WHY SOUTH OF PHAN THIET IS BETTER THAN NORTH OF PHAN THIET (in my limited experience):
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AFTER MORE THAN 18 MONTHS OF FALSE LEADS AND NEAR MISSES NOW I AM FINALLY STAYING AT MUI NE (RIGHT NEXT TO THE FISHING VILLAGE NO LESS), AND NOW I AM HERE I GET THIS STRANGE SINKING FEELING OF, WHAT IS THIS... BEWILDERMENT? Yes, it is bewilderment: bewilderment, because I thought this place was supposed to be good, but now I am finally really here it seems to me a bit of a let down. Or to be more precise about it: the place is good, the views of all those fishing boats bobbing offshore in the blue sea with their red flags flying in the yellow sunshine are priceless, spectacular, but spectacular views are a dime a dozen in Vietnam, and besides, the beach here isn't that clean. See this YouTube clip for proof. Or maybe the beach is clean (comparatively), but I don't feel so confident bathing when there are a fleet of boats moored a couple of hundred meters offshore, it makes me feel like I am bathing in a work zone. And Mui Ne is very much a working beach (unlike for example Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia.) I worry about what is oozing out of all those fishing boats, all the stuff that they throw overboard. And anyway, nothing spoils a swim than getting slammed by a plastic bag, or finding broken glass strewn all around the shore. This happened to me early on at my stay on Mui Ne Beach (at least, the beach next to the fishing village), and it served as a warning. After that I started restricting myself to the swimming pool of my hotel (Malibu Resort) which was admitedly a cool place to pass half an hour or so, before the return to the missus for "marital duties". Call me a pussy but when I stayed at Anh Duong Resort some 25 or so kilometers south of Phan Thiet I ducked myself into the bien (ocean) everyday... and I loved it! And the hotel rates down around Anh Duong Resort were significantly lower than those at and around Malibu. The beach at Anh Duong was long, mysterious and largely clean. The beach at Malibu, despite (or because of) being close to heart and heat of the action is considerably dirtier. Last afternoon I noted rambutan shells, watermelon rinds, gnarled ropes, and plenty of plastic on the beach near our shack. The air stinks with the sweet and fishy aroma or nouc mam. Compared to down south, there seems to be a lot more industry happening up in this neck of the woods. To top it all off the wildlife seems definitely more threatening, although that is maybe a seasonal thing (I stayed at Anh Duong Resort during the winter, while here at Malibu it is midsummer.) Yesterday, on my first stroll on the beach, I stopped to plough my toes through the wet sand on the breakline and was delighted to see, as at the beach at Anh Duoung, the sand bubble with tiny mollusks. Rudely exposed to the air, they flipped themselves on to their backs, and dug themselves back into the sand. I realised then that, far from being a barren stretch of sand, a beach was actually a living thing, literally crawling with life (or "ikimono", as they would say in Japanese), much of it buried. Further away from the waves, in the cliff of a tidal plateau, some truly large looking crabholes could be seen, bearing menacingly into the deep. I walked on, minding where I stepped. A little further down the beach, past the encampment of dreary fishing huts and towards the stretch of exposed highway, I noted a starfish (or "human hand" as they would say in Japanese) flipped over by a wave on to its back and struggling to right itself. I walked further on, noting several more starfish (in various degrees of distress.) Presently it became clear to me that the entire beach was studded with starfish, most of them sunken, their presence denoted by faintly starlike proturbances on the surface. It didn't feel like a comforting proposition to stroll on a beach teeming with such creatures, but strolling on this beach I was. The next day walking in the same place, I got divebombed by tiny tern, who eventually chased me from their territory. They do that, apparently. After that I took to wrapping a towel around my head when I walked, but this annoyed Nga (apparently she was worried it would make me look like a beachcomber or beach vendor.) Why the tern had decided to set up their colony on one of the busiest beaches in Binh Thuan Province is lost on me, they must be divebombing tourists all the time. It is kind of as clueless as all the Saigonese who flock here to step all over each other on the crowded weekends and public holidays. Just past the headland at Hon Rom stretches a long yellow sandy beach which appears pristine clean with virtually no resorts on it, and the at far end, a beautiful chunk of rock plonked just off the shore. On future trips to Mui Ne, this is where I will try to hang out.
