Your insider's Travel Guide to Phan Thiet - Mui Ne
In Vietnam 🇻🇳 Since 2008
HCMC INSPIRATION TRAVEL PHAN THIET – MUI NE
HCMC INSPIRATION TRAVEL PHAN THIET – MUI NE THE PHAN THIET FOOD SCENE
The Expanding Phan Thiet – Mui Ne Food Scene
Although Phan Thiet – Mui Ne is a relatively new resort destination, the food scene here has exploded in the past 10 years. It seems like a new restaurant is opening every other day, and the variety of cuisines reflects the diversity of its culturally diverse residents.
Because the area has attracted so many people from all over Vietnam, as well as from countries around the world (many of whom have decided to settle here and open restaurants), the entire 60-kilometre coastline from Ke Ga to Mui Ne now has hundreds of restaurants offering dozens of different cuisines. The diversity of choice is one of the main reasons that Phan Thiet is such an attractive place to live, as well as a popular destination for both Vietnamese and foreign tourists.
The diversity of Vietnamese and international cuisines can be found throughout the 18 wards and communes of Phan Thiet, however, the vast majority of international cuisines are located between the city center and Mui Ne ward.
After the war ended, the first group of people to move here came from the north of Vietnam. Initially, it was because the government in the north sent northerners to settle in the south as government and police officials. Because Northern cuisine is quite different from Southern cuisine, there was an overnight demand for restaurants serving the type of food that the newcomers were accustomed to eating. As the city was still almost entirely built around fishing and the production of fish sauce, all of these ‘Northern’ restaurants had opened in the center, and many of them still exist to this day.
After the economic reforms initiated by Vietnam in 1986, Saigon residents began to flock to Phan Thiet – Mui Ne looking for seafood and an overnight beach holiday. Seafood restaurants and cheap guest houses and accommodations began to spring up along the beach. Some of the restaurants began to receive bus load after bus load of people escaping from the city for a day or two.
In the mid-1990s, the first real, international standard resorts began to appear in the city center and along the coast towards Mui Ne, offering not only Vietnamese cuisines but also international fare. However, there were still no independent international restaurants anywhere in Phan Thiet. Therefore, international visitors had a choice: they could either eat in their resorts or eat the local Vietnamese cuisine.
Not many more restaurants, hotels, resorts, or guest houses opened in the years immediately following the Asian economic crisis of 1997. However, as the economy improved after the turn of the century and more international tourists discovered the area, the first international restaurants began to appear. And today, many of those pioneering restaurants are still open for business.
The opening of new Vietnamese and international restaurants had really taken off all along Nguyen Dinh Chieu in Ham Tien ward as of 2006. Since that time, literally hundreds of restaurants have opened throughout the wards of Phan Thiet. The city center not only has some great Vietnamese restaurants but has also followed suit with the bigger cities and opened a number of international fast food restaurants. The food scene around Lotte Mart has really taken off in recent years as well, with a number of large outdoor Vietnamese barbecue restaurants. The Bo Ke restaurants near the beach were the original ‘in-spot’ for young locals, but the crowds have since moved to the cafes and restaurants near Lotte.
Since early 2016, there have been hundreds of restaurants and food stalls opened throughout Phan Thiet that offer nearly any kind of cuisine imaginable. No matter what one’s preference may be, everyone will be able to find a palatable cuisine that fits their liking, as this region has truly become a food lover’s paradise.
HCMC INSPIRATION TRAVEL PHAN THIET – MUI NE KEEPING MUI NE NICE
By Jon Aspin
A growing number of ex-pats and locals volunteer to “Clean Up Mui Ne” beach.
There’s an ‘elephant in the room’ when it comes to beaches across Southeast Asia. As beautiful as many of them are, it’s become more and more common for unsightly piles of garbage to be deposited by the ocean and left to rot, especially after a tidal swell or tropical storm. Mui Ne, the popular beach resort suburb of Phan Thiet in Binh Thuan province on the southeastern coast of Vietnam, has recently found itself at the mercy of this scourge of sea-borne trash more often than it would like.
If You Can, You Must Join the Mui Ne Cleaning Group
Kristy Marland, General Manager of the Blue Ocean Resort in Mui Ne, is one of several local business owners who have been forced to act, establishing Clean Up days not long after she arrived. “We began doing Clean Up days in 2012,” Marland told City Pass Guide, ‘asking neighboring shops and businesses to join us, but our official ‘Keep Mui Ne Nice’ movement began in March 2016.”
Marland says she now regularly receives up to 250 volunteers for the monthly litter pick-up, dividing them into groups that cover a catchment area 14 km long by 5 km wide. “We hold a ‘Clean Up Mui Ne’ event on the first Thursday of every month as a bare minimum,’’ she explained. “However, we often hold additional events to mark special occasions such as Earth Day, and of course days like our upcoming event on the 12th,whenever we have an unusually large volume of trash to collect.”
A Big Job
The unusually large volume Marland refers to arrived recently, dumped after what she describes as an annual change in tidal direction along a one-kilometer stretch of coastline just before Mui Ne fishing village. ‘’I actually received a message about it from a lady through the Keep Mui Ne Nice Facebook page on the 8th of June while I was out of the country”, Marland said. “Sadly this does happen every year and it usually coincides with the change of tidal direction that occurs around now.”
Having subsequently met with Julia Shaw, the manager of Manta Sailing Center, and Siobhan Comerford from Source Kiteboarding and Lodge, who have both been instrumental in making this happen, the trio decided that based on the upcoming tide schedule and a new moon about to arrive, 12 July would be the best day to bring in the heavy machinery and remove what Marland said were some “very large items that are also heavy water and sand-logged”
HCMC INSPIRATION TRAVEL PHAN THIET – MUI NE MEET THE EXPERT: STEVE RAYMOND ON PHAN THIET
Steve Raymond has been in the tourism industry since 1972.
