The Secret Sand Dunes of Vietnam
My family is from Vietnam so I’ve seen practically the entire country from top to bottom. Every time anyone asks me where to go they already have landmark places like Ha Long Bay on their list. But I really encourage people to go out of the way for Mui Ne. I had never heard of sand dunes in Vietnam before and was so glad to have it recommended to me by my hostel in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City).
How to Get There
The easiest way to get there is from Saigon. The bus is the cheapest and can cost from $6-10 but will take between 5-7 hours. The train is 4 hours and can cost $16-$20 and takes less than 4 hours. Since Mui Ne is so small, a lot of buses actually drop you off at the door of your accommodation. I took the bus so it was a lot more helpful. From the train station, you’ll have to find additional transportation to your accomodation.
How Long and Where to Stay
If possible, book your stay well ahead of time. This town is even smaller than it is touristy. I made the unfortunate mistake of being there for a holiday weekend (April 30th is Reunification Day) and stayed at 1 & 10 Hotel because it was the last room in all of Mui Ne when I booked. I also was recommended the town by my hostel in Saigon because I had no idea where to go from there. I highly recommend staying anywhere else because I was in a room with no windows, air-conditioning, outdoor bad showers, and the electricity frequently went out.
I made a bunch of friends on my tour that were staying at the Mui Ne Hills Budget Hotel and loved it. I also visited them there and would completely recommend it over mine. Finally, I would suggest 2-3 days in Mui Ne. Of course, if you love the beach life you’re welcome to stay longer. But 3 days is long enough if you just want to have the Mui Ne experience.
Red Sand Dunes
And speaking of sand dunes, the main of attraction are the Red Sand dunes (that are not actually that red up close). Get ready to take the most picturesque photos.
There’s also an option to rent ATVs have a someone drive you, and slide down the dunes on mats. I would highly recommend the ATVs and paying the extra $10-15 for the rental with a driver. If you’ve never driven an ATV before (like my friend Ciara and I) we really really struggled to get up the dunes and just ended up paying for someone else to drive us (one person at a time). The guys there really know how to rip up and down the dunes so don’t waste your time if you’re not an experienced ATV driver (also consider that it’s sand and not land, you tend to sink even if you can drive).
Skip the mats though, and just soak it all in. Also be careful to agree about the price before the drive gets on – I know lots of people have to fight with their driver afterwards. Remember to also have your camera ready for the drive to and from the dunes! You get to start to see people herding their cows along the way!
Fairy Stream and Nature Walk
Okay prior to this, I really didn’t know what to expect but now I’m SO glad I went. The fairy stream is basically a nature walk where you take off your shoes (wear flip flops so your shoes won’t be wet after you put your them back on) and just walk along this trail. It’s absolutely breath-taking, and much more photo opportunities!
Before the walk, you have the option of paying a man $1 to watch your shoes. I would just pay it, because chances are, you’re shoes cost more and if any passerbys hear you’re shoes aren’t guarded, they may just take them.
White Sand Dunes at Sunset
Make sure you get all your good pictures at the Red Sand Dunes! Depending on the tour, you may go here first, but I actually think it’s best to come here at the end of the trip. The dunes aren’t as nice, as they are not as not as large and the sand is not as pretty and soft. We went across the street for some pre-dinner snacks and beer (soda for me because I don’t drink), and we just talked as the sunset over the dunes. A perfect ending to the tour.
Dinner time: Seafood, of course!
Seafood restaurants are everywhere! So really, you won’t run out of choices. If you can’t decide though, Mr. Crab is a favourite!
Be careful about the bill. I was with English-speaking friends at dinner, so the waitress didn’t know I spoke fluent Vietnamese and could read the bill and prices correctly.
Overall: Touristy Beach Life
All in all, I really enjoyed my time in Mui Ne but it’s not somewhere I feel the need to go back. It’s not super authentic to Vietnamese culture and if you couldn’t tell by my tone in this article, there are a lot of scams because it’s so touristy. So have fun but just be careful.
Pro trip: Lastly, in case you too got stuck in a lame hotel, most of the beaches are private to the resorts, but if you go in, and just order a drink (or in my case, smoothie) at the bar, they will usually let you use their beach if you’re just sitting and reading/tanning.
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