Approaching from the south, both Highway 1A and the train line head inland to avoid the flood plains. Sa Huynh is the first point where they veer east, back to the coast to within a stone's throw of the water. Sprung up along Highway 1A, the town is little more than a roadside lunch spot. However, the beach has one adequate hotel, making it a decent layover if needed.
Most who choose to stay in Sa Huynh are travelling under their own steam—motorbike, bicycle or by car. It may come as a necessary pitstop but it’s not a bad place to rest for the night. The beach is beautiful and long, most of it empty, flat and relatively rubbish free, undeveloped except for Sa Huynh Resort, the main accommodation option. If you’re headed to My Son or Sa Ky port for Ly Son island, during the dry season (March-September), beach bums will probably prefer to stay here rather than in bland, forgettable Quang Ngai, so long as you can manage the logistics for the 85 kilometre journey.
Sa Huynh Resort is one of those random Viet resort/complexes you find in random places (Ca Na, another Highway 1A beach strip, comes to mind). Along with accommodation, it has a restaurant, banquet/karaoke hall and convenience shop. All this sits alone, isolated and a bit sad. The main business comes from the tour buses that pull in for lunch or dinner, eat, take photos, then leave as quickly as they arrived.
Throw away any expectations associated with the word “resort” and the average independent traveller will be fine with the rooms, which are all steps to the beach—think beachside motel sapped of life rather than resort. Rooms are old and bland but adequate. They feature polished granite tile floor as well as the standard hotel furnishings: luggage rack, desk, full-length mirror, flatscreen TV, wardrobe, minibar, WiFi, chilly air-con and kettle. Our room was damp and musty, the problem somewhat solved when we opened the windows and ran the air-con. Bathrooms, all done up with stone tile, come with a bathtub-shower combo, a sink with countertop, hair dryer, towel racks and hooks.
There are positives: good clean bed linens, the beautiful landscaping with gardens full of tropical trees and flowers, and an included a la carte breakfast with freshly squeezed orange juice as an option. These all may be enough to outweigh the negatives: threadbare towels, extremely poor room lighting – it’s incredibly dark and the windows are small so even in the daytime it’s dim. The cheapest double rooms, at 500,000 dong, are close to the front/near the road and light sleepers will need earplugs to block out the sound of traffic. The bathtub-shower doesn’t have a shower curtain so all the water goes onto the floor and the drains do smell, both adding to the general mustiness.
The bungalows, 930,000 dong, are closer to the beach and a small step up. They overlook the pool (which could use a bucket of chlorine and serious skimming) and there are no ocean views (again, strangely small windows) but there is a mini terrace with table and chairs. Aside from the pleasant restaurant staff, the service is non-existent. Outside of the summer months and weekends, once the last bus rolls out you’ll probably be the only guest there. (T: (055) 3860 311; www.sahuynhtourist.com; firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Those on a tight budget, your option is just a few blocks from Sa Huynh Resort, a basic family run motel that will be okay for a night. In front of Sa Huynh Resort, the road splits. Take the quiet lane that runs closest to the beach and you’ll see bright blue Dong Nam Motel (Nha Nghi Dong Nam). The rooms are windowless boxes with tile and blue paint, a bed, box TV, fan, air-con and private wet room bathroom. Typical of local budget motels, there’s no top sheet and the blanket isn’t the kind they would wash after each guest. The front-upstairs room is the best: open the double doors for natural light. Rooms are 200,000 dong. No English spoken. For beach access, you’d have to sneak in through the resort. (T: (055) 628 6123.)
Sa Huynh has a few dozen restaurants, which go full throttle when a bus pulls in, and afterwards the staff collapse and wait for the next wave. There are also smaller shops for individual cars and travellers, “com” joints serving a fast meal of rice with meat and veg. Otherwise, it’s Sa Huynh Resort’s restaurant which is surprisingly good. Unlike the resort’s reception, the restaurant staff were eager to please and spoke a little English. The menu is a book of every kind of meat and veg combination prepared many ways, with seafood heavily featured. We ordered braised pork rib with vegetables and rice, for 80,000 dong. The portion was large, it came with a tasty leafy green veg soup and we were told that in-house guests got a discount. With a couple of beers, our total bill was US$3. Not too shabby.
As for getting to and from Sa Huynh, there is no official bus station in Sa Huynh. If headed to or coming from Quang Ngai, the cheap, excellent Mai Linh bus #3 runs frequently between Quang Ngai and Sa Huynh. There’s a bus stop (blue and white sign with bus symbol) directly in front of Sa Huynh Resort.
From Quang Ngai bus station, bus #3 departs about every 30 minutes, from 05:30-18:00. It costs 22,000 dong and takes 1.5 hours. Show the attendant “khach san Sa Huynh” to get dropped off right in front of the hotel.
From Sa Huynh it runs from 05:00-18:00. See this Quang Ngai government website for up to date schedule.
To get to Sa Huynh, any bus headed north or south on Highway 1A can drop you off en route. For example, if in Qui Nhon or Nha Trang, you can take a bus headed to Quang Ngai, Tam Ky or Da Nang.
Departing Sa Huynh and heading south is trickier. Your main option is to stand on the side of the road in the direction you are headed, and flag down a passing bus that would arrive to or pass through your destination. The highway is a major throughway and the stream of buses going north, south or west to the Central Highlands is constant. For example, there are local buses (in the form of 16-seater vans) every 15-30 minutes running between Qui Nhon and Da Nang, costs 70,000 dong. You’ll be charged the full fare – and perhaps more, depending on the mood of the attendant.
The hotel can call the bus company to find out the bus departure time, approximately what time the bus will pass and ask to notify the driver to look out for you waiting. As we discovered, getting the hotel involved can be more of a headache than simply standing beside the road.
Although it is right smack on the Reunification Express train line, Sa Huynh is not a stop on any passenger route.
By Cindy Fan.
Last updated on 25th February, 2017.
The Travelfish newsletter is sent out every Monday and is jammed full of free advice for travel in Southeast Asia. You can see past issues here.