SO, WHERE ARE ALL THE COOL PLACES TO STAY AT MUI NE? Please note that this is an evolving guide, and I am not much of an expert:
Not only has the once demolished Allez Boo Bar arisen from its ashes, phoenixlike, in a new location in the heart of backpacker Saigon, but the brand now graces the grand boulevard of outrageous facades which constitutes the Mui Ne skyline. Cruising through Mui Ne sometimes feels a little like entering Las Vegas: a riot of concept hotels and spas and resorts compete for your attention, often in glaring primary colors, with strange and flamboyant sculptures built entirely of concrete. Here at Mui Ne it is all about the concept, and the novelty, and the brand. If the Allez Boo Resort stuck to its brand and attempted to recreate the experience of the backpacker bar in Saigon, what would it be like? -- all timber tropicana and Japanese atmoized steam sprays to cool you down? and a couple of heavily made up prostitutes and boisterous oil rig workers from Australia to keep you company? Now I must confess right here that I met my girlfriend Nga at Allez Boo (the bar, not the resort): she was working there, but she ain't no prostitute. People back home are quick to warn you that all the girls in Vietnam are prostitutes and are dishonest and only love you for your cash, but I have found that to be far from the truth. The good news in Vietnam is that it is easy to tell the prostitutes from the nice girls; the nice girls look like nice girls and the prostitutes look like prostitutes, only camped up to the ninth degree. That was my revelation, hanging around Allez Boo, back in March 2007 when I met Nga. And truth be told there was an Australian oil rig worker dressed just like Crocodile Dundee in the place, and I saw him go home with two of the attendant pro's. Good luck to him. Interestingly enough, the Allez Boo Resort and Spa on Nguyen Dinh Chieu Street targets not penniless backpackers looking for 50 cent beers, but rather the elite spa set.
Full Moon Resort: . HaiVenu inspected this property in June 2005 and concluded: "The Full Moon is another of Vietnam's hotels that defy classification. It's a tiny place, 25 rooms on a tiny 0.25ha plot halfway along Mui Be Beach.
"The first thing that catches your eye when you enter is the rectangular pool in the centre of the resort. It's simplicity amongst the lush foliage is striking. To the left and right of the pool is the accommodation, and at the front is the beach and the thatched open-sided shelter that combines reception, restaurant and bar.
"The rooms to the left of the pool are in a single two-storey block with a thatched roof and an outdoor staircase leading to an upper floor verandah reminiscent of tea plantation buildings. Inside, each room has an attractive tiled floor, a four-poster bed , a period ceiling fan, pleasant dark wood furniture and a bathroom with a corner bath.
"Things start to get interesting on the right of the pool. There's a bewildering mixture of rooms in a newer three-storey block - no two are the same. Among the rooms overlooking the pool, there's a room with a stylish sunken bath, a 'family room' with an outdoor bath and a tiled bar in the living room.
"Three rooms face the sea, each with a spacious balcony.
"The proprietors are Phuong (Vietnamese) and Pascal (French). Phuong is a skilled designer and entrepreneur, and Pascal is highly respected architect. Between them they have designed, built and fitted the entire resort.
"All furniture is either handmade by Pascal or genuine Vietnamese antiques. The combinations of tiles, bathroom styles are unique to each room. Different rooms appeal to particular clients..."