He began his career in an incentive house for a salary of USD 50 per month. In 1977 Steve started a receptive company of his own in San Francisco. By ’84 it was one of the largest in the city. In 1985 he went over to Southeast Asia and began a destination management company in Thailand. He did this until his arrest in ’89. Steve remained in various Thai prisons for nearly two years, even after being acquitted of committing any crime.
After sitting in a Thai immigration jail for over a year because his passport had been canceled by the US Embassy when he was originally arrested, he was brought back to the states where a judge ordered his release, stating that “there is no evidence that a crime was committed” – Two years and two weeks after his original arrest. Published in 1994, the book titled “The Poison River” describes Steve’s travails for those two-plus years.
The day he walked out of jail, he entered Mari Zatman’s office and she hired him on the spot. Mari had worked for Steve’s San Francisco-based company. After leaving his company, she started a hotel booking company – sort of like an online travel agency before the internet developed – where people called in or faxed in hotel reservation requests. In 1993, a close friend told Steve she was buying a hotel in San Francisco and wanted Steve to take the helm as the project manager. Steve left the hotel booking company and went on as project manager and later general manager and director of sales and marketing for the Renoir Hotel throughout the ‘90s.
In 2000 Steve was hired by the Windsor group to manage two of their restaurants and open a third and run the sales and marketing department for both the Windsor Saigon Hotel and the company’s various restaurants. In 2004, when the company opened the Windsor Plaza Hotel, Steve added a stint as the General Manager to his resume. At the same time, Steve was writing all the English copy and editing all the English text for the company.
At the same time, Steve was also giving seminars on hotel marketing. A friend of the owner of the Pandanus Resort in Phan Thiet attended a seminar and then suggested that Steve help to turn around the struggling venture. When he went on a site inspection of the resort, he was offered the position of General Manager. Deciding that life in Phan Thiet would be less stressful than working at the Windsor group, he accepted the position. When he left the Windsor group, the company had to hire four people to do the various jobs he was doing. Steve has been at Pandanus Resort for nearly a decade. Citypassguide.com sat down with Steve to help dissect the Phan Thiet market, and its tentative future.
How much has the market changed since 2006?
Steve: There are three times as many establishments as there were when I arrived here. At that time, almost all of the development in Ham Tien was on the West end. Rang Beach in Ham Tien was first discovered by many foreigners when they descended on the area on October 24, 1995, to watch a solar eclipse. Scientists had predicted that one of the best places in the world to see the total eclipse was on the beaches northeast of the city center. Guidebooks like the Lonely Planet directed would-be astronomers to the beach in front of Mui Ne, incorrectly referring to Ham Tien as ‘Mui Ne’ and Rang Beach as ‘Mui Ne Beach’. From that day onward, tourists mistakenly called everything east of the city center Mui Ne, so by the time I go here everything was being called Mui Ne.
The initial markets were mainly German, with a sizable French community and a fair amount of Australian and European kite surfers. The German market has stabilized, while other markets have continued to develop. Right after the Middle Eastern revolution, the Russians started coming in. In 2011, Egypt was the most popular destination for Russians, but since the revolution, they started pouring into Vietnam. After the drop of the ruble in 2014, some resorts lost up to 75% of their Russian market.
The Vietnamese market was always increasing, but it started to grow more substantially after the road project finished. Before that it took eight hours to get here – now it takes three and a half. I have never seen so many Vietnamese in the first four months of the year until this winter. As for the Korean market, it’s up, but their idea of relaxation is not to sit on a beach and tan themselves. They only stay a few days. Part of the reason Koreans come here is to play golf. But since Rang Dong Corporation closed Ocean Dunes, there aren’t so many of them coming to golf. They liked having two golf courses to play on, rather than just one.
How do you see the market evolving in the near future?
Steve: We are focusing now on markets that weren’t primary. Our business with the Swiss has tripled, Denmark has tripled, and the Finnish market has doubled. Now that the Brits have direct flights, they don’t have to jump through hoops to get here, so their business has grown.
Vietnamese hoteliers don’t want to talk to anybody about their figures. In all of Phan Thiet, we only have 10 or 12 willing to disclose stats and some of those are questionable. I don’t trust the government figures, since they probably fudge them to look good with Hanoi. The only information I get is from foreign hoteliers. Compared to San Francisco, cooperation is almost nonexistent. It’s difficult to get proper stats.
As for Binh Thuan Tourism… it is ineffective, to say the least. They don’t know their head from their tail. They want to use the name Mui Ne because that’s the name tourists know, but what about other wards? Hotels there get upset that they’re giving out a CD ROM and book that says “Mui Ne”. You open the CD ROM, and the first thing it has is a map of Phan Thiet city. How stupid is that?
The Binh Thaun Tourism website is only in Vietnamese. It’s very poorly made. They never previously attended the ATF (ASEAN Tourism Forum). I think they just went this year for the first time. They have no idea how to promote tourism to Phan Thiet. Their idea of promotion was to run a couple of festivals during the year and they didn’t even know how to do that – remember the balloon festival a couple of years ago? I was the only foreigner there.
There’s been a lot of noise about the Phan Thiet airport that is now being signed by the prime minister. Are they actually building it?
Steve: It is under construction. My farm is near there, and I see trucks going in and out. They’re working on something. At the same time, they’re sitting in Hanoi, arguing about whether or not they’re going to pay the money to build it. They’re saying the money should be spent in other places.
And what’s your opinion on that?
