Phan Thiết is the capital of Binh Thuan Province, on the coast in Vietnam, where all government offices for the province are located. While most of the inhabitants live in the city center, the others live in the four urban coastal wards, extending from Suoi Nuoc beach in the northeast towards cape Ke Ga in the southwest.
Traditionally, fishing and manufacturing of fish sauce has been the main source of Phan Thiết's income thus far, the picturesque fishing fleet in the harbor colorful proof. Drawn by the beautiful beaches of the area, tourism is rapidly replacing the fish industry as the main employer.
The first resorts along the beaches of Hung Long and Phu Thuy wards, as well as Phu Hai and Ham Tien wards east of the city centre appeared in the mid-nineties. Since then, tourism has boomed and hundreds of hotels, restaurants, resorts, guesthouses and shops have been constructed along the coastline. Thinh
Rang Beach in Ham Tien ward was discovered by foreigners in 1995, while they watched the solar eclipse. Misled by guidebooks, which incorrectly labelled Rang Beach as "Mui Ne Beach", they were the first of a long row of tourists mistakenly calling everything east of the Phan Thiet city center.
Each area of Phan Thiết has its own characteristics. The beaches of Ke Ga and Tien Thanh are peaceful and quiet, inviting tourists to swim and relax. There is not much traffic on the roads along the coastline, so walking or riding along the beach is quite peaceful.
Compared to Nha Trang, the density of resorts along the beaches of the city center in Phan Thiết is quite low, so when tourists leave their hotels, they step into the middle of the bustling daily life of a Vietnamese city. You can walk to many restaurants, museums or shopping malls – even visit the school where Ho Chi Minh taught before he went to study in Paris.
Phu Hai ward covers a hilly area along the coastline and has many small beaches and hidden coves. Many of the resorts in this ward are built above the water on the hills and have a relatively small beach to themselves. Sea Links City, composed of a hotel, condos, apartments, a winery and a golf course is located here. Ba Nai Hill in Phu Hai ward is the place of the old Po Sah Inu Cham Tower, built in the 8th century and worth a visit.
Alongside the 10 kilometer strip of what is locally known as Rang Beach, in Ham Tien ward, there is a lively tourist strip. Hundreds of resorts, hotels, bars, restaurants, shops, travel agencies and spas are situated here.
In recent years advanced beach erosion has become a major issue for Phan Thiết's beaches, especially in Phu Hai and Ham Tien wards, so some resorts lack a beach at high tide: the water directly reaches the sea wall. In recent years a number of resorts had to install geotechnical tubes (Geotubes) to keep their beaches from further eroding.
One of the great tourist attractions of Ham Tien is the so-called Fairy Stream, where a small creek has carved a canyon through the dunes, revealing colorful layers of sand and limestone.
Beyond Ham Tien is Mui Ne, consisting of two communities, adding up to around 25,000 residents in the actual town and two beaches. The second community is Hon Rom, a real fishing village with a few hundred residents. Mui Ne has the highest population outside the city center and is quite lively in the morning. In the evening locals join together for coffee or dinner at the many cafés and restaurants, especially around the local market.
Mui Nee actually translates to "Shelter Cape," because for ages the local fishermen used the cape to shelter their boats from the wind. The town itself covers the west side of the cape, whereas many resorts are alongside Ganh Beach and Suoi Nuoc. A resort in Mui Ne ward is the right decision for people who want to be close to a local community, but keep their distance to the bustling tourist strip and rather prefer a quiet beach.
Another tourist attraction are the orange sand dunes, located on a hill between Mui Ne and Hon Rom. At the entrance of Hon Rom you can explore the "Red Canyon", a small cliff which has eroded to create a beautiful ridge, consisting of fragile red sand. The larger white sand dunes (Bau Trang) are around 23 kilometers north of the town.
Phan Thiết operators usually make a distinction between winter and summer seasons. During winter, mostly Northern Europeans and Russians spend their holidays here, far away from the northern chill, to enjoy kitesurfing and windsurfing. In the summer season, Phan Thiết is a popular destination for Australians and North Americans, as well as many Vietnamese escaping the steaming hot cities for a fresh breeze of sea wind.
This area used to belong to the ancient kingdom of Champa and was later absorbed into the Dai Viet Empire (former name of Vietnam). Vietnamese rule was established over the area which has become the present-day province of Bình Thuận, although back then the administrative level and the boundaries of the area hadn't been determined.
In 1697, Bình Thuận in turn was changed from a fort ("trấn") to the district (phủ), then to the dinh. Later, Phan Thiết was officially recognized as a đạo (along with Phan Rang, Phố Hài and Ma Ly of the Tam Tân area).
From 1773 to 1801, there were fierce fighting between the forces of the Nguven dynasty and Tay Son dynasty in the area. In 1825, during the reign of Emperor Minh Mang, Bình Thuận officially became a province; part of Phan Thiết was made into the district of Hàm Thuận. In 1854, during Tu Duc's reign, the district was renamed Tuy Lý.
In 1836 (17th year of Minh Mang, a cabinet officer named Dao Tri Phu was sent to Bình Thuận to oversee the surveying tasks and establish land boundaries for 307 communes and villages, in fifteen districts of Bình Thuận in order to determine taxation. On the right bank of the river (Cà Ty river today): Đức Thắng, Nhuan Duc and Lac Dao village; left bank side: Long Binh, Minh Long.
Even near the end of the 19th century, Phan Thiết was not yet officially recognized as an administrative unit (lower level) under Bình Thuận province.
In 1898 (10th year of the reign of Emperor Thanh Thai, Bình Thuận's provincial capital was moved to Phu Tai village, a suburb of Phan Thiết. On 20 October of that year, Thanh Thai signed a degree to make Phan Thiết a city and provincial capital (on the same day as the establishment of the cities of Bình Thuận, Hue, Hoi An, Qui Nhon, Thanh Hoa and Vinh.
In the 20th Century, it was a centre of VNQDE independence movement activity.