At the top of the page I expressed some rather negative opinions of Mui Ne Beach, how it is the dirtiest of all the beaches in this part of the world and that is because so many people come here and stay here, and I expressed wonder why people are willing to pay so much money to stay here when pristine beaches lie (totally undeveloped) just a couple of kilometers away. I guess it comes down to the fame factor: one misty twilight Nga and I were trudging home to our home at Malibu Resort when we noticed a VietPop video being made on the sand (near the stretch of exposed road). There were some trendy young guys dressed in the Ho Chi Minh City fashion handling the light rigging, some dudes banging drums, and a small posse of dancers fronted by some diva (the Japanese might call her a bijin) miming her way through a pop song. Another bijin waited on the sidelines in the sand. Now this was in an area where I had noticed broken glass amongst the sand grains, not just bottle glass although that is lethal enough but a whole plate window smashed up, half buried by the beach. So I kept a careful step as to where I trod, and obsessed about being sliced up every time I took a dive into the waves. The Viet's apparently don't give a damn about such dangers, and perhaps I should be more like them (especially if I am going to survive once I move to Vietnam!)
If I want to be more Vietnamese, perhaps I should also to learn to ignore things like strange insects in the bedroom, mysterious droppings on the bedsheets (lizard or mouse or rat: I have yet to determine which), and occasional power outages. You will get all of these if you stay at Malibu Resort, the power outages the least annoying of them all. The setting, nonetheless, is textbook tropicana, and despite the fishsauce stench which sometimes arises with the wind you could forgive yourself for thinking you had arrived in Paradise:
Pandanus Resort and Spa: Hamlet 5, Ham Tien Ward, Phan Thiet City, Binh Thuan Province. Phone: (84) 062 849 849. Fax: (84) 062 84 850. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
I haven't actually stayed at this place yet but I well might, it could definitely happen in the next couple of years. In June and July 2009 I stayed right next door to Pandanus Resort and Spa, at the Malibu/Chau Am doubleheader. After nearly two weeks on the beach there at Mui Ne, whenever I closed my eyes I would see waves... that's a good sign that the place had chilled me. For a while my panic attacks and anxiety had faded away, to be replaced by freestyle yoga postures in the pool, long bike rides, and plenty of kung fu movies and Korean/Thai/Taiwanese dramas on TV. One hot early afternoon I took one of the free bikes parked outside Malibu and rode it up the road, past Pandanus with its gorgeous gardens and green green grass. Two doors up the road (on the beachside), something at the other end of the spectrum: a colony of thatched huts barely bigger than latrines, suspended on stilts in a gloomy copse of trees. On my first day at Mui Ne I had mistaken them for fishermen huts, but Nga assured me that all the fishermen sleep on their boats. She is probably right, so I wonder who stays in these squalid huts? I will find out someday. Between these two poles of affluence, there stretches a ragged lot of land, all corroded red stream valley and choking xanh... and a group of teenagers playing volleyball in a clearing.
So, what is my point? My point is that in this part of the world, luxury often coexists with poverty. Pandanus Resort might have the largest swimming pool in Binh Thuan Province, but right next door families live in corrugated iron shacks whose walls flap in the breeze. I know, because I got lost walking amongst them, on one expedition on the sands. I don't know how they stand up to the typhoons which apparently hit Vietnam on a regular basis. Even in the sturdier dwellings it must be a fulltime job sweeping out all the blown sand. And don't get me started on the Mui Ne flies! Those flies crawl over everything inside Malibu Resort (watermelon rinds, coffee glasses in the beachside restaurant), so presumably they are present inside Pandanus as well. On beach walks sometimes I climbed the rise of concrete steps which sepearted the sand from the grass, and entered the grounds of Pandanus Resort. Right on the beachfront on the lush green grass, crisp white linen lined the massage benches, with attendants hawking their services (including haircuts: all of them expensive.) Around the swimming pool all of the clientele (if not all) were white. I haven't been inside the accommodations, but they are apparently done up in a Champa architectural style with high wooden ceilings and a descending lotus pool in the lobby. Cham musicians and dancers peform in the evenings, along with the inevitable Filipino band (which I heard crooning during my furtive infiltration one fly-blown afternoon). I wonder how those Filipino musicians find jobs in Vietnam, and what they think of Vietnam. My Mum got into a conversation with some of them once, in the bar at Vinpearl Resort. She claimed she had seen them play somewhere like Cape York Peninsula in Australia or the Northern Territory, but they insisted it wasn't them. So there must be Filipino musicians serenading themselves around Australia as well.
