Christmas and New Year in Phan Thiet and Mui Ne

By: Simon Stanley

Let the celebrations begin! Christmas in Phan Thiet and Mui Ne is a huge occasion, not only for the Vietnamese but also for the many tourists from all over the world who will fill up the resorts and guests houses of this popular area.

Maybe you are wondering why a country whose main religion is Buddhism, celebrate Christmas. Well, it is because there are many Catholics in Phan Thiet and also the area embraces the celebration of this wonderful event. Whether the Vietnamese believe in it or not, the tourists come here for a great celebration and so commercialism takes over and quite rightly too.

Mui Ne Beach for Christmas and New Year

The streets, Resorts and restaurants all have beautiful decorations and loud Christmas music blaring away from loudspeakers, with the carols sung in a wide variety of national languages. The Christmas celebrations are held on the evening of December 24th and the high majority of Resorts include the cost of a Christmas party in the cost of staying over this popular time. New Years Eve is the same, with all inclusive packages the only way of staying at the most popular Resorts. But be assured, the food will be excellent as well as the entertainment and you will spend the evening with like minded people who want to enjoy themselves.

Christmas and New Year in Phan Thiet

When the Resort parties have finished, then many will head off to the late night bars such as Sankara, Dragon Beach, Joe's, Pogo Bar, VKS and a few others in the area where there will be wild celebrations, especially on New Years Eve, until the early hours of the morning. But what better way to clear a thick head than a dip in the sea or swimming pool in the morning and then a hearty breakfast. Great fun!

There is one thing not to be missed. You should head towards Phan Thiet to see the incredible decorations along the roadside between the tollgate and the next two kilometers. It is quite breathtaking and splendid to see the hard work the residents have put into making a spectacular display. This area is predominantly Roman Catholic so they make a really big effort to put on a great show and each year the decorations get better and better. You need to see this at night to get the best effect but one word of warning, the closer is gets to the 24th of December, the more Vietnamese come out to look and the roads get really crowded, but miss it at your peril.

 Mui Ne Phan Thiet Christmas and New Year 2015

For the Russians, there is also their celebration of Christmas on January 7th, so the celebrations continue and then, starting from February 15th, this is the start of the Vietnamese New Year (Tet). Do not expect to see big celebrations for the first two or three days because this is the time for visiting families but after that time, with National holidays for the next few days, the Vietnamese will start to travel and Mui Ne and Phan Thiet are one of the most popular areas to visit and have fun.

Here at Citypass, we wish all our readers a very happy Christmas and a wonderful New Year.
Chúc mừng năm mới 

(Happy New Year in Vietnamese)


Tourism Activities Shift in Phan Thiet

By: Patrick Gaveau

Tourism Activities Shift in Phan Thiet

activities in phan thietI am often careful when interpreting the feedback received from local actors about the status of their business activities for the season - this year was no different. In November, December and late January, some well known restaurants on the “Muine Strip” rang the bell stating that their business was down substantially, and Santimati restaurant said, “it was down 40%,” at some point. I did wonder if everything mentioned was factually accurate.

To clarify the situation, I picked a panel of chosen owners and managers working in well-known restaurants (international and local), mid-level and high-end shops as well as small and large hotels and resorts in the three to five star category. Following these interviews, visits and discussions, I realised that opinions varied per activity and that the most stable estimations came from hotel and resort professionals.

In terms of markets, most hotels and resorts recorded a steady flow of FIT (Foreign Independent Travellers) Russians originating from a wider range of destinations than ever before. Most resorts also documented growth for the UK, French and Chinese market - the latter being up 400% at some resorts. Most others recorded double digit growth.

activities in phan thietPandanus Resort, who is tracing substantial growth in this market as well.

Apart from Germans, who mainly travel in large groups at a lower price point, Phan Thiet still remains a FIT driven destination. This is good news for the many small businesses on the “Muine Strip”.

Even the Chinese travel individually for the most part, and the documented booking growth is largely channeled by OTAs (Online Travel Agencies) such as Booking.com and Agoda.com. This is good news as it positively affects the bottom line of resorts.

Private small business owners of restaurants, shops and bed & breakfasts, on the other hand, had mixed feelings about their business activities status. Pascal from Jibes recorded good growth in the last three months for his shop and restaurant while Kim Shop reported a 25% decreases in average spending year on year.

To better understand the market situation of these actors (restaurants, shops and activity providers) in Phan Thiet; allow me to list some of the key influencing business activity factors that were reported by many of the interviewed parties.

  1. The number of travellers in Phan Thiet is stable or growing.
  2. Market diversification is increasing.
  3. Behavioral and consumption pattern for each market may differ.
  4. The number of qualitative outlets is on the rise.
  5. The quantitative growth of small outlets out-numbers the increase in demand.
  6. Native Russians tend to spend money at places with Russian speaking staff/owners.
  7. Some Russian travellers do follow instructions given by their travel operators.
  8. Trip Advisor reviews affect the turnover of many travel related businesses.
  9. Travellers are wiser with their shrinking leisure budget.