Steve: First of all, if they’re going to build an airport, they should have used the old American military airport. The runway is there and everything. The reason they haven’t might be either the government officials don’t own the military airport, or they don’t own the land where they want to build it now [laughs].
Furthermore, the new Ho Chi Minh City airport is going to be built in Long Thanh, two and a half hours drive from the resorts in Phan Thiet. Who’s going to want to wait for a connection and then fly here, then take a taxi, when they can be in their resort in two and a half hours by taxi from the Ho Chi Minh City airport? I think someone’s making money by building the new airport here and not looking at whether it’s the smart thing to do or it is good for the country.
You are the TripAdvisor expert for the area of Phan Thiet. Can you tell us what you do for them?
Steve: Every day I respond to people on the forum. And basically, that’s it. I answer all the people that are asking questions about the area, what to do, where to go – every question you can possibly imagine.
One of the key things you’ve been trying to convince the industry as a whole is the proper geographic naming of the region. Can you expand on that?
Steve: The truth is before they built any resorts here, the first guidebook ever printed for the area, Lonely Planet, called the whole area Mui Ne. What is problematic is that it confuses the tourists. They have no idea where they’re staying. Phan Thiet covers 60 kilometers of coastline. Every area in that region has something different to offer. They should be identified as being in that specific area so that people know exactly what they’re getting into.
The tourism authorities only need to promote one brand name – Phan Thiet. Because it’s all Phan Thiet. I finally got TripAdvisor to recognize the different areas. If Binh Thuan Tourism did that, people would realize how much there is to do there. Then guests can say, “I prefer to be away from all the noise,” or “I prefer to be in the middle of all the action and noise.” You can have areas for retired people, younger generations, families, etc.
Regarding TripAdvisor, do you think there are rankings, presented in the Phan Thiet area, which is manipulated?
Steve: I think some of them are manipulated, but I have no proof. I also think a lot of the government statistics are not accurate. Living in Vietnam for 15 years, I’ve become very cynical about anything the government says or does. They often don’t do what they say they’re going to do, and if they do, they take forever doing it. I’m sure the figures for tourists coming into Vietnam are correct – they know how many people come through the airports.
That’s easier to quantify that than the number of people coming to Phan Thiet. It’s not just the government, but I don’t even trust some of those hotels that share their figures with us. We did a cross investigation and found that Allezboo and Saigon Mui Ne, for example, were fudging their figures. So how would Binh Thuan Tourism know how many people are coming in and what nationalities they are? The police collect passport information from the larger resorts, but not necessarily from small guest houses, and there are over a hundred of them, so I don’t think they have any idea.
We recently heard increasing reports that police are going after some of the ex-pats that are living here and renting land. Is this accurate?
Steve: Many Vietnamese government officials are xenophobic. They don’t realize it, but they are. This comes from 10 centuries or more of being overrun by foreigners: Mongols, Chinese, Japanese, French, Americans… and their reflex is to be xenophobic. They have a tendency to really try to make it difficult for foreigners to stay here for any extended period of time. If they wanted foreigners to live here, they would welcome retirees, for example. They would welcome them with open arms. Retirees don’t take work from the locals. They only add to the economy. If they wanted foreigners to live here, they’d be doing what other countries like Thailand and Panama are doing: they would advertise that they want people to retire here.
You have an objective to retire here. What makes you stay?
Steve: I’ve invested in the country. I started a tofu business. The land is not in my name, but I’m listed as a foreign investor in the company, and so I can get a visa. They shouldn’t have to do that for retirees. They should want retirees to come here and bring their money and help the economy.
What is it, though, that made you invest in this country and call it home?
Steve: Various reasons. I love Vietnamese people. I love warm weather. And what can I say, I love Vietnamese guys! Somebody told me to compare Vietnam to Thailand when I got here. When you’re in Thailand, you’re a foreigner; you’re a “farang.” You’re different. Thai people call each other ‘pi or nong’; brother or sister. But, if you’re a foreigner you’re always a farang.
Vietnamese view other Vietnamese as competitors, but foreigners are their friends. And that’s the way they treat us, and I love it. If the government would just have the same feeling towards foreigners that the people do, then it would be really good.
We know you’re sensitive to the issue of pollution. Can you tell us what is happening in the greater Phan Thiet area, in relation to this?
Steve: I see ten times as much trash in this area as I did in 2006. There is garbage everywhere. You drive through Mui Ne, and all empty lots are full of trash. When the new highway was first built, it was pristine. Now you drive along the new highway and there’s garbage everywhere you look.
The fishermen have no clue about what they’re doing to the environment by dumping their Styrofoam and their plastic and every piece of garbage overboard. It kills life in the sea and washes up on the shores. You go out to the public beaches and they’re disgusting. The tourists don’t want to come to a destination that’s full of garbage.
You follow a bus from Saigon to Phan Thiet and you see candy wrappers, plastic cups, or plastic bags flying out of the windows. They don’t care where they are, they just drop garbage anywhere. If the police see you throwing garbage out of a moving vehicle in America, you have to pay a fine in the thousands of dollars. The problem is that the government doesn’t even consider this to be a problem. If they did, they would make laws and fine people for dumping garbage and then tell the police to follow up. That would significantly reduce the amount of garbage. Protecting the environment is not a priority for the government.
HCMC INSPIRATION TRAVEL PHAN THIET – MUI NE A DAY IN BAU TRANG
North of Mui Ne, Bau Trang is the best place to experience the sunrise and sunset.
Spring in Mui Ne (Phan Thiet) is a season of refreshment when the waves are always at their strongest, and the sand dunes show off their breathtaking beauty. Summer here is a season of growth and reward when we see flame-red dragon fruits hidden amongst the green cactuses. Spring and summer are the special seasons for visitors to indulge themselves in all the charm this beach city brings to them. But the true beauty of Phan Thiet is found not only in its seasonal gifts but also in its incomparable sunrise and sunset. For this, Bau Trang is the best place to experience mother nature’s majesty.
