Desert-like Dunes, Dirty Beaches and Fishing Villages
Is it the Sahara? Is it Egypt? Or is it the Gobi Desert? Nope, it’s one of the most unexpected sites in Vietnam, the sand dunes in Mui Ne. Although the sand dunes weren’t the only unbelievable sites, Mui Ne is made of beaches, mountains and fishing villages. However, the sand dunes made the short trip worth it.
The dunes are best seen at sunrise or sunset. We chose the afternoon tour. We jumped in a jeep with our new German traveling buddies, Lisa and Dominik. First, we went to the fishing village where boats lined the ocean and women were pulling in nets of fish. Then, we went to a place called Fairy Stream. Skeptically, we took our shoes off and walked up what seemed like a dirty brown stream, but it was just the color of the sand that made the water look nasty. Just a few meters down the stream, we stepped into what resembled a miniscule grand canyon. Red, orange and gray rocks and sand lined the small stream. We climbed up and the tour guide jumped from the top to the bottom of the sand, about 15 feet down! He was fine of course, because most parts of this miniscule canyon are soft red sand. However, some sand feels like rocks because it dries in the sun. Naturally, Randy jumped from the top, too.
Our next stop was the White Sand Dunes. These were so beautiful, it really seemed like we were in a desert. Our pictures are really the best description of the dunes. It was definitely worth hiring a tour guide and driver for the day because the road to get there was pretty rough. The tour guide warned us about the children who pickpocket tourists and who charge us to use a plastic board for sliding. Yes, we slid down the dunes! But we didn’t pay because the boy was asking for a ridiculous price for only five minutes of sliding. We just found a broken board and broke it even more. It was like we were kids again.
Our last stop was the Red Sand Dunes, where we saw the sunset. The red sand and blue, purple and orange sky set the scene for the most perfect pictures. Even though tourists usually only do a day trip for the dunes, it’s definitely worth it because it’s just not something you wouldn't expect in Vietnam. We paid a pretty good price. Among the four of us, it cost $25 USD, 500,000 VND.
In addition, the beach was not as nice as other beaches in Vietnam. Some said it was because it’s still rainy season, so the tide brings in the sand from the bottom and the water looks dirty. We didn’t even get in the water because there were dead jellyfish lying on the shore. However, Mui Ne is more known for kite surfing rather than swimming in the ocean. There are plenty of places that offer lessons.
Another site worth seeing, if time permits, is the reclining Buddha. It’s the largest reclining (sleeping) Buddha in the world! It’s about an hour or two from Mui Ne, just past Phan Thiet. We went by motorbike, which probably wasn’t the smartest idea because everyone says that the road we took is the most dangerous in Vietnam. But, we were fine. Others hire a driver for the day, but also pay twice as much as we did. The Buddha is located on top of Ta Kou Mountain. You can hike up for two hours to the top, or take the cable car, which is what we did. It was just way too hot that day. There are other pretty tall Buddha statues to see on your way up to see the reclining Buddha.
And that concludes our three-week backpacking and lugging around our suitcases in Vietnam. We’ll definitely be traveling more in Vietnam, but we wanted to save some for weekend trips while we live here. Mui Ne was a nice, relaxing way to end our trip before we start looking for jobs in Ho Chi Minh City. Check back for updates on how we found our job in HCMC.