After checking several travel agencies in Saigon, we booked a morning bus ticket to Mui Ne for 80,000 dong (USD $4.60) per person. We don’t usually buy at the first travel agency we asked. Oftentimes, we would buy at the fourth or fifth travel agency because by then, we know the average price. This enables us to bargain for a fair price.
The bus ride to Mui Ne took about 6 hours, including the lunch stop. You may ask the driver to drop you off at your preferred accommodation. We picked Nhat Thi, a guest house not mentioned by the pirated Lonely Planet we bought in Saigon. We were able to negotiate USD$7 for a double room since we plan to stay for at least 3 nights. The room was spacious and very clean. Even got a fancy mosquito net, mini fridge and cable TV. It’s on the other side of the street though, not facing the sea.
Second important task after finding accommodation.. scour the best place to eat! We had a meal at Lam Tong Family Restaurant. The fried squid in satay sauce is worth a try for 35,000 dong (USD $2). The restaurant is a good place to relax and watch the kite-surfers.
We still have a good 3 hours before the sun sets so we decided to rent 2 bicycles. I have to say we are good in bargaining because we rent both bicycles for 6 hours, for only 30,000 dong (USD $1.7). We bike to the Fishing Village , around 30 minutes from our guest house. It was a beautiful harbor and so peaceful.
I can’t wait to get up close to the small circular woven boats. I have seen it before in one of the episodes of ‘The Amazing Race’ when it was shot in Vietnam so I was excited.
Unfortunately, I didn’t try to ride one. I didn’t even see anyone rowing the circular boat to and from the shore.
Since we got a mini fridge in the room, we bought cheap fruits at the nearby market. A medium-sized watermelon for 17,000 dong (USD $1) and pineapple for 10,000 dong (USD $.60). Finally a healthy dinner!
The next day, we bike to Phan Thiet to see the Cham Tower ruins. The road was a bit uphill at some points. However, seeing the Mui Ne coastline on a clear day was rewarding enough.
We reached the Cham ruins after biking for almost 2 hours. The weather suddenly changed so we hurriedly took photos.
Too bad these Cham structures are not well-preserved anymore. I can only imagine its magnificence back in those days.
We biked back as fast as we could to avoid the rain, have lunch and join our 2:30 pm tour of Fairy stream, Fishing Village, Red Canyons, Red Sand Dunes and White Sand Dunes. The half-day tour costs USD $24 for 2 people or USD $10 each for a group of 4. Good thing 2 Thai girls booked the tour as well so we saved USD $4.
I would recommend having a meal at the Moon Restaurant. The staff were very attentive and polite. The food was well-prepared and reasonably priced. I had a whole fried red snapper fish with rice and vegetables for 45,000 dong! (US $2.60)
After a good meal and a quick shower, the tour jeep picked us up at our guest house. The driver was glad to bring an all-Asian group for the tour. 2 from Thailand, 1 from the Philippines and 1 from Malaysia. On the walking path leading to the Fairy Stream, we were greeted by the strong aroma of fish sauce. It reminded me of Saigon street food. Without the fish sauce, something was definitely missing.
The Fairy stream is a small body of water winding through huge sand dunes and boulders. At the steps leading to the shallow water, you would likely meet 2 or 3 young boys who would offer their services to be your tour guide or volunteer to safe keep your shoes while you walk around the stream. A tour guide is not really necessary. I let them keep my hiking shoes though.
More photos of Fairy Stream.
It’s always good to take photos, around 3 in the afternoon, on a clear day. You don’t even need Photoshop!
We spent more time than recommended at the Fairy stream. Our jeep driver asked us to hurry so we make it on time at the red sand dunes for sunset. On the way to the white sand dunes, we passed by the fishing village again. The Thai girls took some photos then we’re off.
The white sand dunes or the white lake as the Vietnamese calls it, is a vast sandbox.I haven’t been to the Sahara but it was on my mind the moment I realize its immensity. No camels though.
The Red Canyon is fascinating as well. However, if you walk further, trash is all around.
The Red Sand Dunes is a popular spot for locals and tourists to have a picnic or simply hang out. The road to where the dunes are easily accessible got several restaurants and souvenir shops. One interesting thing to note is some restaurants got hammocks where one can spend the day lazily while having a cold drink or probably take a nap after a meal?
An hour before sunset was just the right time to walk around the sand dunes. Not too warm and most importantly, good light for taking photos.
The Red Sand Dunes would have been an excellent place to catch the sunset but sudden appearance of dark clouds made it impossible. The wind was very strong. We had to put the camera inside a plastic bag to prevent sand from getting in. I even felt the sand inside my mouth!
We didn’t get enough of the tour so the next day, we rent a motorbike for 100,000 dong (US $5.70) and went back to the Fairy Stream. This time, there was no time pressure so we walked as far as the water is clean. Same as the Red Canyon, we found out there’s a point where garbage was scattered all over.
We then drove to the Red Sand Dunes and had lunch at the restaurant with hammocks. No, I didn’t took a nap but I recommend trying the Vietnamese pork chop rice for 20,000 dong (US $1.50), sweet and sour fish with rice for 40,000 dong (US $2.30) and a cooling tomato shake for 10,000 dong (US $.57).
That day, we didn’t just visit the amazing sites of Mui Ne. We also had the chance to meet its amazing people.Our motorbike ran out of gas in the middle of nowhere. No houses nor shops nearby, just the beautiful coastline. 10 minutes after the bike’s engine died, I heard a motorbike coming so I waved my arms frantically. It stopped, Thank God! With sign language, we were able to tell the 2 guys the situation. One of them asked me, again by sign language, to ride his bike and he’ll take me to a petrol station. His other friend would stay with Ming. Upon arriving at the station, which was roughly a 10 minute drive, I was expecting to be overcharged for 1 bottle of petrol. To my surprise, I was charged the usual 15,000 dong (US $.85). We drove back to where Ming and his friend were waiting and load the petrol. They even offered to return the bottle to the station themselves! We were offering some money for their help but they refuse it. Such kind-hearted people!
Just like everywhere else, we won’t leave a place without trying street food! We drove to Mui Ne town and tried the Pho Bo (Beef rice noodle). It was so good! For only 15,000 dong (US $.85)!
A trip to Mui Ne is not complete without trying seafood street stall. We stopped by one which was crowded with locals. The serving and price is reasonable enough but most importantly, it was so delicious. Grilled scallops for 20,000 dong (US $1.14), grilled mussels for 40,000 dong (US $2.30), grilled squid for 5,000 dong each (US $.29). It was one of the best meals we had in Vietnam.
We chose to go to Mui Ne instead of Nha Trang because we heard it is a more relaxing place. I wasn’t disappointed of our decision and would surely visit again.