If small businesses begin to understand how each of the above listed factors can affect their business activities, they may choose to adapt accordingly, adjusting the way they operate in order to tackle challenges and potential business available in their destination.


Sea Links Golf Course - Heaven or Hell

By: Simon Stanley

Since it’s opening in 2006, Sea Links has been the topic of conversation of many golfers in Vietnam. Located in the popular tourism area of Ham Tien, Mui Ne, Sea Links has been voted on many occasions as the most challenging golf course in Vietnam.  The writer has been involved with Sea Links since the appointment of the golf architect, Ron Fream of Golfplan. 

Ron reckoned that this was one of the last golf courses he would design – he was well into his 60’s by then and had already designed over 150 golf courses world-wide – and would make it the most challenging he has ever designed.  And he certainly has achieved that!

As a golfer who has played this links style golf course on many occasions, I can tell you I have lost many golf balls and for sure played well over my handicap most times.

So what makes this championship course so demanding?  When you first arrive at Sea Links, you have no idea what you have in front of you.  Your first view of the golf course is undulating fairways with beautiful views of the ocean.  The impressive club house and welcoming receptionists greet you with a smile.  You change in the large, well equipped locker rooms and then meet your caddie, waiting for you by your buggy. 

The driving range is to hand and provides the opportunity to warm up before you set out on your adventure.  The caddie will automatically take you to the blue tees, because, regardless of playing ability, these are the “Asian” tees – the ones which all Asians play off.  You do not want to appear inadequate and you make no indication to go to the fairer and more enjoyable white tees.  The forward or red tees are the least demanding, by the way.  You see in front of you fairways the like of which you have never seen before.  Severe undulations, huge bunkers and then the fear factor comes in.

Your caddie will tell you where to aim and you do your best.  Having got over your nerves, you then view the enormous greens, with awaiting bunkers.  And the greens are huge!!  The distance from the front to the back of the green can be a difference of two or three clubs.  But it is the bunkers that can destroy your game, especially the monster on the right hand side of the second green. 

When you arrive at the seventh hole, you will be amazed and delighted at the view over the East China Sea and with clear visibility, you can see the famous Ke Ga lighthouse.  The views will take away the difficulty of the hole, a dog leg right with out of bounds on the right and a bunker just where you would like to hit your drive to.  The eight hole, a par 3, has been voted as best par 3 in Vietnam and the sea breeze makes club selection very difficult.

There are no easy holes at Sea Links but I have to say, it is well worth the experience of playing.  Forget the rows of villas that make it look like a housing estate, ignore the condominiums that block the views and let yourself in for the challenge of a lifetime and I bet you will do like everyone else – come back and play the golf course again.

Because the next time you know you will do better, the same as everyone else.  One day I am going to tame this course and afterwards raise a glass of beer to the devil himself, Ron Fream.

It is heaven or is it hell?  Play the course and decide.  Let us know your thoughts!

Sea Links is located in Mui Ne and is part of the Sea Links City Group, with a hotel, villa and condominium complex.
www.sealinkscity.com


Annual Beach Volleyball Tournament 2015 hosted at Jibes Watersport Centre

By: City Pass Guide

Saturday the 4th of July saw the 5th Annual Beach Volleyball Tournament, hosted at Jibes Watersport Centre, Full Moon Village Suoi Nuoc.

This year, seven well trained teams participated in the competition: Pandanus Resort, Jibe’s Water Sport Center, Ball Slappers, Victoria Resort, French Team, Takalau and Princess D’An Nam.

After a briefing from the referees on rules and regulations, the competition began at 10:00 am to the delight of the competitors and spectators under a sunny tropical sky.

A beautiful lunch was organized for competitors to get their strength back and relax, before completing the heats and starting the semi-finals and final.

Against all odds, Victoria team, great winner from last year, were knocked out by Takalau, and took 4th place in the ranking. Takalau, determined to honor its first participation, played hard and made it through each heat to eventually find themselves at the final. After defeating Princess D’An Nam, Takalau played the grand finale against Pandanus.

After a finale full of suspense and rebounds, Pandanus was finally the winner!!

Enthusiast volleyball players, professional, expat or Vietnamese ensured an amazing tournament. The 5th competition was full of emotion and suspense until the end, all the teams fought hard to win. 

After a great day of competition, the teams, spectators and sponsors gathered to give huge applause for all the effort put in by the competitors at the Awards Ceremony.

The day’s activities concluded with a Beach Barbeque and After Party where everyone dined and danced the night away. The perfect end to a great sporting event.

The 5th Annual Beach Volleyball Tournament was a great success with motivated and well trained teams. Congratulations to the winners, Pandanus and all the teams who competed.

