Mui Ne, Vietnam essential guide by Matt Hilton
Located at the southern end of Vietnam’s enchanting eastern coastline, Mui Ne is the last coastal outpost before the chaos of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Sitting modestly just four hours outside of the hustle and bustle, Mui Ne is without doubt the angel on the shoulder of Saigon. Laid back vibes pour from the heart of Mui Ne as it boasts the capacity to offer a little something for everyone. Backpackers travel in droves to ogle at the famous white sand dunes. Sports enthusiasts flock to the ocean to try their hand at kite surfing, and city slickers hole up in the beach side resorts, escaping the bedlam of Saigon.
Places to stay
Mui Ne hosts an abundance of classy and comfortable resorts overlooking its fantastic coastline. It also houses a host of hideaway backpackers and budget guesthouses for travelers seeking a cheaper and more rustic experience.
The luxury resort Long Son Mui Ne Resort does what not many other fancy resorts do – open their doors to lovely backpackers like you and me – with Camping! Not many resorts have so many different kinds of accommodation to suit so many different budgets. At Long Son Mui Ne Resort, there are five kinds of tents you can camp in either in their aptly named ‘Backpacker Square’, on the resort grounds or even right on the beach! Single tent (3$ USD – with a special $1 USD price on Thursdays!), $3 USD for the next night), double (5$ USD / night), premium (7$ USD / night), superior (10$ USD / night) and luxury (which is the same tent as the superior option, but is set up in a private area with private beach access for just 20$ USD / night!). Mattress, pillow and blanket are included and of course there are free toilets and showers nearby. If you don’t fancy camping, there are also bungalows available for a great value for money 30$ USD / night and even dorm beds at 7$ USD/ night.
Long Son Mui Ne Resort. Photo by: vietnamcoracle.com
For those looking for a taste of Luxury at an affordable price check out Mui Ne Hills Resort. Tucked away above the Mui Ne Coastline, Mui Ne Hills is an expanding, clean and comfortable resort, complete with a pool and bar area. Their food is fantastic and can be enjoyed whilst overlooking spectacular views of the stunning coastline. This resort appeals mostly to expats seeking a weekend getaway, but if you are looking for a rare night of luxury on your travels you’ll find everything you are looking for at Mui Ne Hills.
Mui Ne Hills Resort. Photo by tripadvisor
For a new, modern and vibrant backpacker resort, look no further than Mui Ne Backpacker Village. The resort hosts a fantastic pool and bar area serving delicious food at a reasonable price. A bed in a dorm will set you back around $10 whilst a double or twin private ensuite will cost around $30. The hostel offers numerous jeep tours to the sand dunes and surrounding areas and lies in the heart of Mui Ne’s backpacker area.
Things to do
The white sand dunes have long been the most popular tourist attraction in Mui Ne, and for good reason! Imposing dunes encapsulate the entire landscape making you feel like Laurence of Arabia wandering through a desolate corner of the Sahara. For the complete experience it’s possible to visit the sand dunes at sunrise, when the spectacle of the rising sun creates an awe inspiring view. The sand, untouched at this early hour, welcomes your footsteps on its soft, cool surface. As the sun rises find your own spot in the deserted dunes and watch as the morning rays dance across the landscape. It’s well worth getting there early to cement a prime spot atop an empty dune and capture those all important pictures and memories.
Visitors will undoubtedly be offered the chance to hire a quad bike or knee board on arrival at the dunes. During the day this experience is great fun as the dunes offer copious amounts of open space to let loose. However, avoid the temptation at sunrise as the quad bikes prove only to become an ambiance killer and will limit your time to enjoy the sunrise.
The significantly less impressive red sand dunes sit directly next to the coastal road running out of Mui Ne. The rusty red dunes are indeed a spectacle, but have unfortunately become a tourist trap. The dunes are crowded and overrun with friendly ladies trying to sell knee boards. It’s pretty much impossible to get a clear picture with the surrounding landscape. They are worth a quick stop, but not a place to linger too long.
Red sand dunes in Mui Ne
On the winding coastal road out of Mui Ne you’ll come across a steep concrete verge which, from a distance, looks like exactly that, a concrete verge. However, step towards the edge of this imposing coastal drop and absorb the impressive panoramic view of the fishing scene below. At the foot of the drop, old fishing boats decay gracefully under the sun whilst out in the bay an armada of fishing vessels float patiently on the calm water. Take a walk on the beach where the industrious workers sort frantically through the day’s catch. The scene on the sand is an assault on the senses. The smell of fish, both fresh and rotting is, unsurprisingly, overwhelming. Powerful colours dominate the shoreline. Ladies, brightly dressed, crouch down to inspect the catch and even litter finds a suitable home in the chaos of the sand. If you eat seafood during your time in Mui Ne, it probably came from here. To really appreciate one of Vietnam’s most prominent industries, it’s well worth watching the melee of where your dinner came from.
Him Nin fishing village in Mui Ne
Mui Ne fishing village
Hidden comfortably down an inconspicuous alley way, the concealed entrance to Mui Ne’s beautiful Fairy Spring protects its integrity from the masses. Leave your shoes behind and step carefully into the shallow stream carved out between the dunes. The stream flows slowly and leads you on a delightful stroll through this striking landscape. At times the dunes become as high as canyons, towering impressively above you as you wander aimlessly onward. For the best view of the surrounding landscape it is possible to scale the side of a lung busting dune and ogle from the top at the scene beyond. The golden sand and deep green trees clash to form a magical clash of colour. The stream, to my knowledge, doesn’t lead anywhere in particular. But just to experience the landscape and possibly meet some friendly faces along the way makes a stroll through the stream a necessity for any trip to Mui Ne.