Thai Hoa Resort: 56 Huynh Thuc Khang St, Ham Tien, Phan Thiet City, Binhthuan. Tel: 84-62 847320/ Fax: 84-62 847879.
Thai Hoa Beach Resort tourist area is located at Mui Ne tourist zone EPhan Thiet, Binhthuan province, far from Ho Chi Minh City 210 kilometers is a peaceful sea area with golden endless spreading Sandy Mountain and coco trees are singing all the day. Thai Hoa Beach Resort tourist area shall give you completely relaxing times.
Passing by the green dragon plans, being in Thai Hoa tourist area you will forget the hot and noisy city, the stressful working days and enjoy fully the beauty and peace of new exploited tourist area.
Rooms range from US$17 to US$35.
Seahorse Resort: Km 11, Ham Tien Ward, Mui Ne, Phan Thiet.
With forty uniquely styled villas nestled in the midst of a 3 hectare coconut garden, Seahorse resort stretches along 200 meters of the pristine white sand coast of Mui Ne. The resort's natural spring gently streams along a rich landscape of flowers, palms, and tropical gardens. It's distinct Vietnamese charm offers a peaceful escape to city dwellers and travelers alike.
See Saigon Nezumi for more details and photos.
Vinh Suong Seaside Resort: 46 Nguyen Dinh Chieu, Mui Ne, Phan Thiet. Tel: 84-62 847469/ Fax: 84-62 847680.
Vinh Suong Seaside Resort is located in premium complex of resorts in Mui Ne. In addition to its separate beach with white sand and clean shore, Vinh Suong Seaside Resort also includes a forest of coconut-trees and poplars rustling by the wind and an orchid garden inviting the visit of butterflies and bees. Over 74 well-equipped rooms were designed in diversified styles, which were located in harmony with the environment of green trees, blue sea, blue sky and whispering waves. This is definitely an ideal spot for you and your family.
Rooms range from US$45 to $103 a night.
I went for a walk along the beach I was staying in Vietnam, past the threatening looking workcamp on the sand. I came to a headland of smashed up houses, all that was left were the tiled floors of the bathrooms, and some gravestones. At that point I took a right thinking it would take me back to the road, but I ended up getting lost and walking through village after village strewn among the sanddunes. I suppose that was what it was like being on a patrol mission in the Vietnam War. People sure were friendly though -- everyone wanted to say hello. Some tough looking guys rode past me on a motorcycle, they pulled over, and then this fat guy jumped off the bike and shook my hand! I ended up finding an Internet cafe full of kids and all of them swarmed around me to watch what I was doing. They had some remix of Michael Jackson's THRILLER playing on the stereo... is he dead or what? Everywhere I go I hear his music!
Here is the complete list (as far as I am aware) of all the hotels and resorts in Mui Ne: Coco Beach Resort: Mui Ne Beach.
(4-star) Phu Hai Resort: Mui Ne Beach.
(4-star) Saigon Mui Ne Resort: Mui Ne Beach.
(4-star) Romana Resort: Mui Ne Beach. (4-star) Bamboo Village Resort: Mui Ne Beach. (4-star) Ocean Star Resort: Mui Ne Beach. (4-star). Pandanus Resort: Mui Ne Beach.
(4-star) Cham Villas: Mui Ne Beach. (3-star) White Sand Resort: Mui Ne Beach. (3-star). Sailing Club Resort: Mui Ne Beach. (3-star). Hoang Ngoc Resort: Mui Ne Beach. (3-star). Swiss Village: Mui Ne Beach. (3-star). Sunny Beach Resort Spa & Yatch: Mui Ne Beach. (3-star). Vinh Suong Seaside Resort: Mui Ne Beach. (3-star). Little Mui Ne Cottages: Mui Ne Beach
(3-star). Sun Sea Resort: Mui Ne Beach (3-star). Bon Bien Resort: Mui Ne Beach (3-star).
Dynasty Resort Mui Ne Beach, Phan Thiet - Map
Palmira Resort Mui Ne Beach, Phan Thiet - Map