Nightlife in Phan Thiet: Best Bars and Clubs

By: Steve Raymond

The night life in Phan Thiet has evolved significantly over the past ten years. A decade ago, all the nightlife activity was in the city centre. However, as the tourist strip of Ham Tien grew and more resorts were opened, the nightlife scene also began to develop along the beach in order to serve the growing number of foreign tourists.

There are still four clubs in the city centre that cater mostly to the local community, but tourists in Ham Tien no longer have to travel into the city centre for night time activities.

Probably the most modern high-tech club is Paris Night Club Bar at k. 1, Duong Tu Van Tu in Phu Thuy ward. The lighting and physical facilities in the club are very high end and for those who like high energy dance clubs with very loud music, this place will fulfill their craving. The DJs vary from night to night and sometimes they have famous Vietnamese DJs doing stints at the club.

clubs phan thietImage source: facebook.com/parisnightcafe

The Las Vegas Beer Club at 29 Vo Van Kiet in Phu Thuy ward is a typical Vietnamese disco club with very little or no seating. Guests are expected to stand at high bar tables and dance around the tables, rather than on a dance floor. There are lots of young waiters and waitresses in white shirts and bow ties pushing drinks. Although not as popular as the Paris Night Club Bar, this is a good place for male patrons looking for a little female company.

Vien Dong Club on Nguyen Tat Thanh Street in Hung Long ward is like the Las Vegas Beer Club, where guests are expected to stand and drink at the tables. Like the other clubs, this has a lot to do with the type of license they have, which in this case, is as an adjunct to Vien Dong Restaurant. Sometimes the club has live singers on stage.

clubs phan thietImage source: facebook.com/VIENDONG.CLUBB

MTV Huyen Trang Club at 9-11 Trung Nghi in Duc Nghia ward sometimes offers fashion shows and theme parties and is popular with locals celebrating things like birthdays, but most of the time it is a disco dance club with large projection screens behind the DJs. Located on the river, this club and it’s predecessor, MTV, which was on a nearby street, has been around for a long time.

The rest of the clubs are located in Ham Tien ward, which is where most of the resorts and hotels are located. Whereas the city centre clubs cater mostly to locals, the Ham Tien clubs cater more to the foreign tourists. The early evening clubs are located west of the Bo Ke area in Ham Tien, whereas the later clubs and those that stay open until the early morning hours are all located east of the Bo Ke area.

A good place to start the evening is at Joe’s Cafe, 86 Nguyen Dinh Chieu. The only place in Ham Tien with live music 365 days a year, Joe’s is a laid back restaurant and bar with an eclectic mix of furniture.

clubs phan thietImage source: joescafemuine.com

Within walking distance and just west of Joe’s are two beach bars that close well before midnight. Although not as loud as at the disco clubs, they have good music and are nice places to enjoy a drink and watch the waves along the beach.

Sankara, 78 Nguyen Dinh Chieu, which opened in 2008 as a high end restaurant and club, has seen better days. However, it is still a nice place to chill for an hour or two with a drink. Just west of Sankara is VKS Beach Club, 68 Nguyen Dinh Chieu, which was formerly a late night club.

clubs phan thietImage source: facebook.com/VKSBeachClub

However, part of the club washed into the ocean during a storm. The club closed and afterwards reopened only as a restaurant and beach bar.

After 10 P.M., take a taxi about three kilometres east to Pogo Beach Bar at 138 Nguyen Dinh Chieu. The American-owned club is popular with young tourists and it has hardly any Vietnamese patrons. It offers comfortable loungers on the beach and a nice combination of disco music styles, with periodic avante garde entertainers/DJs who sing along with their disco sounds.

A little less than a kilometre west of Pogo is the newest club on the strip: Twins Coffee and Lounge, 122A Nguyen Dinh Chieu. Regardless of the name, this is a high tech discotheque on the beach. It has a Vietnamese owner/manager and like some of its counterparts in the city centre that cater almost exclusively to the Vietnamese market, Twins will try to sell drinks by the bottle if anyone asks for branded liquors in their cocktails.

clubs phan thietImage source: muinetourhotel.com

Next to Twins is Lineup Beach Bar and Lounge at 122 Nguyen Dinh Chieu. It’s a rather small venue, but it has an upscale feel. It is very popular with the Russian market, probably because it has a Russian manager.

A couple hundred metres west of Lineup is the most popular beach bar in Phan Thiet. The owners are a Hungarian man and his business partner; a Vietnamese lady. Dragon Beach Lounge & Club, 120/1 Nguyen Dinh Chieu has two entirely separate dance floors with different DJs and different styles of music. One dance floor and DJ stand is indoor and the other is outdoor, each with its own bar. On the weekends, the club provides both fire dancers and pole dancers who perform at the outdoor bar area. Plus, during the dry season, they offer bonfires on the beach. On Saturday nights it has a good mix of gay and straight Vietnamese, foreign expats and foreign tourists. The club stays open until 04:00 and is busiest after midnight.

clubs phan thietImage source: facebook.com/DragonBeachMuiNe

Banner image source: thegioiclub.vn


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.


