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.


Golf in Phan Thiet and Mui Ne

By: Simon Stanley

There are two 18-hole golf courses in the area:

Ocean Dune is located in Phan Thiet and was opened in 1995.  As Sir Nick Faldo design, this course is starting to show its age but is a great resort golf course. The holes are mostly flat and early morning or later in the afternoon are the best times to play because it can get extremely hot.

The sea breezes tend to be at their strongest during the afternoon. The par 3 ninth hole has been voted one as one of the top 100 holes in the world.

Sea Links was designed in 2006 by Ron Fream of Golfplan and is often voted as the most challenging golf course in Vietnam.  It is worth the challenge because the views to the ocean, especially from holes 7 and 8 are spectacular. 

Both clubs have full facilities with excellent clubhouses offering local and international cuisine.  Cadies are mandatory and buggies are optional.  Ocean Dunes is an easier walking course than Sea Links.

Staying in Phan Thiet and Mui Ne

The Vietnamese tend to stay in the smaller hotels of Phan Thiet and the touristsand ex-pats will stay in the very popular holiday destination of Mui Ne.

There are more than 70 resorts located on the beach front, from two star to five star, plus restaurants offering local and international cuisine, with local seafood as the speciality of the area.  Prices are very moderate.  There are also many shops, spas and bars for relaxation and fun.

Sea Links and Ocean Dunes have their own hotels. Ocean Dunes is embraced by the Du Parc Phan Thiet Ocean Dunes Golf and Resort, with 123 spacious rooms, restaurant, pool and entertainment option including a private 1 km stretch of sand along renowned Eastern Sea beach. Sea Links also has villas and apartments for short term rental.

Practical informations

Prices at both golf courses are very reasonable and both golf courses offer special offers most of the time.  For example, twilight golf, after 2pm is available at Ocean Dunes for around $60.  It is best to check the websites, or get the Resort you are staying in to check current prices for you, as they change every month.  Both golf courses offer stay and play packages.

The Sea Links website is www.sealinkscity.com, Ocean Dunes is www.vietnamgolfresorts.com.

Golf is possible all the year round.  There are two seasons – hot and dry from October to March and hot and rainy from April until September.

Phan Thiet and Mui Ne are 200 kilometres north of Saigon and about 5 hours drive by road and 4 hours by train.

Writer: Simon J Tinkler


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


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!


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)


How Windsurfing Came to Vietnam

By: City Pass Guide

Mui Ne is the most popular destination for water sports in Vietnam. Its consistent winds and geographical location attract ever-increasing, like-minded water sports fans from around the world.

However, Mui Ne was not always known for its wind and water sport activities. Let’s go back to 1995: no kite surfers to be seen, not a single windsurfer spotted planing across the waters of the beautiful, untouched bay of Mui Ne. But in December of that year a young Frenchman arrived with an addiction to windsurfing, conveniently based and working at the Novotel Resort in Phan Thiet less than 15km from Mui Ne Bay.

Pascal Lefebvre was one of the first to experience the potential and untapped wind conditions. We must remember there was not a lot of internet access back then in the local area, and the only people who knew of Mui Ne’s wind were the locals, who had never heard of windsurfing and had absolutely no interest in water/wind-based sports. In fact, for the locals the wind was more of an annoyance rather than something to be enjoyed.

Pascal, however, noticed on his first visits to the bay that the local residents had only really constructed buildings on the other side of the road along the beach. To a keen windsurfer that was obvious evidence of strong wind blowing from the sea to the land. Closer inspection of the wind-battered palm trees only confirmed his suspicions. He recalls having a meeting interrupted on the sixth floor of the Novotel building, windows violently rattling from howling wind at speeds of more than 30 knots.

The only problem for a keen windsurfer like Pascal was that there were no water sports shops, no rental centers and no water sports schools, meaning no way to get his hands on any equipment. That was until Pascal was introduced to Daniel Arnaud.

Daniel had opened a beachside resort in the heart of the bay called Coco Beach (one of only a handful of resorts in Mui Ne at that time) and luckily for Pascal, Daniel had some very basic windsurf equipment. From that moment Pascal could be found spending any free time rigging up equipment at Coco Beach and enjoying the entire bay to himself, a windsurfer’s paradise.

After travelling around Vietnam working for Victoria Resorts, Pascal took on a full-time position as general manager at Victoria Phan Thiet, a perfect location to witness the full force of Mui Ne’s wind. By this time he had managed to buy some second-hand equipment to use himself but always kept an eye open for more windsurf sails and boards. 

He was lucky enough to find a local resort that had imported some windsurf equipment, but due to a lack of knowledge it wasn’t getting used. Pascal was quick to buy everything the resort had and now found himself with enough equipment to run the very first windsurf competition in Mui Ne, if not Vietnam. It was named “The Fun Cup” and with only a handful of amateur riders the focus was on light-hearted enjoyment rather than serious competition. The event, although small, was a great success and added fuel to Pascal’s quest to promote Mui Ne worldwide. He created the very first windsurfing website for Vietnam, www.windsurf-vietnam.com.

On December 16, 2001 Jibe’s windsurf and water sports club was born. Pascal and his wife Phuong had taken the next step by opening the Full Moon Hotel and Jibe’s Beach Club in the heart of the bay. This provided windsurfers from all over the world with a place to stay and a centre to rent equipment. News spread fast about the venture and Mui Ne’s amazing wind conditions, and foreign /media as well as sports and tourism magazines began to take Mui Ne more seriously.

By 2011 Mui Ne was home to the PWA (Professional Windsurfers Association) World Windsurfing Tour, a widely recognized international event covered by the world’s sporting /media. The KTA (Kite Tour Asia) also held a number of events in Mui Ne and it’s only a matter of time before Mui Ne welcomes the PKRA (Professional Kiteboard Riders Association) events. Jibe’s hosted the 15th Vietnam Windsurf Fun Cup with close to 40 international competitors, including local riders from Vietnam.

Mui Ne has come a long way from the days of a single, dusty road, oxcarts and the odd lone foreign backpacker. It is now firmly on the map as the best water-sport location in Vietnam, and one of the best locations in the whole of Asia, with a vast choice of accommodation, restaurants and nightlife. Kite surfing, windsurfing, classic wave surfing, stand-up paddling and sailing have brought this once sleepy little fishing village to life. In the middle of the high season (November-April) it is not uncommon to see more than 200 kite surfers on the water and sometimes in the air, but I can’t help feel a twinge of nostalgia for the old days when the bay was still a secret jewel in Vietnam’s beautiful coast line.

Author: Adie Casket

IS THERE A STORY OR TIP

YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE WITH US?

GET IN TOUCH