color.
22 kilometers from the city center, Nhan Tower is iconic of Phu Yen city, honoring the unique architecture of Cham ethnic people. The religious complex is dated back to the 12th century, built entirely of red bricks which are typical for Cham architecture. From a distance, visitors can see a symbol of Linga on the top of the tower representing Shiva - a god of Cham culture. The adhesives used to join bricks together in Cham architectures still remains a mystery so far.
Thanks to its beautiful location on Nhan mountain Nhan Tower is the perfect place to see the whole city lying on the bank of the Da Rang River.
January to March is the best time to visit Phu Yen when the temperature is around 20 degrees Celsius and it rarely has rain. Summertime, April to August, is quite hot but it’s still a nice time as there is less rain. Stay away from June and July if you don’t like the crowded. This time is the peak season for domestic visitors. September to December is the rainy season in Phu Yen and you might get caught in a downpour a few times a day.
There are many ways to get to Tuy Hoa, the city of Phu Yen. It’s easy to take a flight from major cities like Hanoi and Saigon to Tuy Hoa airport. From here, there is only 10 kilometers away from the city center. Traveling by train is also convenient because Tuy Hoa Railway Station is situated on the north-south railway line. From many places in the country, you can catch a train to Phu Yen and immerse yourself in the beautiful sceneries on the way. If you are at Nha Trang or Buon Ma Thuot, you can take a road trip to Phu Yen and enjoy all the poetic sceneries along the way.