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


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.


Vietnam’s First 100% Foreign Investment Golf Course to Be Closed Down

By: Phuong Tran

Vietnam’s First 100% Foreign Investment Golf Course to Be Closed Down

Ocean Dunes Golf CourseRang Dong Joint Stock Company has decided to close down the 20-year-old Ocean Dunes Golf Club next month amid plans for a high-end, multi-purpose complex.

The golf course has not been a great business success since it first opened to the public in 1996. In fact, in the 10 years since 2004, it generated a loss of 115 billion VND. There have been too few paying golfers to offset the huge maintenance cost of more than 62 hectares of what could well be the most beautiful garden area of Phan Thiet.

That is a shame for a golf course that was once ranked among the top ten most beautiful golf courses in Asia, designed by none other than one of the greatest golfers ever, Nick Faldo.

The Ocean Dunes golf course was funded by American billionaire Larry Hillblom, a co-founder of the giant express delivery service DHL Worldwide Express, who died in a plane crash in 1995. Ownership passed on to a consortium of four investors and since the end of 2013, the provincial People’s Committee licensed the course to the Rang Dong Joint Stock Company – which also owns Phan Thiet’s Sea Links Golf and Country Club.

Ocean Dunes Golf CourseThe government is expected to gain 1000 billion VND from the conversion. At the same time, the new urban development would help streamline the coastal highway system.

The plan has not been without its critics. Nguyen Van Thu, former chairman of Binh Thuan Province, believes that demolishing the Ocean Dunes golf course would cut green space from Phan Thiet which already lacks parks and tree areas. Nguyen Van Thanh Binh, chairman of the Binh Thuan Architect Association, agrees and says that Phan Thiet has only one beautiful park, so Ocean Dunes should be converted to parkland to improve the green environment here.

While waiting for approval, Rang Dong will close the golf course on April 1 to cut losses. Current members are given the opportunity to transfer their membership to the Sea Links Golf and Country Club.


Safety Rules: An essential building block when becoming a kitesurfer

By: Michael Mahe

Kitesurfing has become a popular sport and the equipment has become increasingly safe over recent years. Like any sport, safety should be the number one priority for any rider. In Mui Ne there are sometimes more than 150 kiters on the water, and thanks to commonly accepted rules, accidents are kept to a minimum.

The most important authority issuing security rules is the International Kiteboarding Organization (“IKO”). IKO also accredits and sets guidelines for kite schools and kite instructors. No wonder, that safety is prominent when learning kitesurfing. Even before flying a kite for the first time, students will learn how to properly take care of the equipment, the right of way rules, and other safety tricks.

All kiters should wear appropriate safety gear, which include a helmet, a life jacket, booties when needed, and also have a line cutter (to cut kite lines should the kiter become entangled in them).  Kiters are advised to never use a board leash (a line that connects the kiter with the board).

Should a kitesurfer get detached from her board in the sea, she should know how to “body drag” in the water with the kite only and recover the board.

It is also important that every kiter know the practice of “self-rescue”. This is a technique used to reach the shore in case of a mishap on the water, like a broken kite line, a deflated kite, an injury after a trick, sudden drop in wind strength, or acute fatigue. The kiter needs to roll the lines around her bar in this case and use the kite as some sort of sail in the water in order to drift towards the shore.

Photo by: Frolova Elena - Shutterstock

Most accidents happen actually on land, and not on water. That’s why it is important to never fly a kite with power on the beach. After launching the kite, it is important to im/mediately proceed and go on the water with the board.

The kiter must also make sure that there are no obstacles or people “downwind” when launching or landing a kite, as wind turbulences may make the kite drift downwind and hit them.

Of course, advanced riders should not do any tricks or high jumps close to the beach: when the kite gets out of control, it might hit bystanders.

Photo by: Shutterstock

Every kitesurfer also needs to learn proper right of way rules. The most important rule is that the rider who is going out on the water and is near the beach has priority over the rider who is coming towards the beach.

Then, when two riders are crossing, the rider “upwind” needs to put her kite high in the sky, while the rider “downwind” should lower her kite. This way, the 25 meter long kite lines will not get entangled.

Kitesurfing also has several hand signals. This is important in particular when launching or landing the kite. With hand signals, the kiter and the launch helper can communicate properly.

For example, the kiter will tap on her head in order to signal that she wants to land her kite. While intuitive, the “thumbs up” signal means that the kite is fine, the kite lines are in order, and the kiter is ready to launch.

Finally, taking good care of the equipment is important, in particular in the tropics like in Vietnam--salt water and hot temperatures may cause rapid degradation of the kite, the bar, the board, and the safety systems.

Once a kiter observes the safety rules, she can enjoy the sport with peace of mind and progress in all safety in this fascinating sport!

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