Things to Do in Phan Thiet

activities - Phan Thiet: Nov. 1, 2013

Phan Thiet has something for everyone.

Phan Thiet City is located approximately 200 kilometres east of Ho Chi Minh City. New road construction between the two cities in 2015 cut the travel time by car from five hours to just over three, which makes the journey much more convenient for travellers.

The community of Phan Thiet, or Pantic as it was called by the Cham people who lived in the area before it became part of Vietnam, has existed for hundreds of years. However, it was only officially designated as a city in 1999. The city centre had a population of around 200,000 people at the time, but when the city was incorporated, it annexed a number of nearby communities, including Mui Ne, Hon Rom, Ham Tien, Thien Nghiep and Tien Thanh. The 18 wards and communes that were created increased the Phan Thiet population significantly, so that it is now believed to be close to 400,000.

Although fishing and the manufacture of fish sauce was initially Phan Thiet’s main industry, as evidenced by the fleets of colourful fishing boats along the Katy River and in Mui Ne Bay, tourism is rapidly replacing the fishing industry as the area’s largest employer. In the mid-1990s, the first resorts appeared along the beach in Hung Long and Phu Thuy wards in the city centre, and Phu Hai and Ham Tien east of the city centre. Since then, the city has seen a construction boom, with hundreds of resorts, hotels, guest houses, restaurants and shops opening along the entire 57.4 kilometre-long coastline.

Each area of Phan Thiet has its own draw and unique characteristics and there are plenty of things for tourists to see and do in the area.

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. It’s very pleasant to rent a motorbike or get a bicycle from your resort and ride from the city centre to the lighthouse at Ke Ga, and then climb to the top of the hundred year old structure for a scenic vantage.

The Phan Thiet city centre has lots of restaurants, shopping malls, markets, cafes and stores. Ho Chi Minh taught at the Duc Thanh School in the centre, which is now a visitor attraction and museum. There are only a few resorts and hotels along the beach in the Phan Thiet city centre, but it’s 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 in Phan Thiet.

Phu Hai ward is the site of the Thap Poshanu Cham Tower, built in the late 8th 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. Phu Hai ward is also the site of Sea Links City; a complex of apartments, condominiums and a hotel, plus a wine castle and golf course. Both the wine castle and the spectacular links golf course are worth a visit.

Ham Tien ward is the penultimate tourist strip, with hundreds of resorts, shops, restaurants, beach bars and spas built along the ten-kilometre-long stretch of Rang Beach. Those who want to be where the action is should stay here as this is where they will find something to do 24 hours a day. The kite surfing craze began here, turning this into one of the top kitesurfing destinations in the world. For those who do not know how to kite surf, 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 night life 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-coloured, the walls of the canyon are very colourful.

Just east of Ham Tien is Mui Ne. The ward consists of two communities; Mui Ne and Hon Rom, and two beaches. The town of Mui Ne itself has about 25,000 residents. It is very interesting to get up at sunrise and go down to the water’s edge to watch the dozens of fishing boats coming in and unloading the many varieties of fish and seafood that the fishermen have caught overnight. Their families gather to help them separate the fish and prepare them either for the market or the fish sauce factories in the city centre. Then head up to the market in the centre of town to watch the locals haggle over pricing for everything from seafood to pigs and chickens.

Mui Ne ward is also where the orange 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 orange and white sand dunes are popular attractions, with dozens of local children offering to rent plastic sleds with which to slide down the dunes. Vendors at the white dunes offer dune buggies for rent to ride around the dunes, plus there is a compound of ostriches to ride, but not for the faint hearted.

Another popular attraction is located 30 minutes west of Phan Thiet. Taku Mountain is the site of the largest reclining Buddha in Southeast Asia. One can either walk up the mountain or ride the gondola from the valley floor. But even those who opt for the Austrian-made gondola will get a little exercise, as the Buddha is another 300 steps from the terminal. 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.