Local Insight: Phan Rang

attractions - Saigon/HCMC: May 30, 2016

The Asian Riviera

The call came from the Editor, “I need you to write an insider’s guide to Phan Rang. Give the reader some local knowledge. Something they don’t already know about Phan Rang”.

Phan Rang is relatively unknown, unlike its close neighbors Phan Thiet, Nha Trang and Dalat. Providing insider information without any conventional wisdom isn’t interesting, so I decided to provide the guidebook advice with my own.

Once you travel to Phan Rang, head over to Ninh Chu Bay beach five kilometres from the city. This is where the resorts, guest houses and hotels are located. This is also a better central location from where to begin your journeys. And speaking of beaches…

What “They” say: Relax on a beautiful quiet beach.

What I say: Learn to kitesurf. While Mui Ne is a famous kite surfing destination, it can be quite difficult to learn because of the crowds and conditions. Ninh Chu Bay Beach Club is one of the easiest places to learn because of its shallow waters, small waves, and excellent onshore wind from March through September.

10 hours of lessons with rental gear is US$360 at Ninh Chu Bay Beach Club and should get you well on your way to joining the professional kite surfing event held there each year. info@ninhchubay.com.

What “They” say: Take a trip to Vinh Hy Bay

What I say: Explore the coastline north of Vinh Hy Bay. Vinh Hy Bay is undeniably one of Vietnam’s most amazing scenic locations, but the small fishing village offers little for tourists. Instead, keep on the main coastal road and stop above Vinh Hy for your photos. But don’t turn around there! The next 20 kilometers of new coastal road rivals the most scenic roads in the world and the coast is relatively undeveloped. Pathways descend to deserted beaches and small dirt roads lead to isolated Cham villages.

To really experience the area, take a private jeep tour from the owners of the Cuban Bar & Grill. US$60 for a half a day customised trip. +84 9 3353 0825.

What “They” say: Visit the Po Klong Garai Cham temple.

What I say: Walk across the street from your resort and climb to the top of the Trung Son Co Tu pagoda complex. Sure, if 700 year old Cham Temples are your thing, then you will want to take the 30 minute drive from the beach to Thap Cham. But in the year 2716, people will be asking “why” when there was a much better temple complex with better views right across the street from the beach. A relatively easy 10 minute hike up the hill gets you to a pagoda with views of Ninh Chu Bay. Walk around back and the path continues to either a Buddha on a viewing platform or through the cacti to an army lookout. From there the entire area - including the bay, rice fields, and salt farms - is visible below. I suggest going at sunset with a container of your favorite beverage and watching the sun dip below the central highlands.

What “They” say: Have lunch and marvel at the spectacular views from Vietnam’s most exclusive resort, the Amano’i.

What I say: Climb to the Mui Dinh Lighthouse with a picnic lunch and take in views just as grand. I cheated a bit on this one since you have very little chance of being let through the gate of the Amano’i and disturbing the meals of celebrities like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. However, it is quite acceptable and even appreciated by the two men at the lighthouse if you bring them a couple beers.

The Mui Dinh Lighthouse is an easy 20 kilometers drive south of Ninh Chu Bay.

What “They” Say: Try the local street food.

What I Say: This time you should probably follow what “They” say and try the local street food. Phan Rang’s most famous dish is banh xeo, and if you’ve only tried it in nice air conditioned restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City, you’re in for a pleasant surprise. On Ninh Chu Bay street, the seafood egg pancake dish is made using the traditional method of cooking in clay bowls over a charcoal fire, and then served with several delicious sauces.

If you want to get the best banh can or banh xeo in Phan Rang, head over to the beach across the street from the Thai Binh Duong resort, and also try the family-run street eatery near Yen Ninh street on the right (facing the beach).