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 of Quang Ngai, we're still looking.
There are no attractions whatsoever inside the city. Its leading characteristic seems to be that it's a more cold and impersonal place than its neighbours to the south, Tuy Hoa, and Qui Nhon. Even the small burb of Tam Ky to the north offers more for the casual visitor than Quang Ngai.
But at the same time, we have to say, if you're in the region at all, you absolutely, positively, must go to Quang Ngai -- or at least 10 km outside of it. The reason for this is the truly excellent museum in nearby Son My, which memorialises the slaughter of 504 unarmed villagers by American forces in 1968, known as the My Lai Massacre.
So, we've found some ways to make a stay in Quang Ngai as pleasant as possible.
One alternative to staying in town is to visit the museum en route, though this can make for a fairly, long gruelling day.
A better alternative is to simply stay at Quang Ngai's local beach, My Khe -- it's as good a beach as anywhere else along the coast, and only two kilometres from the museum. Finally, if you do stay in town, there are ways to make it as painless as possible.
Quang Ngai lies just to the south of the Tru Khac River where it runs from west to east. In the dry season, the river is a wide expanse of scrubby marshlands with only a trickle of water running through it. There's a roundabout just before crossing the Tru Khac River bridge, next to Ba To park, which is a decent area to stay in -- there are adequate services along Quang Trung nearby, some places to eat, and Highway 24B, which leads 12 km to the beach is just across the bridge. On the north side of the bridge, just outside of town, is the My Tra Hotel.
Arriving in town from the south, Highway 1A is routed over a long overpass to skip over the Tru Khac River wetlands. If you're staying in town, take a sharp left before the overpass or you'll skip over the town completely. If you're going to take our advice, though, and stay at the beach or one of the places along the river, keep going, and exit the road on the other side.
The main post office looms over the town's central triangular roundabout just off Hung Vuong Street. There are several international ATMs around town, near to the hotels -- there's one at the roundabout near the train station as well. The main branch of Vietcom Bank is in the Hung Vuong Hotel -- they exchange travellers cheques for VND at no commission and offer credit card advances at 3% interest. There's also an Incom Bank a bit further east along Hung Vuong. Both have ATMs.
Internet is widely available in town, though we found more than a few place that were real duds. We got hooked up with a good connection at Zaika Internet -- the name is Russian for 'rabbit' and is run by a Dutch expat with a Vietnamese husband. She speaks no English and she doesn't put herself forward as a source for tourist info, but she's quite friendly. The area at the intersection of Phan Dinh Phung and Nguyen Nghiem Streets just south of the triangular roundabout in the centre of town, also has a lot of internet cafes to choose from, and a number of restaurants offering com ga, the local speciality, as well.
The train station is located at the end of Hung Vuong street, about 2 km from the centre of town. The bus station is towards the south on Le Thanh Ton St, a couple hundred metres east of Quang Trung St.
Most travellers don't 'plan out' from Quang Ngai, but Quang Ngai Travel at the Hung Vuong Hotel on Hung Vuong Street is a good place to stop in if you need anything -- they book air tickets and such, the staff speak English fairly well, and they'll help you out with transport to the Son My museum if you haven't had any luck on your own. You can also book air tickets and get travel info from Mailinh Tourist on Hung Vuong.
The main hospital is on 184 Hung Vuong not far from the town centre.
Incom Bank: 97 Hung Vuong St, Quang Ngai.. Hours: 07:00 to 11:30 and 13:30 to 16:30
Mailinh Tourist: 134 Hung Vuong, Quang Ngai. T: (055) 833 833
Main post office: Hung Vuong, Quang Ngai. T: (055) 822 930, F: (055) 822 961. Hours: 06:30 to 21:35
Quang Ngai Hospital: 184 Hung Vuong St, Quang Ngai. T: (055) 823 070
Vietcom Bank: 45 Hung Vuong St, Quang Ngai.
Zaika Internet: 759 Quang Trung St, Quang Ngai. T: (055) 817 365. Hours: 07:00-22:00
By Don Morgan.