Novaworld Phan Thiet review

The new coastal resort town on the South Central coast of Vietnam.

Novaworld Phan Thiet

NovaWorld Phan Thiet is a new housing and leisure area by the Novaland group. The development is 20 km south of the centre of Phan Thiet on the South Central coast of Vietnam. Over 1000 hectares (10 square kilometres) of land have been acquired to build what is essentially a brand-new town.

If you have never heard of it before, then check out this page which gives an overview of Novaworld Phan Thiet.

This style of urban development has become a common sight in Vietnam. A developer will acquire a town-sized block of land, and then proceed to build identical housing units. It’s an unnatural way to build a city, and there are scores of such developments across the country that remain unfinished.

Novaworld Phan Thiet review

I have gone by the construction sites on previous visits to Phan Thiet, and even then it looked like an urban planning disaster in the making.

Parts of Novaland Phan Thiet were open to the public on my most recent visit in April 2023, so I stopped to have a look around.

Phase 1 – Hotels and shops

Riding south along the coast from Phan Thiet City I arrived at the entrance of Novaworld Phan Thiet (henceforth referred to as Novaworld). This area is the most complete section of what is eventually planned.

The landmark building here is the Movenpick Hotel. The hotel is inspired by Dutch colonial architecture and there is a Pirates of the Caribbean ship in the pool area.

Movenpick Hotel

There is a row of shophouses that are open for business, but there was hardly anyone there. All of the shops that are occupied are brands that are familiar to me in Saigon. I soon discovered that most of these shops are owned by Novaland under their food and beverage division (NOVA FnB).

Novaworld shophouses

I have been watching brands get acquired or launched by Novaworld over the last few years in Saigon. Some of them include:

Phindeli (cafe chain)Don Chicken (Korean Chicken)Sushi Tei (Japanese restaurant)Dynasty House (Chinese restaurant)Gloria Jeans (American-Australian cafe chain)

I thought it was odd that the Korean fast-food chain Lotteria and American Baskin-Robbins was at Novaworld. After looking up the website I discovered they are part of NOVA FnB in Vietnam.

It’s an interesting tactic by Novaland. If you can’t convince shops to come to your new urban development, then buy out the shops and move them there.

I stopped for a coffee at Phindeli, and seeing that it was a Nova-branded cafe made me feel less bad about it having no customers. I would feel bad if an independent cafe was set up here hoping to make a living in this ghost town.


Bikini Beach

Bikini Beach is the main beach of Novaworld. There are two signs that announce the name, along with Novaland corporate branding.

Bikini Beach

There is a big car park in front of the beach area which makes the area unappealing.

Car park

If you have never been to Binh Thuan, this province is always hot and mostly sunny. It’s like the Andalucia or Southern California of Vietnam, so having a big hunk of asphalt does not make me want to stop at this beach.

Another thing about Binh Thuan is that it’s a windswept coast. It’s great for kitesurfers and wind farms that are spreading across the province, but the water is not calm enough for the average swimmer. The advertising brochures show that there is going to be a swimming enclosure built at Bikini Beach.

Bikini Beach has some Instagram/Tik-Tok props.

Bikini Beach woman

Amusement parks

Next to the giant car park is the Clownworld amusement park. It was open when I was there but it didn’t look like anyone was there. Nearby is the Adventure World amusement park (not open) and another unfinished hotel development.

Adventure World


Florida houses

The “Florida” section features rows of cookie-cut houses. This section sits on a hill overlooking the commercial area near the beach. This section wasn’t open to the public, so I didn’t get to ride around the streets. I saw the front street by climbing the stairs behind the shops. Are they expecting everyone who lives here to use these steps to go down to the shops and beach?

Stairs to shops

To walk to the houses from the shops, one must climb this steep staircase, or drive. I was wondering about how the residents will go to the shops when I saw the Nova Supermarket in the lower shopping area. If you live in one of the Florida houses, you either have to bring your shopping up the stairs, or drive the short distance like a true Floridian would.

Nova Supermarket

To illustrate this, here is the path on Google Maps. The map is set to satellite view so you can see how the street layout is not built for walking. The green line between the shops and houses is a steep embankment, so you can’t just walk across it in case you were thinking of creating a shortcut.

Looking at Google Maps again, the strip of undeveloped land at the top of the Florida section is reserved for the Boutique Shoptel development. This will at least add some shops closer to the housing area. It still doesn’t fix the fact that they have built an unwalkable urban area, replicating the worst urban planning sins of the real Florida.