Bau Trang literally means ‘White Lakes’. In the past, there was an imposing, isolated lake surrounded on all sides by an enormous expanse of desert. Later, the government decided to build dams which separated the lake into two parts. The larger of the two goes by the name Lady Lake, and the smaller portion is referred to as Gentleman Lake. Sixty-five kilometers northeast of Phan Thiet, Bau Trang is located in the Bac Binh Village. Visitors usually take jeeps to Bau Trang, sightsee along the cliffs of Mui Ne and enjoy the splendid views of the ocean on the way to this magnificent attraction.
To experience dawn at Bau Trang from Mui Ne, it’s best to start your trip at 5 a.m. A quiet morning is always the ideal time to drive through the silence of the desert, and when you pass through the Red Sand Dunes, the first glimmer of the rising sun from the East will certainly catch your eyes. Initially, red is the color that impresses you as you traverse these noble lands. Soon after, you will be embraced with wonder by the remarkable contrast of the monumental White Sand Dunes. Upon reaching the summit of the dunes, there are many images to stimulate your senses. The lakes radiate beneath the sunlight as the wind and sand harmoniously dance atop this solitary landscape.
Around 6 p.m., the sun makes its daily trip down the horizon, painting the desert with a montage of changing colors. The lake’s water is transformed from emerald green to bright blue, while the Great White Dunes begin to shift to a burnt orange under the falling sun. A day in Bau Trang gives its guests the chance to experience a chameleon of color. Bau Trang, wild and rustic, is a rousing work of art in motion, and one visit here will prove to be a compelling run-in with the power of mother nature.
HCMC INSPIRATION TRAVEL PHAN THIET – MUI NE A CITY OF WIND AND WATER
Phan Thiet – Mui Ne is a paradise not only for wave and kite surfers, but for everyone who loves the ocean, sandy beaches, tropical fruits, and fresh seafood.
Looking for the perfect spot for your next unique and exhilarating vacation? Only a three-to-four-hour bus ride from the hustle and bustle of Ho Chi Minh City, one can journey along the winding, coastal road whilst climbing uphill to the ancient towers left by the Cham civilization before reaching the white crescent sandy beaches known as Mui Ne Bay.
Shall you stay in Mui Ne or Ham Tien?
Did you know that Mui Ne itself was only a small fishing village? This secluded southern beach has seen rapid development over the past 20 years, and has become one of the forefront tourist destinations in the country. Some of the first travellers arrived here in the mid-1990s and camped on the sand under the shade of the thousands of coconut trees. However, this place was just too beautiful to remain unknown.
Ham Tien is the most popular strip of land in the region, and it is here you can find nearly 15 kilometers of pristine beach. Hotels and resorts are primarily located on the beach side, while restaurants, shops, and budget accommodation lay on the opposite. Mui Ne has become a more relaxed alternative to the lively Nha Trang, and its natural landscape is so unique in comparison that it has little problem bringing in tourists from all across the globe.
Phan Thiet – Mui Ne is One of the Best Destination in Viet Nam
Only a few hours’ drives from Ho Chi Minh and its international airport, Mui Ne is a perfect match for both tourists tired of airline travel and Saigoneers keen to escape the city for a weekend trip. Buses leave from HCMC to Mui Ne several times a day and cost only or dollars, which is a pleasant alternative to the domestic airport’s overwhelming environment.
Taxi and minibus transportation depends on the vehicle type and season, but is also quite reasonably priced. Getting around in Mui Ne is never a hassle, as there are many metered taxis throughout the city. For those who like to feel the fresh air and move around freely, renting a motorbike is very cheap and easy to come by. In terms of size, the town is quite small and many places can be reached on foot as well.
Phan Thiet – Mui Ne is a Land of Adventure
There are no popular activities like diving or snorkeling, but when central Vietnam is drowning under tropical rainfalls and storms, Mui Ne stays safe and dry. The sand dunes have created a unique microclimate, and even during the rainy season (from June to September), the rain does not inconvenience its guests and inhabitants. Phan Thiet is famous for its favorable year-round weather and it has the lowest precipitation average in the country. Accordingly, the average daily temperature often hovers comfortably around 23 – 30 degrees Celsius.
Although Mui Ne is considered mainly a kitesurfing destination for people in search of wind and waves, it still has everything you need for a relaxing beach holiday, including several natural and historical attractions.
Whether you want to lounge on the shores, do some adventure hiking on one of Mui Ne’s numerous sand dunes, rent a luxury villa or cheap guest house, try exotic dishes or some Western cuisines, get lost in the late-night dance clubs, or enjoy a quiet family spot – Mui Ne has it all.
Oozing with charm and a surfer’s casual ambiance, you won’t see any tall buildings here: local resorts are mostly one- or two-story cottages hidden in lush, tropical gardens. The fishing village still coexists with the tourist area, and while the lights of the fishing boats twinkle in the darkness of the ocean till dawn, by day, kites suddenly fill the sky as they gracefully undulate in the wind.
Kitesurfing in Mui Ne
These days, Mui Ne has become the adrenaline capital of Vietnam due to its vast array of water sports. The ocean is warm all year round and beaches are wide with stunning hills of sand. Although gorgeous, these warm waters are rarely calm – as the wind cools you down, it also brings sizeable waves crashing onto the shore. The surf is ideal from August to December, but on the scarce occasion when the sea remains calm, you can rent an SUP (stand-up paddle board) or jet ski.
