Quy Nhon is the little visited provincial capital of Binh Dinh province. Although it was recognised as a city as late as 1898, its history reaches back to the days of the Kingdom of Champa. In the 11th century, the Cham people migrated southwards and moved their capital city to a location about 30km north of present-day Quy Nhon and named it Vijaya. It survived until 1471, when the citadel was sacked by the Vietnamese.
The nearby city of An Nhon (formerly Binh Dinh) was an old Annamese capital.
On both the railroad and coastal highway, it became an important naval and military base during the Vietnam War. The small fishing port was dredged and expanded by the United States military in 1965. Its strategic role led to heavy fighting in the surrounding area.
Today, Quy Nhon is an expanding port city with a population of about a quarter of a million. until recently, it has been isolated from the main tourism routes roughly half-way between Da Nang and Nha Trang. However, air links to Danang and Ho Chi Minh City has made it more accessible, and a recently-built international hotel offers the possibility of a relaxing break well away from the more travelled path.
The ancient Cham Pa legacy
Little remains of Vijaya. It became the capital of the short-lived Tay Son Kingdom in the 18th century and abandoned thereafter. Now only a few walls and a single tower remain standing.
There are fourteen Cham towers and monuments in varying stages of decay around Binh Dinh province, but the most convenient are a mere two kilometres from Quy Nhon city centre. The Thap Doi Cham Towers are surrounded by buildings, which diminished their impact somewhat, but they are good examples of Cham craftsmanship.
Further away, there are two notable sites. The four remaining towers of the Banh It group are on a hill just outside Binh Dinh town, about 25km inland from Quy Nhon. The 22m-high main tower has been restored, with plenty of replacement brickwork in evidence. The neighboring tower has also been tidied up, but has been left in a rougher state. Several fine bas-reliefs of dancers from Banh It are displayed in the Cham Museum in Da Nang.
Around 50km from Quy Nhon, the three Thap Nga (Ivory) Cham Towers are regarded as one of the best Cham tower complexes in Vietnam. The central building is 24m high, and embellished with granite ornamentation representing Naga and Elephants. The others are both 22m high.
The Quang Trung Museum
Nguyen Hue, a national hero of the 18th century, was one of three brothers who led the Tay Son Insurrection. In 1788, he led a peasant army northwards from Phu Xuan (Hue) to Thang Long (Hanoi) where they defeated the occupying Chinese forces and liberated the royal capital. Nguyen Hue declared himself Emperor Quang Trung, but his dynasty lasted only fourteen years before his forces were crushed by the Nguyen Lords.
Despite the brevity of his reign, he is regarded with great affection in Vietnam, hence the museum created in his memory. It’s located in Kien My village in Tay Son District, 45km from Quy Nhon.
The Long Khanh Pagoda
Quy Nhon City is short of attractions, but the Long Khanh pagoda is worth a visit. The 17m high Buddha is impressive, as is the ‘thousand-eyed and thousand handed’ Goddess of Mercy.
The Leper Hospital
Normally, this wouldn’t feature as a place to visit. However, this one is different. Instead of the usual depressing institution, Quy Nhon’s Leper Hospital is a model of good practice. Patients live with their family in comfortable chalets in well maintained gardens, and work on handicrafts. Visitors are always welcomed, and most find it an uplifting experience.
Quy Nhon’s beach is quite small, but OK. However, Quy Hoa beach is about eight kilometers away and much better. By coincidence, you get there through the grounds of the Leper Hospital.