The town of Phan Thiet is located in the South Central Coast of Vietnam. On Labor day, we all decided to stay overnight at the Romana Resort in Mui Ne which is similar to the Philippines’ Boracay.

Though the beach was not as fabulous as Bora’s or Bohol’s the resort was lovely and relaxing and afforded us awesome views of the South China Sea. The swimming pools were quite enticing and that is actually how we spent the bulk of our time at Romana. Personally, it was quite a pleasant surprise for me to find so many lovely resorts and interesting restaurants line the main avenue of Mui Ne. Vietnam has really grown by leaps and bounds and has begun to attract quite a huge number of tourists.

What is interesting to note is that up to 1991, only Russians were allowed to visit the country as tourists, this is the reason perhaps for so many establishments in Mui Ne that cater to the Russian market. Today however, people of various
nationalities come to this quick get-away by the sea and many in fact, now own businesses on the island. Still, very few visiting Asians — kami lang ang Pinoy at that time we visited and majority of the tourists were from Europe. Few Americans still venture into this country as tourists, as to why that is so, one only need to look into Vietnam’s history to find the answer.

The food is great and very reasonable, even cheaper than Manila. The accomodations are world-class and again, the rates are way lower than what you would pay for something of equal quality in Bora or Bohol. What is lacking though is the element of service and hospitality. Vietnam still has quite a way to go, and has many lessons to learn before it can become at par with Thailand or the Philippines in terms of the high standards of hospitality. Sa aspetong ito, medyo madami pa silang bigas na kakainin kahit na ba tayo ay nag-aangkat ng bigas mula sa kanila… It is very safe though and the crime rate is close to zero. You can walk the streets safely and not fear of being mugged or harrassed on the streets.

Phan Thiet is a pleasant seaside town that features an active fishing fleet and was once at the heart of Panduranga, the last semi-independent Cham principlaity. Locally, the town is celebrated for its Nuoc Mam (patis) and afficionados like to dispute whether the best fish sauce comes from here or Phuoc Cuoc Island. H, who is such a Nuoc Mam “addict” bought six bottles to stock at home for our personal consumption :) and yes, I can tell you that it is EXCELLENT.

Vietnam marked the 33rd anniversary of the Fall of Saigon last April 30, 2008 and since it was a national holiday, H and I thought it would be a good day to visit the famous Cu Chi Tunnels. However, we got rained out and rather than risk swimming in puddles, we decided to head out to see the One Pillar Pagoda which is about 20 minutes away from where we live.

The little pagoda you see here, was built by monks who fled from there after the country was partitioned in 1954. During the Vietnam Was, the temple was used by the Vietcong as an undercover camp. Despite President Diem’s efforts to destroy the pagoda, the monks were able to keep the structure safe.

The unique structure rises from the middle of a lotus pond and a narrow staircase leads from the pond’s edge to the porch-like entrance. The pagoda has many windows and provides an almost unbroken 360-degree view.

From the pagoda, we headed out to Phu My Hung to have lunch with some new-found Pinoy friends — actually friends we re-connected with since we were all at the same Jesuit University at some point in our lives. Lunch was fabulous dimsum, capped off by steaming hot mugs of Gloria Jean’s Coffee - yes, the first American coffee franchise I’ve seen here :)

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