We would like to thank our referees, our speaker who animated the event, and all our sponsors for their generous contribution: Sea Links Golf, Whale Village Guest House, Full Moon Village, Coco Beach Resort, Marou Chocolate, Coco Cola, Le fruit, The Warehouse, AHI Co LTD, Tropical Mini Golf, Jibe’s Water Sport Club, Takalau Resort, The Cliff, and SEL company. 

We hope to see you all there again next year on the 2nd of July 2016 for the 6th edition of the Beach Volley ball Tournament.


Kitesurfing Distributors and Shops in Mui Ne

By: Michael Mahe

Shop and Surf!

The development of Mui Ne from a remote fishing village to one of Vietnam’s famous beach destinations is closely linked to the ever-growing kitesurf crowd. There are a few schools and shops of international standard that accommodate kitesurfers who come from around the world to harness the power of the wind in Mui Ne.

KitesurfingThe oldest kitesurfing shop is “Jibes”, owned by Frenchman Pascal Lefebvre, one of the early pioneers of the kitesurfing scene in Mui Ne. Jibes not only offers a choice of kitesurf equipment of the French brand F-One, but also windsurf boards and sails. 

Perhaps the biggest kitesurfing shop in Mui Ne is Kiteboarding Ananda, located at Ananda Resort. This shop has a wide selection of kitesurf equipment and accessories from leading companies such as North Kites, Cabrinha Kites, Mystic harnesses and other travel gear.  Kiteboarding Ananda also has a specialised team that repair kites and boards, something that comes handy with the strong winds and high waves during the high season. Prices here tend to be significantly lower than anywhere else in the world. Thus, many kitesurfers come to Mui Ne without gear and will kit up with new kites and boards at Kiteboarding Ananda.

Rip Curl has a large shop in Mui Ne (near Phan Thiet) as well as Nha Trang. While they sell mostly beach and swimwear, they also have a small selectionKitesurfing of surfboards.

There are smaller kiteboarding shops such as Africa Surf and Bombora, which cater mostly to surfers, and Sailing Club Kite School (former Storm kiteboarding) which sells mostly kiteboarding accessories. 

All in all, should you come to Mui Ne and need a spare part or a new kite or board, you will be in good hands at one of the many kite shops!

Adresses (all on Nguyen Dinh Chieu Street):

- Jibes: 90 Nguyen Dinh ChieuMui NePhan Thiet, http://www.windsurf-vietnam.com

- Kiteboarding Ananda: 8 Nguyen Dinh ChieuMui NePhan Thiet, http://www.ananda.vn

- Rip Curl Kite School: 103B Nguyen Dinh ChieuMui NePhan Thiet, http://ripcurl.com.vn

- Africa Surf & Kite Test: 44 Nguyen Dinh ChieuMui NePhan Thiet, http://africa-kiteschool.ru

- Bombora: 68 Nguyen Dinh ChieuMui NePhan Thiet, http://www.bomboragroup.com

- Sailing Club Kite School (former Storm) : 24 Nguyen Dinh ChieuMui NePhan Thiet, http://www.stormkiteboarding.com


Kitesurf Championships: A lot of travel and hard work

By: Michael Mahe

Kitesurf Championships: A lot of travel and hard work

Kitesurfing has become a competitive sport with a number of different championships.  Participating in kitesurf championships often involves hard training during the winter months and lots of travel during spring, summer, and autumn, when the circuit is in full swing.

The most important tournament is “Kite World Tour” organized by the “PKRA” (Professional Kiteriders Association) and is considered by many as the Formula 1 of kitesurfing.

The championship is organized as a circuit around world with locations like Morocco, China, KitesurfGermany and France. Riders compete in three different disciplines:  freestyle (jumps and tricks), course racing (similar to a regatta in sailing), and wave riding.

They accumulate points at each event, and at the end of the year, the rider with the most points becomes world champion.

Professional riders participating in the Kite World Tour tend be young and most are less than 20 years old.  The current world champions in Alex Giselafreestyle are Alex Pastor (Men) and Gisela Pulido (Women), both from Spain.

The KTA (Kite Tour Asia) is a regional competition in Asia, and spans a number of Asian countries such as the Philippines, Thailand, China, and Indonesia.  In the past, Mui Ne in Vietnam was also part of this circuit.  The current Asian Champion in Freestyle Men is Nguyen Duc Long from Vietnam (the local hero in Mui Ne), and Aya Oshima from Japan.Kitesurf

A native Muine, born in 1992, this young man has already had several years experience in such a sport that is still very new to many Vietnamese. Well-built, young and daring to challenge the nature, Long is widely considered an icon in Muine as he brings hope and opportunities to other youngsters

With a broader acceptance of kitesurfing, it is likely that it will become an olympic discipline and it may even replace windsurfing, which is considered a declining sport.

kitesurfAs of date, Mui Ne has yet to see its own local competition.  A lack of sponsors has impeded any organisation of anything more than some friendly face-offs on the water.

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