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Introducing the magic of Phan Rang — Vietnam's 'land of the towers'

Thursday, October 08, 2020, 11:30 GMT+7
Introducing the magic of Phan Rang — Vietnam's 'land of the towers'
A troupe of Cham dancers balance pots on their heads while performing in the Kate Festival in Ninh Thuan Province, Vietnam. Photo: Gia Tien / Tuoi Tre

Phan Rang-Thap Cham City, a coastal paradise that doubles as the capital of Ninh Thuan Province in south-central Vietnam, is not just another sandy oasis on the country's coast.

Instead, this sleepy getaway offers visitors a mixture of picturesque landscapes and indigenous cultures hard to find in Vietnam’s better-known beach towns.

A Cham temple is seen in Ninh Thuan Province, Vietnam. Photo: Gia Tien / Tuoi Tre

A Cham tower is seen in Ninh Thuan Province, Vietnam. Photo: Gia Tien / Tuoi Tre

Ninh Chu-Binh Son Beach

Ninh Chu-Binh Son beach is one of the hottest draws in Phan Rang.

The fact that crowds seem to avoid this place in favor of tourist hubs such as Vung Tau and Nha Trang makes it ideal for travelers looking for unsullied sands and waters. 

The beach itself curves into a gulf, protecting swimmers from harsh waters — a calming juxtaposition to the rolling mountains that cast shadows over the Ninh Chu-Binh Son sands.

At certain times of the day, fishing boats filled with the day’s catch can be seen in the distance, heading toward the beach’s peaceful, slopped shores. 

A snapshot of Ninh Chu Beach in Ninh Thuan Province, Vietnam. Photo: Gia Tien / Tuoi Tre

A snapshot of Ninh Chu Beach in Ninh Thuan Province, Vietnam. Photo: Gia Tien / Tuoi Tre

The best 'banh xeo' in town

Visitors looking to get away from Phan Rang’s waters may choose to visit Po Krong Garai, Bau Truc ceramic village, Ba Moi vineyard, and Vinh Hy Gulf.

But regardless of what they do during the day, they all agree the best way to enjoy the evening is by digging into a fresh 'banh xeo' (Vietnamese pancake) — the local delicacy.

Phan Rang’s version of 'banh xeo' employs the same batter mixture used in the rest of the country, but the pancakes themselves are smaller.  

After preparing the mixture, 'banh xeo' chefs spread the batter atop an earthen stove fueled by charcoal.

Phan Rang-style 'banh xeo' (Vietnamese pancake) are cooked on a stove in Ninh Thuan Province, Vietnam. Photo: Gia Tien / Tuoi Tre

Phan Rang-style 'banh xeo' (Vietnamese pancakes) are cooked on a stove in Ninh Thuan Province, Vietnam. Photo: Gia Tien / Tuoi Tre

The dish is served in bite-sized pieces and topped with an assortment of local ingredients including pork, shrimp, squid, and bean sprouts.

Typical 'banh xeo' condiments include 'mam nem' — a type of fermented fish paste — diluted fish sauce, peanut dipping sauce, braised fish sauce, as well as scores of raw vegetables.

All the main avenues in Phan Rang-Thap Cham City feature street stalls with vendors selling the dish, particularly in the area surrounding April 16 Park and along Binh Son Beach.

Specific 'banh xeo' restaurants that are well known throughout the city include Banh Xeo Hai and Quan 89, both of which consistently have lines out into the streets. 

Two servings of Phan Rang-style 'banh xeo' (Vietnamese pancake) is served with four different types of condiments and a variety of raw veggies at an eatery in Ninh Thuan Province, Vietnam. Photo: Nhu Nguyen / Tuoi Tre

Two servings of Phan Rang-style 'banh xeo' (Vietnamese pancake) are served with four different types of condiment and a variety of raw veggies at an eatery in Ninh Thuan Province, Vietnam. Photo: Nhu Nguyen / Tuoi Tre

The Cham ritual dance

Kate is the most important celebration of the year for the Cham people in Ninh Thuan Province.

The celebration takes place on the first day of the seventh month in the Cham calendar, which typically coincides with September and October in the Gregorian calendar. 

People gather at the ancient Cham towers of Po Krong Garai and Po Rome en masse in order to attend the traditional rituals.

The centerpiece of the event is the Cham dance, a performance carried out by Cham women donning traditional attire, hand dans, scarves, and brocade belts.

The women who participate in the ceremony use their poetic, expressive moves to weave through the rhythm of ginang, paranung drums, kanhi strings, and karanai trumpets, creating unforgettable grandeur.

A troupe of Cham performers dance the Cham traditional dance during the Kate Festival in Ninh Thuan Province, Vietnam. Photo: Gia Tien / Tuoi Tre

A troupe of Cham performers dance the Cham traditional dance during the Kate Festival in Ninh Thuan Province, Vietnam. Photo: Gia Tien / Tuoi Tre

A troupe of Cham performers perform in the Kate Festival in Ninh Thuan Province, Vietnam. Photo: Gia Tien / Tuoi Tre

A troupe of Cham performers perform in the Kate Festival in Ninh Thuan Province, Vietnam. Photo: Gia Tien / Tuoi Tre

Visitors crowd the location of the Kate Festival in Ninh Thuan Province, Vietnam. Photo: Gia Tien / Tuoi Tre

Visitors crowd the location of the Kate Festival in Ninh Thuan Province, Vietnam. Photo: Gia Tien / Tuoi Tre

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Tran Dinh Thanh / Tuoi Tre News

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