Phan Thiet City is the capital of Binh Thuan Province, on the south central coast of Vietnam, where all government offices for the province are located. While most of the inhabitants live in the city center, the others live in the four urban coastal wards, extending from Suoi Nuoc beach in the northeast towards cape Ke Ga in the southwest.
Traditionally, fishing and manufacturing of fish sauce has been the main source of Phan Thiet’s income thus far, the picturesque fishing fleet in the harbor colorful proof. Drawn by the beautiful beaches of the area, tourism is rapidly replacing the fish industry as the main employer.
What to see
Colorful Fishing Boats
Although fishing and the manufacture of fish sauce was initially the major industry in Phan Thiet, as evidenced by the fleets of colorful fishing boats along the Katy River and in Mui Ne Bay, tourism is rapidly replacing the fishing industry as the area’s largest employer.
The Beaches of Tien Thanh and Ke Ga
The beaches at Tien Thanh commune and Ke Ga, stretching along the coast south of the city centre, offer tourists a quiet, peaceful getaway. The communities have only a few hundred residents, so there is very little traffic on the road and one can ride along the coastline without having to dodge cars and motorbikes.
Phan Thiet City Centre
Like any medium-size city anywhere in the world, the Phan Thiet city centre has lots of restaurants, shopping malls, markets, cafes and stores. There are only a few resorts and hotels along the beach in the Phan Thiet city centre, but it is very easy to get to, regardless in which ward or commune your accommodations are located.
Inexpensive public buses run all day long from all along the beachfront into the centre, passing either directly in front or within a few hundred meters of virtually every resort and guest house on the beaches of Phan Thiet.
Phu Hai Ward
Phu Hai Ward is the site of the Thap Poshanu Cham Tower, built in the late eighth century. The ward covers a hilly area with a number of coves and small beaches, many of which have one or more resorts on them.
Ham Tien Ward
Ham Tien Ward is another area in which its restaurants, resorts and hotels incorrectly use the name ‘Mui Ne’. It is the penultimate tourist strip, with hundreds of resorts, shops, restaurants, beach bars and spas built along the 10-kilometre-long stretch of Rang Beach. Although the other wards and communes have many smaller beaches, Ham Tien has only one beach that stretches for 10 kilometres along the entire length of the ward.
Mui Ne Beach
Just east of Ham Tien is the real Mui Ne. The ward consists of two communities; Mui Ne and Hon Rom, and two beaches; Ganh Beach and Suoi Nuoc Beach. It is very interesting to get up at sunrise and go down to the water’s edge in Mui Ne to watch the dozens of fishing boats coming in and unloading the many varieties of fish and seafood that the fishermen have caught overnight.
Mui Ne Sand Dunes
Mui Ne Ward is also where the red sand dunes are located; on a hill between the communities of Mui Ne and Hon Rom. The larger white sand dunes are located about 20 kilometres north of Mui Ne. Both the red and white sand dunes are popular attractions, with dozens of local children offering to rent plastic sleds with which to slide down the dunes.
Another popular attraction is located 30 minutes west of Phan Thiet and an hour west of Mui Ne. Taku Mountain is the site of the largest reclining Buddha in South East Asia. One can either walk up the mountain or ride the gondola from the valley floor. The views from the top of the mountain are spectacular and there is a restaurant overlooking the rice fields and dragon fruit farms below. On a clear day, one can almost see Ho Chi Minh City in the distance.
Besides fish sauce, Phan Thiet is famous for dragon fruit, which thrives in the area’s hot and relatively dry climate. Many of the farms welcome visitors, so if tourists wish to see a local functioning dragon fruit farm, they should ask either the staff in the hotel or one of the travel agencies on Nguyen Dinh Chieu Street in Ham Tien to arrange a visit.
What to do
The kitesurfing craze began in Mui Ne beach, turning this into one of the top kitesurfing destinations in the world. For those who do not know how to kitesurf, there are plenty of schools all along the beach that will teach novices how to do it. Many of them also teach windsurfing and there is a sail training centre in Mui Ne Ward, at the end of the beach, where one can learn the art of sailing in one day.
The nightlife in Ham Tien is particularly lively, with a number of night spots and beach bars open throughout the night. Ham Tien is also the location of the ‘Fairy Stream’, one of the most popular tourist attractions in Phan Thiet. Over the centuries, a small stream has cut a canyon through the sand dunes. Since the dunes are multi colored, the walls of the canyon are very colourful.
Local Food Tour
Visitors to Phan Thiet often ask about the local cuisine and where the best restaurants are located that offer the local dishes. The city restaurants and food stalls have a number of dishes that are either found only in Binh Thuan Province or have characteristics that are unique to the area.
The dishes that are unique combine the pungent tastes of Hanoi, Hue and the Mekong Delta cuisines and add a sweetness that is a hallmark of Phan Thiet, often using the fresh seafood that is brought ashore by the local fishermen who comprise the largest fishing fleet in the country.