For the experienced kite surfer, the strong, stable winds provide one of the best surf environments in the world. For those that are inexperienced but willing to try, there are dozens of kite schools that will help you get your feet wet for a reasonable price.
HCMC INSPIRATION TRAVEL PHAN THIET – MUI NE GET SWEPT AWAY BY THE WINDS OF PHAN THIET – MUI NE
In Phan Thiet – Mui Ne you can enjoy, sailing, kite surfing, windsurfing, limited surfing, and stand-up paddleboarding.
Many of my international friends ask me why I live in Mui Ne, and why visitors should choose to stay here. What they don’t understand is that there isn’t just one reason – so much depends on the interests of the traveler. Naturally, this area is very famous as a kite surfing destination due to its consistent afternoon winds throughout the dry season. Every water sports fan is in luck because there’s a wide range of other activities to enjoy, like sailing, windsurfing, and stand-up paddleboarding. For those not interested in watersports, worry not! Mui Ne has plenty more to offer, making it appealing to nearly everyone.
Although I’m not a kite surfer, I love the cool breeze in the afternoon that makes the tropical heat here a pleasure. Whether you are swimming, relaxing poolside, out for a day of shopping, or exploring the sand dunes and ancient Cham temples, the weather in Phan Thiet is exceptional. Travellers are never overwhelmed by any overbearing heat, and often find themselves pleasantly surprised by the moderate climate.
Visitors are also impressed with the diversity of Mui Ne, and find no shortage of engaging activities in the region. Each area of Phan Thiet has its own distinguishing marks, and some of the most well-known beaches of Mui Ne, like Ke Ga and Tien Thanh, are tranquil and harmonious, making it easy to relax. Considering the lack of traffic near these beaches, walking or taking a motorbike along the coast is a great way to explore the natural beauty at your own pace.
Plus, Phan Thiet is a hidden gem. Compared to many of Vietnam’s other coastal hot spots, this one is not as populated with tourists. Although this region’s status is growing it’s becoming more of a destination, it’s still very easy to find yourself in the heart of real, local Vietnamese culture.
Phu Hai Ward is a hilly area along the coastline containing loads of pocketed small beaches and secret coves. An area called Sea Links City of Phu Hai ward also has a winery, golfing and an abundance of housing and resort options. Phu Hai is also home to the eighth-century Thap Poshanu Cham Tower, which is well worth a stop.
Rang Beach contains a 10-kilometer tourist strip loaded with hotels, bars, shopping, spas, and exceptional restaurants. Everything you need can be found in this area, and it’s by far the most vibrant part of Mui Ne. It has a thriving nightlife and an unmatched party atmosphere in the region. This is definitely a spot to check out when you take your trip to Mui Ne.
Perhaps the greatest pull of Phan Thiet, however, is its famous red and white sand dunes, which can be found in many locations around the city. Due to the windy climate, nature has used one of its finest tools to sculpt some of the world’s most enormous dunes, offering visitors a chance to watch the sunset over the water and lounge in the wondrous mountains of sand. Trips to the top of the dunes can be an exhausting hike, so be sure to have a look at the many options available. You can easily rent a quad or jeep to make your way up these sizable wonders.
The below video was created in 2020 before the pandemic and the situation changed since. Fortunately, the essence of night life still is there.
HCMC INSPIRATION TRAVEL PHAN THIET – MUI NE WHAT TO EAT IN MUI NE: AN UNBIASED FOODIE TOUR
There are hundreds of different dishes, both from Vietnamese and international cuisines, that are available in Phan Thiet’s restaurants.
In addition to a large variety of international establishments that are mostly located on the tourist strip in Ham Tien Ward, Phan Thiet has its own unique cuisine that is available at restaurants and food stalls all over the city.
A type of bread that is wrapped around a filling made up of minced pork meatballs and boiled eggs and is very popular in Phan Thiet. It is the fish sauce with chili that makes this bánh mì xíu mại unique.
Instead of salt with pepper or soya sauce, which is a favorite condiment in other parts of Vietnam, fish sauce, lime and sugar are added. It has become so familiar to the locals that it is considered ‘de rigueur’ for people from all walks of life, regardless of age to wait in queues at the Bánh mì xíu mại trứng luộc food stalls to buy this sandwich.
These pork and shrimp dumplings with a distinct taste have been a specialty for a long time. Its unforgettable flavor attracts many of the local tourists who come to Phan Thiet. It is easy to make and is sold at many food stalls in the city.
A sweet cake that is made from ripe sweet potatoes or cassavas and melted granulated sugar. The cake looks like a bamboo basket that may be used as a hot pot holder and is one of the most famous specialties of Phan Thiet. It is best to eat the crispy bánh rế in cool weather with hot tea. Both children and adults enjoy this tasty treat and people from other cities often come to Phan Thiet to buy them as gifts.
Bánh canh chả cá
This thick noodle soup with fried minced fish is a specialty of Trang Bang, Nha Trang, and Binh Dinh, as well as Phan Thiet. However, the flavor of the soup made in Phan Thiet is slightly different than the rest. The noodles are not sticky, but rather opaque like the rice noodles in bún bò. In almost all the stalls that bánh canh is sold, you can also find bread with minced pork meatballs and boiled eggs that complement the dish. The reason that the broth in the bánh canh is different from that of the other areas is that fresh fish like mackerel, flathead, cobia, and greater amberjack are added to the ingredients.
Bánh canh is often served with chả hấp (steamed minced fish) and chả chiên (fried minced fish). Customers choose chả chiên if they like its chewy texture, or chả hấp if they prefer spiciness. A bowl of this hot thick noodle soup is more delicious when a little pepper, cilantro, and fish sauce are added. Bánh canh chả cá is considered a very affordable dish and it can be easily found at restaurants and food stalls all over Phan Thiet in the morning and in the evening.
