Photo: Cham Tower, Phan Thiet.

Eat and meet

The dining scene in Phan Triet is dominated, not surprisingly, by local seafood. The places along the river draw crowds of Vietnamese even if they are staying in Mui Ne -- the word is the offerings in Phan Thiet are better and cheaper. There are several interchangeable places along the beach but locals single-out Song Bien on Le Loi for its seafood -- it's set up mostly for large groups, so those dining solo in and in pairs may find themselves sitting alone at a table for ten. Just next door is a small place offering more intimate dining and a bit of western food in addition to fresh fish -- Little Saigon -- the pasta is home-made and ribs and steak are also on the menu at reasonable prices.

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The beach is also home to a dozen water-side cafes offering drinks only -- again, one is as good as the next, so pick the one with the best atmosphere and the best views of the water. There are more places along the beach promenade to the north of those along Le Loi.

Off the beach, along Ton Duc Thang St, just before the turn to Mui Ne, is Nelly Natural Restaurant. Despite the name, it mostly offers Italian food and ice cream. The interior feels a bit unwashed, but western-food options in Phan Triet are limited, so give it a try. The Co-op Mart on the corner of Nguyen Tat Thanh and Tran Hung Dao Sts features a Lotteria, which is a Korean chain emulating McDonald's, adapted to Asian palates. The supermarket on the first floor has a deli case where you can pick up good, cheap rice dishes to go. If you're on the west-bank, Nam Thanh Lau, along the Thi Minh Khai Promenade, usually draws the crowds with a wide variety of Vietnamese dishes, and unlike the places along the beach, there's an emphasis on meat dishes as well as fish.

There's a line of seafood and beer joints along the Ca Ty river, on the east bank, south of the southern-most bridge. At the top of the street is Xuan Vang, notable for its second floor balcony overlooking the water. If you're looking for roasted chunks of barbequed chicken and pork along with cheap bia hoi, head away from Xuan Vang along Vo Thi Sau St -- there's a no-name place at the corner of Cao Thang St with a lot of local colour. Continuing south along the same road, there are a couple of good garden cafes along the left, to top off the evening with a drink. If you're staying on the beach, you can get to this area by following Le Loi to the south, taking a right at the elbow in the road, and continuing 1.5 km to the river.

For fine dining with a selection of seafood and international cuisine and an extensive wine list, head to the Seahorse Restaurant at the Novotel. In the evenings they set up tables on the beach surrounded by tiki torches. You'll have to get a visitors' pass at the gate to enter, but it doesn't cost anything.

Co-op Mart: Corner of Tran Hung Dao and Nguyen Tat Thanh St, Phan Thiet.
Little Saigon Restaurant: Le Loi St, Phan Thiet. T: (062) 829 356. Open: Daily 08:00 to 10:00.
Nam Thanh Lau Restaurant: 10 Thi Minh Khai St, Phan Thiet. T: (062) 816 777. Open: Daily 07:00 to 21:00.
Nelly Natural Restaurant: 188 Ton Duc Thang St, Phan Thiet. T: (062) 831 063. Open: Daily 06:00 to 23:00.
Seahorse Restaurant: Novotel, 1 Ton Duc Thang St, Phan Thiet. T: (062) 822 393.
Song Bien Restaurant: Le Loi St, Phan Thiet. T: (062) 829 868. Open: Daily: 08:00 to 10:00.
Xuan Vang Restaurant: 20 Vo Thi Sau St (corner of Pham Van Dong), Phan Thiet. T: (062) 823 118. Open: Daily 08:00 to 22:00.

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Where to next?

Where are you planning on heading to after Phan Thiet? Here are some spots commonly visited from here, or click here to see a full destination list for Vietnam.

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