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Published: April 14th 2019
So we’re into the final stage of our Vietnam holiday. The bit where we kick back and relax after ten or so days of intense tourism. We’re at The Cliff holiday resort at Phan Thiet about 5 hours away from Saigon.
Its a self-contained complex with all the luxury and garnish you'd expect from such a place. With a couple of glistening blue pools, a terraced restaurant for an extensive breakfast complete with an egg bar. There are lush green lawns replete with palm trees and plenty of colourful plant life to enjoy. There’s even a ‘swim up’ bar in the main pool for those who want to enjoy a cooling drink in their cossie!
In many ways, a picture postcard example of an idealised holiday paradise.
The rooms here are lovely. Spacious, clean and served by efficient air conditioning. Which is just as well as it's sweltering with high humidity. To wear anything but shorts and a t-shirt would be to roast oneself to Sunday lunch perfection.
The amenities at The Cliff are indeed comprehensive, and it’s all one needs to finish off a whistle-stop Vietnamese tour. To, as the vernacular goes, ‘chillax’.
coastal walk from the resort is Phan Thiet a seaside town with restaurants, bars and shops. After only a short visit you can't help notice this place has a couple of remarkable facets. Indeed, there are perhaps two elements that are a little off-kilter.
First, there is an excessive number of massage parlours. I counted three in a block of six shop fronts with many more dotted around. These are not the seedy type of establishment you understand (not that I plan to find out of course). I’m reasonably sure a ‘happy ending’ in these joints would just be a cooling glass of cucumber water.
The second is the unmissable Russian influence. Many establishments display their services in Cyrillic. And you can detect several of the owners and patrons are indeed Russian.
There are a good number of eastern European dishes on restaurant menus that contrast jarringly with the local dishes. Delegacies like borscht or beef stroganoff that would usually be eaten on a Georgia Steppe. This smorgasbord includes goodly chunks of barbecued meat that include pork, beef, chicken, crocodile, ostrich and deer.
And if you want something even more exotic you can try frog, eel,
or turtle. They'll happily fish then out of the on-site tanks and chuck em straight onto the coals for you. Now that’s fresh assuming your conscience can deal with the aftermath.
One can only assume that this is, and was, a favourite holiday spot for Vietnam’s fellow communists with a good number settling here to set up shop. The other assumption is that Russian holidaymakers must enjoy a Vietnamese massage hence the wide availability. They’ll come in their thousands to be kneaded and slapped like sweaty dough by an aggressive local masseuse.
After they sluice down their well-pummeled body, grunt dasvidaniya and knock back a glass of cucumber water, they can pop off for some well-deserved grilled frog.
It does, however, limit the possibilities for more delicate western Europeans like us who aren’t comfortable being in a place which has a surfeit of edible amphibians. We did eat in one such establishment, trying not to make eye contact with the doomed critters on the way in. And we enjoyed our well-broiled pork having eschewed the exotic flora and fauna available as a curry, shish-kebab or stew. To the eyes of a veggie or vegan that still makes
us hypocrites. In whatever case, I can't see the WWF giving this resort a five star Trip Advisor rating.
Happily, the culinary choices do broaden out. But you have to travel quite some way down the road, maybe two or three miles to find the most appealing bars and eateries. Eventually, the outlets start to look like somewhere you'd like to eat dinner and not be committing crimes against nature.
However, no matter how far you travel through Phan Thiet there’s always a wild west, shanty town feel about the place. Luckily, on a western budget, a taxi ride to the furthest reaches costs just over a pound. And the overall provision becomes more recognisable (and edible).
So now the plan is to relax, maybe frolic a little in the pool and try to find some more eateries that don’t contravene international cruelty standards. We’ll do some last minute shopping and pack our now overstuffed bags in readiness for the tedious journey home.
You never know we might even get a workable tan that lasts for a good few weeks when we’re back in overcast, Brexit-torn Blighty.
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