Any ‘foodie’ tour of Phan Thiet would not be complete without including bánh hỏi lòng heo. This specialty includes bánh hỏi (Steamed rice vermicelli), cooked pig’s chitterlings, rice paper, vegetables, and dipping sauce. In the center of Phan Thiet, there are many food stalls that serve bánh hỏi in the early morning. However, people who want the best bánh hỏi don’t hesitate to go to Phu Long, six kilometers north of Phan Thiet where there is a food court filled with bánh hỏi food stalls.
A favorite dish of many students. It is best to eat this specialty in Mui Ne as the sun sets and the wind starts to die down. It looks like the spring rolls in the south of Vietnam. However, the rice paper is gradually rolled up when it is grilled over a stove. When eating this dish, you can taste the combination of the warm baked rolls, the crispy crackers, the soft fermented pork roll, the Vietnamese pork rolls, the salty, sweet shrimp sauce, the fat fried green onions, and the hot chili sauce that all complement each other, giving it a wonderful flavor.
This dish is normally sold in the afternoon as a snack before dinner, especially near the Bo Ke (Seawall) in Mui Ne. However, you can easily find stalls selling it on many sidewalks around Phan Thiet from 4 pm.
Bún Thịt Xào
Although bún thịt xào is popular all over Vietnam, Phan Thiet’s version is unique and has a taste that differs from the others. Besides Phan Thiet bún thịt xào, bún thịt nướng (Vietnamese grilled pork with vermicelli) also has a unique taste and flavor. The most popular restaurant selling bún thịt xào is on Tuyen Quang Street near the billiards hall.
One of the most famous types of fish in Binh Thuan Province, It is sold at food stalls and restaurants all around Phan Thiet, especially on Doi Duong beach, Rang beach in Ham Tien ward, and at the Hang pagoda. It is also available in food stalls along the unspoiled beaches of Phu Quy Island. The name of the fish comes from its shape. Its head looks like the head of a cow and its body is in the shape of a box. The boxfish belongs to the pufferfish family and has white flesh with the texture of chicken, without a ‘fishy’ smell. Boxfish is normally cooked on a coal-burning stove. Sometimes the stoves are placed on the tables in front of the patrons so that they can grill it themselves.
Phan Thiet is one of the largest seaports in Vietnam, so it is rich in fresh seafood. It’s also famous for its seafood salad, made using regional fish, such as the White Sardine, the Smelt, and the Smelt-Whiting. It is easy to make and all of the fresh ingredients are available at the markets in Phan Thiet. Rice paper and vermicelli are served with the salad. Take a piece of rice paper and then put a little of the seafood, some slices of star fruit, raw banana, and a little vermicelli onto it. Then roll them all together and dip the roll into the special fish sauce.
Deep Fried Mudskipper
Served in pork grease with rice paper and is usually only available during the mudskipper season between July and October. The biggest mudskippers can weigh from 3 to 5 kilograms. Generally, big mudskippers are chosen for the dish because they have lots of delicious flesh. The fish are served on a plate, covered with green onions and greaves, and a sauce made from fish sauce, garlic, chili, sugar, and tamarind. When eaten with fish, this sauce creates a taste that combines sour, hot, spicy, and sweet.
The sauce is even better when the milled liver is added. Rice papers, fresh lettuce, basil, shiso, and raw bananas. cucumbers, vermicelli, chili sauce, and lemon or tamarind are served with the fish and diners make their own rolls using these ingredients. Most restaurants allow patrons to choose the fish before they prepare it. Keep in mind that mudskippers don’t have a fishy odor like most other big fish. This is a famous seafood specialty that visitors should not miss. Deep-fried mudskipper is served in many restaurants on Pham Van Dong street along the Ca Ty river embankment.
It is said that grilled milk rice cakes (cốm sấy) are good for older people. The rice cake is really nice addition to the specialty cuisine of Phan Thiet. Formerly, these cakes were only sold during tet, but now they are sold in the city at different times of the year. The residents are very proud of their cốm sấy because it is a traditional cuisine that is always put on the ancestral altar during Tet. Although cốm sấy in Phan Thiet is not as famous as Cốm Làng Vòng in the north of Vietnam, cốm sấy is finely made and its taste is quite good. It has been passed down from generation to generation and is considered part of the local culture. It is available at Phan Thiet market and in stores that sell local specialties on Trung Trac street in the city center.
Everywhere in Vietnam, you will find chicken rice. But in Phan Thiet, it has a specific taste. The stock that is used to cook the rice is different than that used elsewhere in Vietnam. Fish sauce, laksa leaves, and sugar are added to this soup, creating a unique flavor. The dish is sold in stores in the morning and can be found in restaurants at lunch and dinner time in all the areas of Phan Thiet
Also known as the baler snail, it can be found along the entire coast of Central Vietnam. Locals use the meat to make a number of dishes such as Melo Melo salad with sweet and sour fish sauce. It’s best to eat the salad in rolls of rice paper that you dip either in fish sauce or lemon sauce. Melo Melo salad also goes well with prawn crackers or roast sesame rice paper.
Mực Một Nắng
Phan Thiet has one seafood specialty that seemingly every Vietnamese tourist wants to try. It is called mực một nắng or sun-dried squid. So many tour buses returning from resorts in Phu Hai, Ham Tien, or Mui Ne wards stop at the mực một nắng stores on the top of the hill in Phu Hai that the traffic on the street in front of these stores comes to a standstill every Sunday afternoon. The big, fresh squid is dried under the sun for one day. When the dried squid is then grilled on hot coals, it turns yellow and exudes a wonderful aroma. The dried grilled squid is then eaten after dipping it into the fish sauce with chili.
