Sadly, as we only had 9 days in South Vietnam, we couldn’t venture too far from Ho Chi Mingh City. After consulting the holy grail of travel guides and examining a map, we decided our best option was Mui Ne Beach.
Against my better judgement I had booked the bus to Mui Ne through the same company that arranged our Mekong Delta trip. Hence another chaotic start: not getting picked up where the travel agent told us we would; lugging our heavy backpacks a few blocks to get to the coach; and of course we didn’t leave on time.
Aaah the joys of travelling in Asia :-)
But, on the bright side, it is officially the most comfortable bus I have ever travelled on. A sleeper bus, with reclining seats/beds and plenty of room to stretch your legs in front.
Now this is the way to travel.
The bus driver, on the otherhand, was probably the rudest driver I have come across in all my travels. When you get on a bus in Vietnam you have to take off your shoes and place them in a plastic bag. Two young french girls missed this cultural custom and got on the bus with their shoes on.
If they dared!
The bus driver, unable to communicate with them, just grunted very angrily at them. The poor girls looked at him confused and unable to understand, simply continued towards the back of the bus. After a few more incomprehensible grunts, a well educated Vietnamese guy piped up in English how disrespectful they were. Bus trips in Vietnam are turning out to be pretty fiery.
So be warned take your shoes off on sleeper buses!!!!
The rest of the journey was peaceful, 5 hours of watching Vietnamese life through the bus window, until we finally reached our destination of Mui Ne Beach. Then guess what? We weren’t dropped off at our hotel as promised. Grrrrrr!!!!
On arrival at Mui Ne, I make two interesting discoveries
- It is a huge Russian holiday resort; shop signs and menus are even written in Russian.
- It is the kite surfing capital of Vietnam.
Kite surfing was a bit too adventurous for me, so Ian and I decided to book a half day jeep tour to visit the sun dunes.
The first site and scam of the day was at the Fairy Stream. On arrival there were two young boys to collect your shoes before you entered the water. As we were led to believe everything was included, it was annoying 15 minutes into the tour we were already having to part with our Vietnamese Dong. However, after paying we were slightly more annoyed to learn they were simply looking after them for us and we could have carried them ourselves.
Don’t you just love being seen as a walking wallet!!
I was a bit dubious at the start of the fairy stream, having to walk barefoot in yucky looking brown water, with the banks aligned with rubbish; however within a few metres the stream was pristine and I started to appreciate its beauty. The contrast of the orangey/brown water against the green vegetation was very pretty. We only had time for a short walk, but would have loved to explored further.
It was a one hour scenic drive to the sand dunes, passing a beautiful rugged coast line. On route the invisible woman was spotted riding a motorcycle. It brought many smiles to our faces, seeing the efforts the Vietnamese ladies went to stop the dust and sun.
Scam number 2, on arrival to the White Sand Dunes we were very disappointed to discover that our jeep tour didn’t include actually driving on the sand.
What’s the point of hiring a jeep just to drive on the road?
You can hire quad bikes to drive yourself, but we went for the simpliest option of walking barefoot through the sand.
The last part of the tour was sunset at the red sand dunes. We got hassled into hiring pieces of plastic to ride down them. It was more effort than it is worth; walking up sand dunes is exhausting, every 2 steps you climb you slip 1. And the plastic weren’t the slipperiest!! Personally I wished I’d given sand boarding a miss and enjoyed the sunset, which I didn’t really get to appreciate due to the chaos of trying to photograph Ian sliding down a dune.
It was a short and sweet visit to Mui Ne beach, but I am glad I ventured a bit further than Ho Chi Mingh City.
Info: Don’t book anything before you go, a half day sand dune tour can easily be organised through local travel agents or hotels in Mui Ne. You can go for sunrise or sunset; as it was Winter we chose the afternoon tour, but in Summer it is would probably be better to enjoy the dunes early morning (even if it does mean a 4.30am start), before it gets too hot! Our guide did not speak any English and so communication was very hard, so I wished we had thought to ask for one.