This is one of the best laid-back getaways in Vietnam. The town of Phan Thiet itself is a bustling little fishing port quite picturesque and good for a day’s visit- but you’ll want to get out to the long, sprawling, sandy stretch of beach to the east: Mui Ne. This is a popular weekend getaway from nearby Saigon, and development in recent years has been rapid. You’ll find some very nice upscale resorts and comfy little boutique bungalow properties.
Nick Faldo’s golf course at the Novotel in Phan Thiet is a big draw, and the consistent winds of Mui Ne Bay bring windsurfers and kite surfers from all over the world. Farther east and north along the coast, there are vast sand dunes, like a beachside Sahara, and inland there’s the famous and strangely verdant Silver Lake amid the towering, shifting sands a good day trip. These spots, as well as other small fishing villages, make for great day trips. There are also some local Cham ruins, and the town of Phan Thiet, famous for a brand of fish sauce (nuoc mam) made here, is worth exploring (especially the market). Phan Thiet is a good getaway from Saigon or a good place to take a break as you make your way down the coast.
Where to Dine
In addition to the reviewed Paradise Beach Club below, you may wish to try the Mui Ne Sailing Club, which serves good, basic Western tare in an open-air building at poolside overlooking the ocean. Farther east, Full Moon Beach is a good stop for coffee or breakfast on your way to Silver Lake or the big dunes north of town.
Thatched-roof eateries line the main beachside road in Mui Ne. Luna d’ Autuno, a popular Saigon pizzeria, has a cool restaurant serving excellent Italian food and offering an extensive wine list under a high thatched roof. A couple doors down is Gecko Mui Ne, serving French food and some familiar Western dishes. There’s also a Good Morning Vietnam Restaurant, Vietnam’s pizza and pasta franchise that serves good, affordable, familiar meals for little money.
The Hot Rock is a casual watering hole with good, basic Western fare. Plans are afoot to beautify Hot Rock by replacing the plastic chairs and whitewashing the colorful walls. Jibe’s Bar is a lively place with a terrace overlooking the ocean. It’s a favorite late-night hangout.
Paradise Beach Club Seafood Set in a soothing seaside pavilion at the popular Coco Beach Resort, the Paradise Beach Club is the place for fine fresh seafood and barbecue. Choose from a raw bar and have your meal cooked to order, as you like it. The long roster of a menu covers anything from light snacks and sandwiches to hearty Western meals. For dessert, they make the most unique sundaes I’ve ever seen. Check it out. The resort’s more upscale restaurant, Champa, is also a great choice.
Some 20km (12 miles) northeast of town are Cape Mui Ne sprawling sand dunes, and a trip out this way brings you through lots of quaint seaside villages that are well worth a wander. Coming from Mui Ne Beach, you’ll first reach a small fishing town and can explore its fine little rural market great in the early morning. Heading inland away from the beach, you’ll first come to the towering Red Dunes. A walk to the top offers great views of the town and surrounding countryside, and you’re sure to be followed by a gaggle of friendly kids trying to sell you on the idea of renting one of their plastic sleds for the ride down the steep dune slopes. It’s kind of fun. From the Red Dunes, if you have time, the unique Silver Lake is reached only after a long, bumpy ride, but the views of the coast are dynamic and this unique little verdant lake in the large, parched silver dune makes the trip worth it. It’s a long day, though. Ask at any hotel or resort for tours.
At the highest point on the road between Phan Thiet Town and Mui Ne Beach, you won’t miss Cham Tower, an impressive spire of crumbling brick. The tower dates from the end of the 13th century and is worth a stop if you weren’t able to catch any of the Cham sites near Hoi An and Danang. Any taxi will be happy to make a brief stop on the way. There are also Cham sites some 2 hours’ drive inland near Phan Rang, and all hotels and resorts can arrange tours.