Vietnamese always think of Quang noodles as a specialty of the Quang Nam – Da Nang area. But not many people know that a variation of the dish is a specialty of Phan Thiet. Vietnamese who have tasted both Phan Thiet and Quang Nam noodles are surprised at the difference in taste. To Phan Thiet locals, spicy quảng noodles taste better when cooked with duck meat. The duck meat defines the significant difference between the Phan Thiet quảng noodles and those from the Quang Nam and Danang areas that are cooked with pork.
Phan Thiet quảng noodles dishes include spices, herbs, blanched sprouts, peanuts, hot sauce, and possibly egg noodles, which may be added to make the dish more colorful and flavorful. The perfect hot noodle bowl with soft duck meat, spicy chilis, peanuts, herbs, and noodles offers a great combination of flavors. One of the best restaurants to try this noodle dish is the restaurant that has been at 129 Tran Phu Street for over 20 years. Patrons may choose the cut of the duck from the legs, the breast, the feet, the wings, the neck, or the offal. The restaurant prepares the dish differently on the weekends when most of its patrons are tourists. During the week, when the clientele is mostly locals, the restaurant uses more sugar. People from other areas prefer a more salty taste.
A popular dish that all Phan Thiet locals know and love. Nem is a type of pickled pork made up of a type of pork meatloaf, pork bologna and smoked pork. It is then grilled and served hot with pickles, herbs and ground peanuts. Put all the ingredients into rice paper, then roll it up and dip it in fish sauce.
Of course, fruit salad is available everywhere, but in Phan Thiet, a slight twist is added to make it unique to this city. Being in the tropics, we are lucky to have a huge variety of fresh fruit available to us. If you are near the center of Phan Thiet in the evening, go to Nguyen Tat Thanh Street in front of Coop Mart. The food stalls that are set up here offer a fruit salad made from many of the types of fruit that grow in the area, mixed with ice, milk, fried peanuts, and the one ingredient that makes this fruit salad unique to Phan Thiet: tapioca.
Phan Thiet’s version of the rice cake looks like bánh khọt from the southern part of Vietnam but it is very different. Both bánh căn and bánh khọt are made by pouring rice paste into molds. However, bánh căn is roasted in clay stoves while bánh khọt is fried in the molds. The rice paste is made from soaking grains of rice and then crushing them into a moist powder. Before pouring the paste into the molds, chopped green onions or chive leaves are added. The best way to eat the rice cakes is while they are still hot. The taste depends on the sauce. The sauce is created by boiling a mixture of a local fish with fish sauce, spices and sugar, and then tomatoes in peanut oil, chilli and fresh lemon are added. The rice cake is then served with herbs, star fruit, green bananas, cucumbers, laksa, basil leaves, sprouts and lettuce. Sometimes locals will add a braised pot of pompano to eat with this dish. Bánh căn is becoming increasingly popular with tourists staying at resorts in Phan Thiet.
A developing bird embryo served while still in the shell, can be found everywhere in Vietnam, but in Phan Thiet, pickles are added to the other condiments of garlic, pepper, salt, chilies, and laksa leaves, giving it a slightly different taste. Balut is available in most street food courts.
Chả Lụi Hàm Tân
A specialty of Ham Tan, which is south of Phan Thiet and is the district of Binh Thuan Province in which Lagi is located. However, chả lụi is also sold at many street stalls and street food courts in Phan Thiet, but not usually in restaurants. It is a popular snack that is rolled in rice paper, like so many other local dishes, and eaten by hand. Chả lụi includes grilled pork rolls, boiled chicken or duck eggs, and nem. Nem is grilled on a stove and is then served on a plate with herbs, sour mango, and rice paper.
Hue is famous for a steamed rice cake call bánh bèo, but the Phan Thiet version is quite different in taste and in shape. Bánh bèo is usually sold at the street food courts around Phan Thiet every morning. It is eaten with green peas, sesame salt, and fish sauce.
By far the most famous dish that is served to tourists at many Phan Thiet resorts and hotels as a specialty of this area, bánh xèo is available all over Vietnam. Tuyen Quang Street in Phan Thiet is called the “foggy street” because so many of the restaurants cook this dish in the evening that the aromatic smoke creates a bit of a “fog” that drifts across the street. The oldest restaurant is Cay Phuong Restaurant, which has been making and selling bánh xèo for nearly a half-century.
In Vietnam, bánh xèo varies from north to south. The residents of the Mekong delta make bánh xèo with điên điển flowers, in Ho Chi Minh City, bánh xèo is eaten with mustard, however, in Phan Thiet, the herbs and vegetables that are normally rolled into the cake are eaten separately. The way the paste is made is also an important difference.
The ‘secret sauce’ in Phan Thiet bánh xèo includes crushed peanuts, sugar, flour, chili, and tomatoes. Besides being cooked and served at barbecues and buffets in most of the resorts (Where it is often called Phan Thiet pancakes), bánh xèo may be found at many food courts and food stalls around Phan Thiet.
Sweet Potato Stew
A popular dish all around Binh Thuan Province and is a variation of xôi (a Vietnamese dish made from glutinous rice and other ingredients). The special thing about this dish is that it is normally wrapped in banana leaves and then eaten with a bamboo spoon. Sweet potato stew is sold in the morning in food stalls at the junction of Le Hong Phong and Cao Thang streets and at Phuong Market in the alley that intersects with Thu Khoa Huan Street.
Available all over Vietnam, but only in Phan Thiet is it eaten with bánh chiên (a type of fried cake). The cake is split and filled xôi and is then wrapped in green banana leaves. Squeeze the ingredients and either eat it by hand or use the coconut or bamboo spoon that the vendors give out. The xôi is sold at food stalls all over Binh Thuan.
