Mui Ne: Skip the Beach & Climb the Dunes

Read more about my Self Care Sabbatical and the other places I’ve visited! 

This section of my trip is really summed up by rain and Russians. First, I spent 3 days hiding from pouring rain in very-Russian Nha Trang. Then I made my way slightly further south along the coast to Mui Ne, hoping for a bit of sunshine and a few beach days. Instead, I got cloudy skies. And more Russians.

When we left Nha Trang on the bus, we drove through some deep water to get out of town. Water deep enough that it got into the luggage hold on the bus. And got my bag wet. I was lucky that my laptop, which was stupidly in my stowed bag, didn’t get too wet. But all of my clothes were damp and smelly when I got to Mui Ne. it was a reminder to always use my bag cover when traveling! And take the laptop out!

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At least it wasn’t really raining in Mui Ne. There was a bit of rain here and there but, for the most part, it was just really cloudy. So I could still enjoy the beach or the pool but in less than ideal circumstances.

Most people come to Mui Ne for kitesurfing as that is what this area is known for. But conditions for kitesurfing were terrible while I was there so all the kitesurfers were really bummed as well. It was just a crummy time to be in Mui Ne I guess.

Okay, it wasn’t all bad. I happened to be in Mui Ne for New Year’s Eve and ended up meeting some people from my hostel to hang out with at one of the local clubs. It was definitely not my scene, but the people watching was excellent (see: drunk and on-drugs Russian people).

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I am very tired in this photo. Tired and sandy.

I also had a chance to explore Mui Ne’s famous sand dunes at sunrise which was pretty incredible. Yes, I went through a tour arranged by my hostel so I was on the dunes with a bunch of other people (mostly Asian girls taking Instagram photos in nice dresses), but it is quite a sight to see the vast dunes in the early morning light. Our tour picked us up quite early (4:30am) so we would make it to the dunes for sunrise – it is worth it! One thing to note – there is an extra charge for taking the ATV up to the dunes (200K VND). If you don’t take the ATV, you see nothing. Bring cash! I didn’t know this was required and was lucky I had enough money with me.

After sunrise at the White Dunes, the tour stopped at a few other places worth checking out in Mui Ne:

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Red Dunes – More dunes. Different color. You will see kids sliding around the dunes and more posing. It’s a good workout climbing up and down all of that sand.

 

Fishing Village – Arriving early in the morning you will get to see all of the fishermen bringing in their catch to be sold. Wander down to check out all of the fresh fish, crabs, and more. I really loved observing the fishermen and all of the women cleaning the fish to sell it. The fishermen here also take these round boats which look really cool, but seem like they would be quite difficult to steer!

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Fairy Stream – I was a little skeptical of this last stop and didn’t really know what to expect about this “stream that you can walk on”. It was actually really cool! As you walk along the water, the dunes come up around you and the colors in the sand are so intense and gorgeous. I could have definitely spent some more time here just wandering around (we only had about 30 minutes with the group). There are little places to buy snacks and drinks as you walk along (good if you are hungry after all this early morning tourism). This stop is near the beach area of Mui Ne so is walkable from many of the hostels and guesthouses.

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If you want to rent a motorbike to visit these places, that’s a good option so you can go on your own (translation: avoid the crowds that go with the tours that happen twice daily, one at sunrise and the other in the afternoon for sunset).

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Where to Eat: Because it’s on the coast, there is lots of seafood to be found in Mui Ne. The main road is full of restaurants offering fresh fish which you can pick from the iced crates in the front of the restaurant. You can also order more standard dishes from the menu (fried rice, stir-fried veggies). I was pretty unimpressed with these restaurants and found them to be a bit overpriced and bland.

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one of the many seafood spots
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oyster fried rice & morning glory

There are a few good spots that I did find while killing time in Mui Ne:

  • Choi Oi – Veggie-friendly spot featuring Vietnamese dishes, as well as other food. Cute little spot, came here a couple of times
  • Joe’s Cafe – Live music every night. Good spot for happy hour or to have a few drinks and enjoy the music. Food is a bit expensive and the service is SLOW.
  • Joe’s Beach Cafe – Come here if you want free beach access (just buy something from the cafe and you can hang here or at their pool). Good coffee and breakfast food.
  • El Latino – I have been pretty unimpressed with Mexican food in Asia, but am sometimes willing to try (especially when my other options are limited). Fish tacos here are good (though not really typical fish tacos) and the drinks are strong (and well-priced for happy hour which is basically all day). Recommend!
  • Hills Burgeria – Great spot for burgers – they offer big and small portions with a variety of options.
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Tacos!

Getting There: Taking a bus is the easiest way in and out of Mui Ne if you aren’t driving yourself. Buses are pretty frequent to other cities in Vietnam (HCMC, Nha Trang, Dalat). As I mentioned on my Nha Trang post, I would recommend Sinh Tourist for buses. My hostel booked my bus for me and I got stuck on Hanh Cafe which was nowhere near as good (and my standards were low). The bus was so hot (I was stuck in the back with little to no AC), felt more cramped and dirty, and they didn’t offer any water to passengers. And the service was quite abrupt.

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Traveling in Vietnam is not glamorous – Especially on Hanh Cafe’s bus

Where to Stay: There are a lot of backpacker hostels around Mui Ne, many of which cater to more of a party crowd. I was not looking for that. So I stayed at Mui Ne Ocean House which promised to be a quieter alternative. It’s more of a hybrid hostel-guesthouse as it features a few dorm rooms and a few private rooms. The dorm rooms are small and can be quite crowded – it’s not set up well like some of the other hostels which have more amenities around each bed (translation – only a few outlets scattered around the room). But there was a nice pool, decent breakfast at the restaurant below the hostel, and it was cheap. Oh, and it was very quiet. I was generally one of the only people at the pool and the hostel was extremely quiet most of the day and night. I did finally meet a few girls on my last night there (New Year’s Eve) and we hung out with drinks on the balcony before going out. Apparently, the vibe at this place can change quite a bit depending on who is staying there (a week earlier it had been quite lively, I heard).

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But if you are looking for something more party or more beachy or more in nature, you will have a range of options in Mui Ne. There are also nicer resorts to be found – basically, everything is along one major road so it really depends what you want to do and where you want to be located along the beach area (ie surfing and kitesurfing areas). I never made it into Mui Ne’s city center, but don’t think there was much there.

 

 

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