Two Nights in Mui Ne, Vietnam. Worth the visit

Back in July 2005, I posted this on Globosapiens. Then I put it on my old Asia-travelbug blog, where it became one of my most viewed posts. Now it’s here on WordPress.

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Mui Ne has quiet beaches, gorgeous resorts at reasonable prices, friendly people, and great food. If you are in Saigon and have 2 nights to spare, I’d recommend a visit.

All those traveling to Vietnam who own a copy of Lonely Planet, raise your hands. OK, that’s all of you. In the Lonely Planet, you’ll read that Mui Ne is one of those undiscovered places that you should get to before the hoards arrive. I mentioned this to a group of travelers on a bus trip near Saigon. They responded by waving their own copies of the book, telling me that they already had their tickets. So much for undiscovered.But when I got to Mui Ne, about 200km northeast of Ho Chi Minh City, those people I’d expected to see just didn’t materialize. In spite of being peak season along a 10km strip of accommodation ranging from $2-a-night bungalows to luxury resorts, the place seemed deserted. Walking on the beach at night with no bars, music or lights, I couldn’t get over the peace and quiet of the place.

The puzzle was solved at dinner. I was the only person alone. The rest of the clientele were couples, mostly from Russia. It seems that on my end of the beach, where the nicer, yet still relatively inexpensive hotels and resorts are, it’s a couple’s paradise. On this end of the beach you’ll find some of the better seafood restaurants, plus Internet shops and a few bars in the hotels.

To be honest, I don’t really go much for seafood. Even in Mui Ne, I still had to have my favorite Vietnamese dish, Pho Bo (Beef Pho) once a day.

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Pho…the only way to go in Vietnam!

As you move down the beach, you’ll get cheaper bungalows and lower-end places to eat. If you’re traveling for a year on a shoestring, this may be where you’ll want to stay. But if you can afford it, I recommend spending at least one or two nights at a higher end resort. I stayed my first night at the Saigon Mui Ne Resort, in a fantastic room that faced the ocean. The landscaping leaned to the lush and green, with ceramic jars and other antiques strategically placed to look like they had just been found there and left untouched.The only downside to staying in such nice surroundings was being alone. You really need somebody to share it with. Too bad I’m not Russian.

Sightseeing

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The Dunes just a few Km up the road from Muine

I’ve learned to appreciate the value of organized day trips. And if you are in Mui Ne, the daytrip of choice is the dunes tour. You’ll be picked up long before the sun rises — usually in a vintage US jeep left over from the war — and be taken to the red sand dunes. Expect to be accosted by groups of local kids trying to sell rides on crazy carpets down the sides of the dunes. Next up is a local fishing village. You’ll see innumerable boats just returned with the morning catch, all floating motionless, side by side. The colors are vivid and striking to the eye even at 7AM.

The final stop is a leisurely hike along a shallow river lying in the shadow of a range of amazing red-rock cliffs. The destination of the hike is a small waterfall, but the real goal is the experience — the cliffs on one side, the lush jungle on the other, the sensual feeling of walking on a sandy riverbed with water red from the silt flowing over your toes, all under an intense blue sky. Certainly worth the US$10 you pay for the tour. The dunes tour will show you some of the highlights of the area. But there is always more to see and do if you have time.

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The red river near the dunes close to Muine

For those who do not mind spending a bit for a tour, there are plenty available. Others may wish to hire a local motorcycle taxi for the day. To find a local taxi, you need only set foot on the main street along the beach and about a dozen guys will follow you for as long as you stay on the road. They are the definition of persistence. But they are also good natured and willing to bargain for a fair price.The Dunes Tour ranges anywhere from US$8 – 15, depending on how many people go, and if you take the half-day tour as described above, or the full tour. The full tour includes a stop at the more remote white sand dunes. They are probably beautiful, but I didn’t think it was worth another few hours in the sun in the middle of the day.

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Accommodation
As I wrote above, I stayed one night at the Saigon Mui Ne Resort 847303 Km 12.2 on the beach road. The cost back in 2005 was US$60-100+ depending on the type of room and the season. I’m not sure how much it would be now, but if you book through an online agency you can always get good deals. The hotel site is:
http://www.saigonmuineresort.com

 

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Nice jugs!

It was beautifully landscaped, and the staff were wonderful.

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Khue…my fav waitress at the Muine Resort

The girl in this photo was the coffee shop person, Khue. She told me a million interesting things about the local culture, and she made great coffee. Perhaps the most interesting thing I learned about Vietnam was her reaction when I told her that my first part time job was at a McDonalds. She replied…”What’s McDonalds?” Wow! I knew that there are no major chain stores in Vietnam — not a Big Mac or Mocha Frappuccino to be seen– but there was something refreshing about being around people who have never even heard of the Golden Arches. Although, if you look closely at the photo, you’ll see one major corporate name that has made inroads into Vietnam.

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Nightlife??
If you want night life, then Mui Ne is not the place to be. Better just to bring a book and enjoy a coffee by the beach. There are bars in a lot of the hotels, but nothing worth writing home about. Well, that’s from the perspective of a single guy traveling alone. But did I mention that Vietnam has fantastic coffee?

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Coffee at Muine Resort

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