It may not be unique to Phan Thiet, but it has become quite popular here within the past four or five years, especially with children and students. It’s easy to make and eat, yet it has a sophisticated flavor. This dish is grilled and sold at the same food courts that bánh tráng mắm ruốt.To eat it, take a piece of cha, dip it in the pepper salt and eat it with a pickle. The food courts that chả nướng usually sell nem nướng, bánh tráng mắm ruốt (grilled rice paper with shrimp sauce), and other snacks. These dishes are sold in the evenings at food stalls and courts around Phan Thiet.
To complete the foodie tour of Phan Thiet, we would be remiss without adding lẩu thả hot pot with fresh Phan Thiet seafood. This dish is particularly popular with tourists and is the specialty of the Seahorse Bistro Restaurant in Ham Tien. The hot pot is made with sillago or silverside fish and herring and served with the fish in a broth that includes chili, chopped garlic, ginger, duck eggs, star fruit, cucumbers, and spinach. The hotpot always comes with rice paper and fish sauce.
Lẩu thả is a special dish in which people can enjoy not just the flavors but also the five elements of Buddhism. The Buddhist philosophy is that each meal is a balanced harmony combining the five elements: metal, wood, water, fire, and earth, which bring health and energy. Equivalent to the five elements are the five tastes: spicy, sour, bitter, salty, and sweet. A meal must awaken all five senses sight, smell, sound, taste, and touch. And finally, include the five colors: white, green, yellow, red, and black. Yan of ‘Yan Can Cook’ came to Phan Thiet specifically to try this dish in the Seahorse Bistro Restaurant.
HCMC INSPIRATION TRAVEL PHAN THIET – MUI NE TOP 5 SEAFOOD RESTAURANTS IN PHAN THIET
Phan Thiet – Mui Ne food scene is most suitable for seafood aficionados.
Phan Thiet was originally developed as a fishing community. Further development came when a number of fish sauce manufacturing plants opened in the city during the latter half of the twentieth century, but the city only became a tourist destination in the mid-nineties. As a result of the community’s connection to, and dependence on the sea, the indigenous cuisine was mostly made up of the many varieties of fish, crustaceans and other marine life brought ashore daily by the local fishermen. This vast assortment of ocean life allowed the Phan Thiet community to be very creative and invent dishes unique to this part of Vietnam.
As tourism developed, so did the number and variety of seafood restaurants. Around the turn of the century, one restaurant became famous as the place to go for fresh seafood. Cay Bang Restaurant at the border of Ham Tien and Phu Hai wards became so popular that the parking area was seemingly always filled with tour buses from other parts of Vietnam. However, other restaurants began to compete. Since the clientele of Cay Bang was mostly large Vietnamese tour groups, it was not the most comfortable environment for individual diners or tourists.
There is a contentious debate about which seafood restaurant is the best, so I will list those that are the most popular with both tourists and locals, along with the pros and cons, and let the reader decide which might be the best choice. In 2007 and 2008, some resourceful fishermen and their families set up a couple of tables and a few chairs, plus some plastic tubs with live fish and a charcoal grill on government-owned land in the center of Ham Tien. These impromptu grilled seafood restaurants began to attract many tourists, so more families set up more restaurants. Soon, there were more than a dozen ‘Bo Ke Restaurants’ along the seawall.
The problem was that they neither had running water nor toilets, so the hygiene was very bad. Although they are still very popular, these ‘Bo Ke Restaurants’ are notorious for food poisoning and are best avoided. In 2014 and 2015, some Mui Ne residents decided to copy the success of their neighbors in Ham Tien and began opening a number of fresh seafood restaurants near their sea wall, with a view of the town and the fishing boats docked at Mui Ne Harbour.
Unlike the ‘Bo Ke Restaurants’ in Ham Tien, those in Mui Ne were built on private land with running water. They comply with government regulations and they are regularly checked by the local authorities to make sure that they are following proper health and hygiene standards. As a result, the ‘Bo Ke Restaurants’ in Mui Ne doesn’t have the same frequency of reported instances of diarrhea or stomach problems as the ones in Ham Tien.
As for individual seafood restaurants, these are the best five according to popularity, reviews, and the local community: A third bo ke, or sea wall area in Phan Thiet that is famous for seafood restaurants is not along the coast, but instead, along the Ca Ty River in the city center. Although there are a number of seafood restaurants on Pham Van Dong Street which runs along the riverfront, the Thuan Phat Seafood Restaurant at 109 seems to be the most popular.
In Mui Ne ward, the most popular seafood restaurant is Lang Chai Quan at 173 Huynh Thuc Khang. Like Cay Bang, the majority of the customers are large Vietnamese tour groups, but unlike Cay Bang, it has a separate dining area in the front that is mostly suited for individual diners, so the ambience is more comfortable.
The second most popular seafood restaurant in Mui Ne is filled with locals, rather than tour groups. Quan An Thinh Phat on Huynh Tan Phat Street is very good and the prices reflect the fact that it is more of a local restaurant than a tourist restaurant. The items on the menu are extremely inexpensive and the service is very good.
In Ham Tien ward, Lacheln Restaurant at 89 Nguyen Dinh Chieu below Mui Ne Hills Resorts seems to be quite popular and the reviews it receives on tripadvisor are generally very good.
Another seafood restaurant in Ham Tien ward that I particularly like is Hong Vinh 1 at 126 Nguyen Dinh Chieu. Although it’s a large open space without a lot of ambience, it sits at the water’s edge with good ocean views. Both the seafood and the service are quite good.