After a stay in Ho Chi Minh City most visitors to Vietnam looking for a bit of beach time head East to busy Nha Trang and the South China Sea. Further south is the nuoc mam (fish-sauce) producing town of Phan Thiet but keep going a little further and you’ll come to Mui Ne a small fishing town with a long sandy beach which is the kite-surfing hub of SE Asia. If you’re not looking for an adrenaline hit or you fancy a day away from the beach there are some sights in the area that are well worth a visit. Check out my guide on what’s to do and see in Mui Ne.
Most of the taxi-cabs in Mui Ne display signs offering various tours of the local attractions. We didn’t want to rent a scooter as the roads didn’t feel that safe and a bit of air-con is never a bad thing so we booked up a four-hour tour for $24. We were picked up from our hotel and set off to check out some of Mui Ne’s highlights. Tuan, the driver, was great and although he spoke no English and we spoke no Vietnamese we got on fine – he even gave us Vietnamese sweeties on the journey!
The White Dunes, Mui Ne
About 25 kilometres north-east of Mui Ne are the white dunes – okay, they’re not strictly white but they are whiter than your average sand dune. The appeal is that they dip right down to a lotus lake surrounded by greenery which is a beautiful contrast. There’s a small snack bar by the entrance and quad bikes for rent at 400,000 VND per hour (around $20). There’s no charge to visit the White Dunes. It gets a bit blowy on the dunes and I nearly didn’t get my DSLR out but the cloud formations were amazing that day so I took a chance…
The Red Dunes, Mui Ne
The red dunes are nearer to Mui Ne about 20 minutes drive from the town. As soon as we reached the top a bunch of kids ran over to ply us with plastic surf mats but I was more than happy to stay upright that day. The sand was a lot coarser than the white dunes and squeaked as we trudged our way to the top – did anyone ever tell how hard it is to trek up a sand dune? Although not as impressive as the white dunes there are some wonderful views out to the ocean. I’m guessing the sunsets here are spectacular. There’s no charge to visit the Red Dunes.
Mui Ne Fishing Village
The third stop was at Mui Ne fishing village. We pulled up by the busy main road and Tuan even stopped the traffic for us to cross! There’s a steep concrete slope with steps set into it which lead down to the sea and a small beach filled with piles of empty scallop shells. The night’s catch is landed early each morning and sorted right there on the beach; the flies and the smell are testament to that but it’s worth putting up with for the views of the brightly coloured boats stretching across the water as far as you can see. There were lots of the small round basket boats that you see all over Vietnam including some of the original boats woven from bamboo. Nowadays the majority are made from coloured fibre-glass. I’m sure you’ve already guessed that the seafood in Mui Ne is impressive.
The Fairy Stream, Mui Ne
At the far end of Mui Ne beach was our last stop of the day. The Fairy Stream. I was a little dubious about this and thought it would consist of a few metres of muddy stream and be a bit of a tourist trap. I was happily surprised. It was actually a really pretty area with over 500m of rippling stream which had carved its way through rust coloured dunes, limestone rock formations and lush bamboo groves.
We slipped off our sandals and started wading through the cooling water as our toes sank into soft red sand. Almost immediately a local teenage boy attached himself to us and although our unofficial guide was mute he made sure we understood him perfectly and pointed us to all the best areas. He also led us up some pretty steep banks; getting up them was okay but coming down was trickier – I think he might have overestimated my abilities! He pointed to my camera offering to take some photos of us and he took some pretty good shots – he had a good eye. You really don’t need a guide at the Fairy Stream but this guy deserved his tip. There’s a small enclosure en-route with snakes, crocodiles and other animals and there’s Ostrich racing if you like that kind of thing… There’s currently no admission charge to get into The Fairy Stream. And by the way we didn’t see any fairies.
Check out the Sunsets
Some of the best sunsets I’ve seen were on the beach at Mui Ne. We’d take a walk each evening and have a Tiger Beer at a small bar about a kilometre away and watch the sun go down as the die-hard kite-surfers made the most of the waves before dusk.
There are other sights to visit around Mui Ne and Than Phiet including The Reclining Budha and Cable Car around 40k away or the nuoc mam (fish sauce) factory if you fancy filling your face with the smell of anchovies left in brine for eight months. There’s also a world-class championship golf course nearby and we played 18 holes while we were there – more about that in a future post.
How to get to Mui Ne and Phan Thiet from Saigon
To get to Mui Ne or nearby Phan Thiet from Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) is straightforward. We booked a car transfer which cost around $90 each way (Dec 14) door-to-door with a rest stop half way and took around 5 hours. I realise that not everyone would want to do this but it was right for us. There are other options:
The Train from Saigon (HCMC) to Phan Thiet
The train departs Saigon at 06:40 a.m. and arrives in Phan Thiet around 4 hours later at a cost of 140,000 VND. Then take a taxi to Mui Ne which takes around 15 minutes at a cost of around 80,000 VND. More details here.
The bus from Saigon (HCMC) to Phan Thiet and Mui Ne
In the main tourist area in District 1, HCMC are dozens of travel agencies where you can buy a bus ticket to Mui Ne. Buses leave at various times during the day and the journey will take around 6 hours with one food/comfort stop and cost around 130,000 VND. To book your bus ticket on-line, in advance, go to Vietnam Bus Tickets – they offer online bus ticket bookings on most routes around Vietnam too.
Buses leave HCMC at the following times: 7am, 7:30am, 8am, 1:30pm, 2:30pm, 3pm, 6pm and 7pm.
Buses leave Mui Ne at the following times: 1am, 7:30am, 8:30am, 9:30am, 11:00am, 2:30pm, 3pm and 3:30pm