Phan Thiet is a small, provincial town on the Vietnamese coast where the principal activities are fishing and the production of fish oil. Tourism is obviously not yet high on the agenda as there are few concessions made to welcome tourists. Apart from the hustle and bustle and general interest of a local market, there is little to spend the tourist dollar on and it is really quite difficult to find a suitable place to have a beer. Phan Thiet’s harbour is quite fascinating, many of the fishing boats seemingly providing a home as well as a means to earn a living. There are also many shacks lining the river providing rather squalid accommodation and illustrating the real poverty afflicting many of the Vietnamese people.
The beach area at Mui Ne is a few kilometres to the north of Phan Thiet and is quite a contrast as the infrastructure has been put in place in order to develop it into a major tourist area. Several hotels line the beautiful beach and on the other side of the road running behind them, there are now a quite a number of bars, restaurants and shops waiting patiently for the tourists to arrive. Hordes of tourists are, as yet, absent and one has the feeling of being one of the lucky few to have discovered a gem. The resort is quiet and the beach is long, wide, curves around the bay and most times you feel completely alone. We stayed at the Bao Quynh resort which offers very pleasant bungalows spreading along the Mui Ne beach.
Every morning in Mui Ne, just after dawn, the local fishermen return with their catch, paddling ashore in their one man coracles. It is an amazing site as they come ashore one by one like upturned turtles looking to lay their eggs. The wives and children have already long been on the beach casting anxious eyes towards the sea for a glimpse of their husbands and fathers.
Once ashore, the coracles are lifted out of the water and carried up the beach, the fish are weighed and counted, the nets are folded and everything tidily put away while the women take over the task of bartering with the local fish factory agents for a good price. Catches are reviewed and weighed again and eventually deals are struck that in reality offer scant reward to these hardy fishermen in return for a gruelling night at sea in a flimsy vessel.
Not far away but a little inland, there are sand dunes offering a constantly changing landscape of white, yellow, orange and red sand shaped and sculptured by the wind.
Local children, clamour to act as your guide for a few dollars and show you how to surf the dunes on wooden or polystyrene boards. It is great fun but the heat is intense in this desert like environment as the sun glaringly reflects of the hot sand. They are a spectacular sight especially the dunes that rear up from the shore of a lake which at first seems like a shimmering apparition of a desert oasis.
What are you waiting for? Travel and enjoy!