Phan Thiet lies near the most southern stretches of S-shaped Vietnam’s central region, in the province of Binh Thuan and roughly 100 miles from Ho Chi Minh City. There’s a lot of royal history in the area, beginning with Binh Thuan serving as a major settlement for the Cham Kingdom. Much like the fishing industry in Doc Let, Phan Thiet is famed for its fishing status and is a major producer of fish sauce, a staple in South East Asian cooking.
Sandy hills and rocky mountains dominate the scenic landscape and merge onto a large river where the fishing industry thrives. Just a mile or two east of Phan Thiet are some of the most beautiful of all beaches in Vietnam, some flanked by massive, reddish sand dunes while others are edged by swaying coconut palms. Anyone visiting between July and mid-October will experience the most magnificent sights at night, thousands of fishing boats out on the water in peak fishing season, creating a floating city of sorts, filled with blinking lights under dark skies and bright moons.
Phan Thiet’s most beautiful and best-known beach, Mui Ne is situated in the northeastern area of the city and set in a forest of coconut palms. The beach and water offer good conditions for most popular beachside activities and is a well-known spot for both wind and kite surfing, especially between the months of October through May. There are plenty of restaurants and hotels nearby. There are also two other beaches within fairly close proximity; one is Bai Hon Rom, or Malibu Beach, on the opposite side of the peninsula, and the other is further north up the coast, called Turtle Island, or Suoi Noc. Both are considered excellent surfing destinations. The sand dunes here are incredible, wind-swept formations begging to be photographed.
Quiet seaside towns, a sprawling coast, and historic sites like Cham Tower (a must-see for those who missed most or all of the Cham-related sites around Danang and Hoi An) are all part and parcel of a visit to Phan Thiet. There are several lively, colorful markets to explore throughout the small villages, along with authentic handicraft souvenirs to take home.
Image: Bao Tri Nguyen Phuoc (flickr)