Once part of the Cham Kingdom, Phan Thiet is now a bustling town of around 100,000 inhabitants. Fishing is Phan Thiet’s main industry as evidenced by the fleets of colourful fishing boats at the port. According to local statistics, 100 varieties of fish are caught here. Accordingly, Phan Thiet is famous for its fish sauce, a staple seasoning in Vietnamese cuisine.
Most visitors pass straight through Phan Thiet to the 21km long sandy stretch of beach of Phu Hai and Ham Tien, 14km down the road. The first few resorts are in Phu Hai and the majority of the main tourist strip is in Ham Tien, giving way to a small town and market. Most of the food, accommodation, shopping and drink options are located here and apart from an excursion to the sand dunes, most travellers stick to this main drag.
At the end of the road, the small fishing village of Mui Ne offers glimpses into traditional life. The pace is slower here, the ocean views spectacular and the locals friendly. Head out to the coast at the end of the day and see the fishermen bring in the day’s haul, sampling their wares at a seaside stand.
Phan Thiet is a year-round destination, though local operators make a distinction between the high (or “winter”) season and low (or “summer”) season. During the so-called high season, which runs roughly from October to April, western Europeans and Russians come here to escape the European cold and enjoy ideal conditions for windsurfing and kite surfing. During the so-called low season, it is a popular destination for Vietnamese who want to escape the hot and steamy cities. The Tet holiday season sees many Vietnamese visitors as well.
Note: This 21km beach area is often referred to as Mui Ne, which geographically speaking is incorrect. However, for consistency with market trends we refer to the main tourist road along the beach as the Ham Tien-Mui Ne Strip.