They are selling these as seaside homes, yet you can’t walk to the sea.

Santa Monica

The next section further along the coast is called “Santa Monica”. Part of a hill has been carved out to make way for a housing row along the road. This was still a work in progress so I didn’t get to see the houses.

Road to The Kingdom

There is a new road here that goes inland to The Kingdom and the PGA Golf Course.

The Kingdom

The biggest project appears to be The Kingdom. The sales brochures depict an exciting urban area with apartment blocks and vibrant street life. There is even a plan for a 10,000-seat arena. Saigon is a city of nearly 10 million people that desperately needs a 10,000-seat arena. I’m not sure why they think provincial Phan Thiet needs such a large arena, and how they expect so many people to come to watch a specific event.

Most of the land has been cleared for this stage, and the area is marked off with construction fencing. One of the towers for The Kingdom has randomly been started in the middle of it all, and it is now abandoned.

Kingdom construction

Who is this for?

Novaland is one of the most prominent real estate advertisers across Vietnam. Novaland advertising can be seen in airports, and in Ho Chi Minh City Novaland projects are advertised as “second homes” (in English and Vietnamese).

It feels like Novaworld is just a second home enclave for wealthy Saigonese (or those with access to loans) who want an occasional weekend home. A new expressway will soon make it even quicker to travel from HCMC to Phan Thiet.

If that is the case, then these shops will continue to remain lifeless, only kept open because they are owned by Novaland. The beach area is not enticing, so why would a local come here when you can go to the Phan Thiet/Mui Ne beach?

How to fix Novaworld Phan Thiet

I’ve written before about building better new cities in Southeast Asia, and this project ignores most of those points. Here are my tips on how to fix what is already been built.

Cancel the unbuilt areas

First of all, cancel the unbuilt areas and consolidate what has already been built. Vietnam is awash with unwanted coastal properties, so it’s time to stop building more. Novaland is now offering discounts for Novaworld Phan Thiet, so continuing to build doesn’t make any sense.

Connect “Florida” to the beach area

There needs to be better access to the shops and beach from the Florida area. It could be that Florida was designed this way as a gated community. In that case, gated communities should not be allowed if they are designed in such an unsustainable car-centric manner.

Fix the beachfront promenade

The beach is separated from the shops by two roads and the big car park. Nothing about this area makes me want to stop here. There should be a row of cafes and restaurants with a beach view, next to the beachfront promenade. Even better, close the second road entirely that is closest to the beach.

Who is the car park for?

Is the car park for the residents who can’t walk to the beach, or for day trippers from elsewhere? I get that there needs to be a car park for the amusement parks, but why place it in such a prime location? It looks like it’s out of a 1950s planning manual for US cities. Build an enticing urban area that people want to go to (and return to). Don’t build car parks in prime locations. The car park area is so ugly that I could not wait to get back on my motorbike and escape.

What’s with the beach helipad?

Why is there a helipad on the beach and do I need to explain why this is a bad idea?

Copy the good parts of Florida and California

Why copy the worst of American urbanism when you can copy the best?

In the urban planning community, the unwalkable cookie-cutter suburbs of Florida represent the worst of modern America.

On the other hand, South Beach in Miami is one of the best urban areas in the US. It works because it has a gridded-out street layout that is easy to walk. And as I mentioned in the building better new cities article, there is a diversity of architecture and not rows upon rows of the same building.

The same goes for Santa Monica in Los Angeles. The Santa Monica of Phan Thiet is nothing like the Santa Monica of Los Angeles. Santa Monica works because (like South Beach) it has a gridded street layout that is easy to walk (a rarity for Los Angeles).

Here is South Beach Miami on Google Maps. Just copy this and you will never have to discount your properties ever again because people will be lining up to live here and visit.

The same goes for Santa Monica. Just copy the street grid of Downtown Santa Monica up to 4th Street.

Mix it up

If you want to see how the South Beach and Santa Monica model works without travelling to the USA, then go to Da Nang. The An Thuong Tourism Area replicates these urban areas by having a gridded-out area by the beach. It is easily walkable, and the urban area is left to its own devices to grow, block-by-block. There are apartment blocks, big hotels, villas, and small shophouses all mixed in together.

Do away with the corporate branding

I don’t want to go to a corporate-branded beach or live in a corporate-branded town. If your project is great, then you won’t need to tell everyone your name, we will find you.

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