Kitesurfing and Windsurfing – are extremely popular in Mui Ne and with these trendy sports comes the inevitably cool, laid back vibe as surfer types play on the beach in the day and chill in the bars at night. For those wanting to try the sports for the first time, lessons are available but they can be pricy. Serious types tend to bring their own gear.
Kitessurfing in Mui Ne
On the whole Mui Ne is as laid back by night as it is by day. Restaurants ranging from traditional Vietnamese to Indian and even German food scatter along the quiet strip. It’s best to eat early as the restaurants won’t stay open much after 10pm. Many visitors choose to eat in their beach side resorts and so the main strip will never really be bustling in the evening.
With the constantly changing outlook of Mui Ne’s laid back atmosphere, often the best way to find a nightspot is by asking around. But here are a few of the more popular spots.
Pogo Beach Bar & Grill sits right on the beach just outside of the centre of Mui Ne. Double beds nestle on the shoreline for the romantic couple looking for a night left alone with nothing but the sound of the waves. The outdoor bar remains dimly lit and offers the privacy required for such a night. Meanwhile the well stocked bar offers happy hour cocktails for those looking for a more festive experience. There are tables and beanbags scattered around the open bar area and in the background a DJ plays his set with the music never imposing, but always present. The food here is great, with a simple menu of well cooked Western and Vietnamese dishes at reasonable prices.
If you’ve had enough of Mui Ne’s timid side, head to Dragon Beach Bar & Lounge where the party gets a little more hectic by local standards. DJ’s, both local and western, play deep house, techno and drum ‘n’ bass late into the night. The bar also hugs the coastline and has a great chill out area for when it all becomes too much.
At Joe’s Cafe live music is the order of the day, with live acts playing most nights from 7.30pm onwards. Here you’ll tend to find a big crowd of expats attracted by the impressive food and drinks menus.
How to get Mui Ne?
From Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) there are two trains which run daily to Mui Ne’s nearest station Phan Thiet. The first departs Saigon at 06.40am and the second at 17.40pm. Both trains take around four hours and are very reliable. A soft seat will cost you 175,000 ($8US). For this you’ll get a comfortable reclining seat with air-con and the offer of a food cart. A hard seat will set you back a mere 95,000 VND ($4.50US) and will get you a park bench with shuttered windows but no air-con. For those on a tight budget, the hard seat is more than suitable. However your journey will be considerably more comfortable with the soft seat option.
Daily services run from Ho Chi Minh City and will often drop you close to your hostel in around four hours (although it has been known to take longer). Most of the tour companies, situated in the Bui Vien street of the city, will be able to book you on to an open bus tour. Tickets cost around $6. Buses are a great, cheap option for travel throughout Vietnam but be patient with your journeys as they are not as reliable as the trains.
If you are travelling south from Nha Trang to Mui Ne there are two buses which run daily. The first leaves at 8am arriving at 1pm and the second leaves at 8pm arriving at 1am. The buses take around five hours and will cost close to 6 dollars.
Sinh Café Travel runs a daily tourist bus from the mountain town of Dalat. The bus departs at 7.30am and arrives in Mui Ne at 1pm. The five hour journey will cost you $10 and can easily be organized through you hostel or directly through Sinh café.
I happen to know about taxi prices from Ho Chi Minh to Mui Ne because I travelled during the Chinese New Year period when the frequency of buses and trains were reduced. Desperate to get to Mui Ne on that day itself, my friend and I decided to stand by the side of the road with a slip of paper that reads “Mui Ne, VND 2,000,000 (SGD 128)”. We passed that slip to every taxi driver that stopped for us. The two reliable taxi operators in Ho Chi Minh are Vinasun and Mai Linh. Initial quotes by Vinasun taxi drivers are more than VND 3,000,000 (SGD 190), but we eventually managed to get a ride for VND 2,200,000 (SGD 140) on a Mai Linh taxi.
Where to go next?
Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) – Visit Saigon for its interesting architecture, manic atmosphere and copious culinary options. Experience the Cu Chi tunnels, take a trip on the Mekong Delta and try your hand at crossing Saigon’s chaotic roads.
Nha Trang – Stop by Nha Trang for its pristine beach and clear blue water. Take an adventure in the deep with Nha Trang’s world class diving or sample the local night life which soldiers on late in to the night. For a pinch of culture visit the Cham Towers situated in the centre of town.
Dalat – The mountainous town of Dalat offers a completely different experience to that of its closest neighbors. It’s beautiful French Colonial architecture and breathtaking views have made Dalat a popular spot on the backpacker trail. But Dalat is not just for looking at. Throw yourself of a cliff or abseil down a waterfall in the amazing canyoning experiences. But beware, Dalat has a much cooler climate that the rest of Vietnam. Wrap up for your stay in Dalat and ensure you sample it’s delicious mountain coffee to bring a bit of warmth to your stay.
Mui Ne is a popular stop on the ‘Open Bus’ tour of Vietnam. (North to South) From Ho Chi Minh City it is a three hour bus journey North. (As always on bus journey’s in Vietnam prepare for lots of honking of lots of horns!)
This destination guide was written by Matt Hilton: Matt is a 24 year old Business Management Graduate from Wigan, England. With his Degree tucked comfortably in his back pocket, Matt set out into the vast expanse of the world to find as many ways as possible not to use it. So far his travels have taken him across Asia, through Australia in to the heart of America. He’s tried his hand at Farming, worked as a Disney Lifeguard and thrived in his role as a camp counselor. Matt has now come full circle and found himself back in Asia where he’s settled in Vietnam’s vibrant Ho Chi Minh City to teach English. Matt writes about his travels and his chaotic Vietnamese lifestyle in his blog.