1. Phan Thiet Things to do:
The friendly fishing port of Phan Thiet is one of the stepping stones between Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi, not least because of its proximity to wonderful Cape Mui Ne, a 21-kilometre-long arc of fine sand. Though Mui Ne is undoubtedly the main draw of the area, Phan Thiet does have some hidden charms of its own and makes a good break from the beach. Quaint colonial villas season Phan Thiet’s main streets, some decorated with glazed ceramic tiles, most with louvred windows and colonnaded facades. Turn left off the southwestern end of Tran Hung Dao Bridge, and stroll along Trung Trac, and you’ll soon plunge into the wharfside fish market. Back in the other direction, Trung Trac skirts the city centre en route to the riverside Ho Chi Minh Museum (Tues–Sun 7.30–11.30am & 1.30–4.30pm; 5000d), rather a flat museum, but with some nicely quaint memorabilia. A couple of hundred metres south on Tran Phu, Ong Pagoda also merits a browse. Over Tran Hung Dao Bridge, Vo Thi Sau strikes off to the right and to the city beach which, 700m northeast, opens out into a more pleasant pine-shaded spot
2. Phan Thiet Overview:
Phan Thiet is about 200 kms northeast from Ho Chi Minh City and lies south of Cam Ranh Bay on the southernmost stretch of Central Vietnam. Once part of the Cham Kingdom, it’s now a bustling town of about a 100,000 inhabitants. It has a reasonable beach, a couple of decent hotels, and a very good golf course.
With only a 10% humidity during most of the year, Binh Thuan is by far the dryest province in Vietnam. Most of its terrain consists of rocky mountains and sandy hills. Agriculture is almost non-existent – few crops can grow on the arid land.
The town’s main business is fishing – the harbour full of fishing boats is highly photogenic. The catch is mostly a relative of anchovy for processing into fish sauce.
While not quite reaching the quality of that made on Phu Quoc island, Phan Thiet’s version of SE Asia’s culinary staple is well-regarded.
3. Phan Thiet’s past
Phan Thiet still has sizeable populations of Cham and Raglai ethnic minority groups. The former are a part of the area’s Cham heritage.
Apart from it’s Cham history, Phan Thiet can boast has a respectable heritage of its own, conquered by the Vietnamese armies sweeping southwards a the end of the 16th century, and a key player in the French war.
Ho Chi Minh lived in Phan Thiet for a short time and taught at the Duc Thanh school. During the American war, the US established a military base known as LZ Betty which staged one of the conflicts heaviest engagements on May 3rd, 1970.
However, it’s most significant date in recent years was October 24th, 1995, when thousands of Vietnamese people flocked to view a total eclipse in Phan Thiet’s Mui Ne district – the only place where it was fully visible.
The result was a huge boost for tourism and the creation of the resort area of Mui Ne Beach and the well-regarded Ocean Dunes Golf Club,an 6746-yard par 72 course designed by Nick Faldo.
There’s also some interesting pagodas, temples and shrines dotted around the town.
Outside Phan Thiet
Most visitors pass straight through Phan Thiet to the 21km sandy beach of Mui Ne, a short distance from the town.
However, as you leave the town, you’ll see a more tangible manifestation of Phan Thiet’s past prominence in the form of the Po Klong Garai Cham tower, immediately visible on a hill on the right.
It’s somewhat degraded, but a long walk (or short drive) from the town rewards you with a good view and a super sunset if the sky is clear.