The gateway to Vietnam's north-central coast
Chu Lai, the capital of the Nui Thanh District, is the perfect gateway to the greater Quang Ngai province in Vietnam’s south-central coast. During the Vietnam War this port town was a military base for the US Marine Corp, acting as a supplemental airfield to their main base in Da Nang.
Because of its history, Chu Lai is a popular stop for veterans returning to Vietnam, but the region offers plenty for travellers wanting to get off the beaten track and explore the country’s lesser-seen side. The intrepid will be rewarded with the three UNESCO World Heritage Sites within two hours of Chu Lai, including My Son Sanctuary and the pristine beaches of Tam Ky, where you can relax while watching colourful wooden boats bobbing on the South China Sea.
Things to do: Chu Lai
My Son Sanctuary opens in new window, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, dates back to the 4th century when the Dua clan unified the Cham clans and established the kingdom of Champapura. The temples – dedicated to various Hindu deities – are made from fired brick, stone pillars and sandstone bas-reliefs depicting Hindu mythology.
Hit the water
Located on the South China Sea, the beaches of Tam Ky, in particular Ha Thanh Beach, are near to pristine. Expect most to be empty by day as many locals go swimming at dusk in order to avoid excessive tanning.
No trip to Quang Nam province would be complete without a visit to UNESCO World Heritage Site Hoi An opens in new window, just two hours from Chu Lai. Defined by its Japanese merchant houses, Chinese temples and ancient tea warehouses, contemporary Hoi An is just as much about lounge bars, boutique hotels and buzzing tailor shops.
Take a day trip to the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Cu Lao Cham, also known as the Cham Islands. Explore the breathtaking cluster of granite islands including the main island – Hon Lao – as well as the varied species of coral that lie beneath the aquamarine sea. Some of Vietnam’s best underwater adventure is found here; stick to snorkelling or learn to scuba dive opens in new window for a fraction of what it would cost at home.
Top lunch stop
Sa Huynh is a popular lunch stop for truckers heading along Vietnam’s Highway One – so you know the seafood here is fresh and cheap. This little town, about two hours from Chu Lai, is also known for its vast salt marshes and evaporation ponds. There’s just one resort, and the beach is long, flat and empty.
Distance to Tam Ky City 33km
Distance to Quang Ngai 40km
Taxi The trip to Tam Ky takes around 45 minutes; to Quang Ngai takes around 1 hour. Expect to pay about VND 600,000-800,000₫.
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When to go
Chu Lai experiences average annual temperatures of 25°C. From February to April it's largely hot and dry while September to December is classified as the rainy season. The average humidity is around 84%.
The Quang Ngai Heritage Festival has been held every June for the past four years in recognition of the UNSECO-listed My Son historical site and nearby Hoi An, both within the province.Back to top
The reliable Mai Linh opens in new window taxi company operates in the Quang Ngai province, making a metered taxi easy to find. Motorbike taxis can also be found on most street corners – negotiating up-front is advised.
The railway stations at Tam Ky and Quang Ngai are on the North-South Railway (Reunification Express opens in new window), and thus connected to major cities across Vietnam.
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