Compared to Nha Trang to the north, and Mui Ne beach to the south, the beaches in Ninh Thuan province like Ca Na and Ninh Chu aren't as postcard-pretty, but if you're looking for a half-decent stretch of sand and don't want to share it with other travellers, then you're in the right place -- few travellers have heard of Ninh Thuan and even fewer overnight in the province. Aside from the twin towns of Phan Rang Thap Cham and the beaches, there's fishing and craft villages, pagodas, cham temples and diving opportunities to keep boredom at bay.
Ninh Thuan gets barely a mention in most travel guides and the Open Tours slow down on the way through Phan Rang Thap Cham just long enogh for a drinks break at the Cham towers before pressing on to bigger, brighter and far far busier destinations to the north and south. This means if you're keen on seeing the less-travelled Vietnam and don't mind a lack of creature comforts, then this province is worth having a bit of a poke around in.
The two sister cities of Phan Rang Thap Cham on the southern coast of Vietnam are seven kilometres apart. Phan Rang is the favourite sister, and Thap Cham is very much the neglected step-sister -- there's no place to stay there and little reason to visit. You may pass through it on your way to Po Klong Garai Tower and you'll see what we mean.
Phan Rang is typical of the 'large town' hubs that are found throughout Vietnam, providing a sizable central market and a variety of services useful to locals living in the region. It's often recommended as the place to stay if you're interested in the surrounding sites, but we'd recommend staying on Ninh Chu beach seven kilometres to the east rather than in town.
Surrounding sites on offer include a few worthwhile Cham towers -- in fact a lot of Cham people still live in the area -- you'll notice the men, in particular, going about their business wearing their traditional white headdresses. You can try impressing them with a greeting of saalam, rather than xin chao.
Other than the towers, we found Phan Rang to be a good stop for craft lovers -- there are two Cham villages nearby, one specialising in weaving and the other in pottery -- and it also serves as a base if you are interested in exploring beaches like Ca Na or Cam Ranh Bay.
If you're a fan of dragon fruit, you're in the right place -- Phan Rang is said to grow the best in Vietnam.
Text and/or map last updated on 31st August, 2009.
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Ninh Chu Beach
Ninh Chu Beach is just south of the area that has many salt flats/ponds. It is quiet (or was 40 some years ago)! Friends have stayed there in the past year, including one who lived and taught in local schools in the late 1960s to early 1970s, as well as the sister of a volunteer who worked in the province in the early 1960s. Both recommended the area highly.
Also, the third weekend of October 2009 is the annual Cham festival. It takes place just northwest of Thap Cham the weekend of October 17 & 18. It would be a wonderful opportunity to be there to appreciate the culture of the Cham people.
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By ChuckCable (dabbler)
Written on 31st August, 2009 after a visit to Phan Rang Thap Cham in ,
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