On most trips abroad over many years I have lived on the old adage that the locals must eat somewhere and indeed they must drink somewhere too. Not for them tourist prices and tourist food . Instead they return to their local places tucked well away from the tourist strips or main drags.
It has stood me in good stead though finding them normally tasks a few days effort at the start of the stay. Normally then I drink at almost local prices and eat the food as it was intended to be eaten when first invented in the area hundreds of years before.
However there is clearly one stumbling block to this excellent theory and that is when the locals don’t live in the area they work and in this case miles away by bus or motor bike.
Mui Ne is an invented town built in the last few years along the road that follows the long 7 kilometre beach. Phan Thiet is the town where they live and that is some 5 kms away to the south .
Like so many areas developed into tourist centres since the early 1960’s the locals must have been really surprised when the early developers ignored their town and drove off looking for the beach . In most of the countries where tourism has taken off the locals didn’t use the beach at all and the villages or towns are built defensively to protect the inhabitants from raiders from the sea. Sun worshipping was and is unheard of and it must have come as a complete shock that the land the developers wanted is the very land they had laughed at the owners of as to them it was worthless.
In 1952 on a 3 day stop at Athens my father an airline pilot with BEA sat at a beach shack that served cold beer with a few of the crew. The owner a gold toothed man who was a fisherman pointed to the hill that went up behind the beach area and asked him if he wanted to buy it. There was a big sign in Greek on the hill that was evidently a for sale sign. “£10 the lot for you Capitano” he said. My father looked up at the dry scrub land and down to the gravelly dirty beach and years before package holidays and mass tourism said to the owner. “Who the hell would ever want to come here on holiday”. The place was Vouliagmeni and that hill now is listed as the most expensive real estate in the whole of Europe.
There is a local bus service into Phan Thiet and there are unmetered taxis as well, but once in there one has to start then searching out local watering holes and places to eat. It is all just a little too far away though I will hop in for a visit just to see.
Instead we must make do with the New Town which like so many new towns all looks rather the same.
There are shops selling beers, bottled water and swimsuits.
plenty of tourist shops selling well you know tourist stuff that you buy one evening walking along normally after a few ales and then get home and quietly dump before the neighbours see it. Unless you give it to some deserving aunt as a present and let her dump it.
And then lots of similar looking restaurants
with English and Russian menus and foods ranging from spaghetti to pizza ( thank you Italy) to fish and chips ( thank you Britain) and some extremely sanitised Vietnamese dishes. The pho last night bore almost no similarity to the pho eaten on a Saigon pavement cafe on Thursday night.
My job instead is to now seek out the cheapest place selling beer as the restaurant food is all the same. I have made striking progress on that front and have in 3 days moved us on from a joint selling a 330ml bottle at 20,000 dong ( 70p) down to a find for tonight at 10,000 dong (30p) so even with a chilli- less pho at 40,000 dong rather than the blow the top of your head off dish at 27,000 in Saigon it still makes a cheap night out.
Mind you it would be nice to see a chilli used in anger by a cook before we leave here. Clearly the Russians don’t do chilli and because only tourists eat on this strip the cooks just make what sells and who can blame them .