When we visit a city off the tourist trail, we try hard to uncover what makes the spot unique and worthwhile in its own right. But when it comes to the provincial capital Quang Ngai, after decades we're still looking.
There are no attractions whatsoever inside the city. Though Quang Ngai has a few features that would usually make a city enjoyable such as the river, it’s all sprawling, bland, impersonal and missing a cohesive centre. It also grievously lacks good accommodation—there are plenty of places to stay, just not any you’d want to. All this creates a formidable case for avoiding an overnight, lingering for no more than a night if need be before hurrying on to where you are trying to get to. Those places are likely the My Son museum and memorial (site of the My Lai Massacre) and Ly Son island.
During the Vietnam War, Quang Ngai province was intensely contested and it suffered some of the worst fighting and bombing of the war. It was considered a Viet Cong stronghold, which is why in the early hours of March 16, 1968, a group of young American troops helicoptered into My Lai hamlet with the mission to root out Viet Cong fighters. They expected to face off with the 48th Vietcong infantry battalion. But the intelligence they had was incorrect—the Viet Cong were 150 miles away. What they found were peasant farmers, mostly women, children and the elderly eating breakfast about to start the day. In less than five hours, 504 innocent, unarmed civilians would be slaughtered, a brutal killing spree known as the My Lai Massacre. The event was covered up for over a year before news finally broke. It remains one of the most horrifying incidences in American military history of the period.
A modest museum and memorial now stands on the site 15 km northeast of Quang Ngai city near the coast. The museum offers free English-speaking guided tours and if you’re in the region at all, we encourage you to visit. It’s easily reached by a cheap air-conditioned public bus, a day trip that can be combined with some beach time at low-key My Khe beach, however mismatched the pair seem.
Not far from My Son and My Khe, and connected by the same bus line is Sa Ky port, gateway to Ly Son island. A ferry delivers people to the small island in just over an hour. Ly Son is famed for growing garlic—every square inch of useable land is planted with it—while the island itself grows as a holiday spot for Vietnamese tourists. Few foreign travellers visit and it could be an interesting little getaway for some cheap seafood and cultural insight.
Foreigners rarely visit Quang Ngai, and that is one charming aspect of any time spent here. From buses to taxis to restaurants, your presence is a novelty and locals register genuine surprise when seeing you. More often than not we had staff going out of their way to ensure we were served or getting to where we needed to go.
It’s also an excellent place for jumping off into the Central Highlands. QL24 winds its way up the Annamite Mountains, a remarkably scenic drive to Kon Tum, home to ethnic minority groups and stellar trekking.
If you do find yourself in Quang Ngai for a night and are desperate for something to see, there’s always the central market. It had been gutted by fire but they were just putting the finishing touches on the new building late 2016 and the surrounding streets teem with vibrant activity. You can also hang out riverside with the locals at sunset and sample Dung Quat, the brew of Quang Ngai province, a lager beer “produced by technology of Branik - Czech Republic”. You won’t be able to find it anywhere else in the country, for good reason.
Most of the city lies just to the south of the west-east running Tru Khac River. In the dry season, the river is a wide expanse of scrubby marshlands with only a trickle of water running through it.
There are two major bridges across: Highway QL1A and Tru Khac bridge, which on the south side has a major roundabout, ATMs, a riverside promenade and larger hotels. If you had to designate a tourist centre in this sprawling city, this area would be the closest thing to it.
For supplies, try Co.opmart, just behind the city’s central market (Cho Quang Ngai) on Nguyen Ba Loan St.
Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Quang Ngai or check hotel reviews on Agoda and Booking . Hungry? Read up on where to eat on Quang Ngai. Want to know what to do once you're there? Check out our listings of things to do in and around Quang Ngai. If you're still figuring out how to get there, you need to read up on how to get to Quang Ngai, or book your transport online with Baolau.
By Cindy Fan.
Last updated on 25th February, 2017.
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