Mui Ne, the next diary on our coastal road trip! We hadn’t originally planned on staying in Mui Ne when we did, but ended up driving further as we didn’t find anywhere worth spending the night in on the way. We’d driven from Long Hai to La Gi, which only took a couple hours. We’d originally planned on staying in La Gi, but upon arriving found there was literally nothing there. We’d arrived at lunch time, so thought we’d grab something to eat as we hadn’t eaten before leaving Long Hai. I’m not even exaggerating, when I say we drove around for 2 hours and found not one place to eat. We asked locals, who spoke very little English but each time would point us in a different direction, sure that there was somewhere to eat there. We’d driven the same streets several times (it’s not a big place) before deciding to give up, and head on to Phan Thiet. What a nightmare!
Phan Thiet was only a couple of hours drive on from La Gi, so we arrived into the city around 4.30pm. We were a bit annoyed we’d wasted so much time before, and wished we’d known to just carry on through straight to Phan Thiet. By the time we arrived we were so hungry, so pulled up at a shopping centre and ate in the food court. We looked at places to stay in Phan Thiet, but decided that we’d rather just stay in Mui Ne, which is about 30 minutes further on. When looking up things to do in Phan Thiet we didn’t really get much, so didn’t see the point in staying there!
We’d originally wanted to stay in the Mui Ne Hills Budget hotel, but as we went to book it the room had been snapped up by someone else! We decided to drive down there anyway and try our luck, but they were fully booked. We ended up staying in the 247/C Guesthouse, as this was the cheapest option in the area. Mui Ne is basically one long road that runs along the sea, with busy parts and quiet parts – which go on for several kilometres. The area around the Mui Ne Budget Hotel was more of a backpacker area, with lots of restaurants and shops. The 247/C Guesthouse was a few kilometres down, so if you don’t have a bike I wouldn’t recommend staying there just as there isn’t too much you can walk to. However, it was fine for us as we had Bruce (our bike)! We had a bit of trouble finding it as it as up a small alleyway, but once we did we were checked in super quickly to a basic but clean room – all we needed. We changed out of the clothes we’d been driving in all day and headed back to the busier part of town. The one thing Mui Ne seemed to have a lot of were pharmacies. There were so many! I needed some new plasters/gauze for my leg so we decided to make it our mission to get some. I went into pharmacy after pharmacy with no luck. Most of them were Russian, and sold more along the lines of souvenirs and alcohol with snakes/scorpions! Mui Ne has a high Russian population, with many of the restaurants being Russian. I’m not too sure why this is, but it seems to have been like it for a while. There are also so many places to eat and drink, which was nice after being in quiet towns!
Giving up on getting plasters, we decided to go for a drink. We still had the bike, so we decided just to stop for one at somewhere that looked cool! We ended up going to the Forest Restaurant, which as the name suggests, had forest inspired decor. There were lots of plants, with exposed brickwork and wooden ceilings. There was also a performance by two men, who were drumming whilst singing a Vietnamese song. At first, the drumming on its own made us feel slightly on edge. However, then when they started to sing it was really fun to watch! Both men kept smiling at us too, looking like they were having as much fun performing as we were watching them.
We then carried on towards home, and decided to stop at another bar as it was right on the sea front. We made the decision at this point that we’d wheel the bike home and have more drinks, as it was only down the road! Mui Ne was really quiet, with not many other people out and about. This was quite nice though, as we could listen to the sounds of the waves crashing below us.
After all our drinks we decided we wanted food (classic) as we’d had dinner at like 5pm and that was all we’d eaten all day. Even though we were full of beer/cocktails, we headed to the place next door to the bar and ordered a pizza and chips to take away. Whilst we waited, we decided to get a drink. This turned into a few drinks, and also eating the chips (but refraining from eating the pizza!). By the time we’d walked the bike home, and the pizza, we were more than ready for sleep! We got into bed with our pizza and watched family guy till we fell asleep. It had been a long day!
The next day we laid in till check out, then booked the Mui Ne Hills Budget Hotel for that night and headed in that direction. We grabbed some lunch as we were a bit too early to check in, then headed up to the hotel. We also finally found a pharmacy selling gauze! A good day so far. We were told by reception that we’d been upgraded from the Budget Hotel to the Mui Ne Bliss Hotel! This was a little further up the hill, and was so nice. It felt like luxury compared to what we’d been staying in. The Bliss Hotel also had a really nice restaurant with views down to the sea, situated around a small pool. We could get used to this! We didn’t have much time to spend in the room, as today we were going to do a tour of what Mui Ne is famous for – it’s incredible sand dunes!
We’d looked this up in quite a lot of detail, as rather than do a tour we were just going to drive our bike down to the dunes ourselves. However, after a lot of reading/googling we discovered that the stretch of road between the White Dunes and the touristy part of Mui Ne is a massive police hotspot. Apparently police will sit there, waiting for tourists to drive through in order to stop them. When stopping them, they’ll ask for a license and fine you for not having one. In Vietnam, the rules are very grey around what you need to actually drive a motorbike/moped. As everyone does it, there isn’t usually any trouble. However, the police take advantage of the tourists fear of them and will often fine them up to 2 million dong. We read to never take more than 200 in your wallet, as they’ll accept 200 as a bribe and leave you alone. We read up a lot about licenses/international driving permits, and found that permits aren’t accepted anymore, but you have to be in Vietnam for 3 months to get a Vietnamese license. So there isn’t actually any way around it! We’d never had any trouble before and driven past plenty of police, but apparently in Mui Ne they had a lot of accidents in the past (apparently from Russian tourists) so became really strict in the area. After reading all this we decided it wasn’t worth the risk, so did a tour instead. In the end, we did see people driving themselves and no police, so I’m sure we would’ve been fine!
If you walk along the main street in Mui Ne you can book a tour from so many places. We would’ve booked through our hotel, but their tour left at 1.30pm and we wanted one that left at 2pm to allow us time to check in. These afternoon time slots are called the sunset tours (though, we didn’t really see a sunset). You can also do a sunrise tour, which leaves around 5am in the morning. I thought this would be nice, but suggesting it to James I realised there was no way I was getting him up that early. We booked through a tour place for 120,000 dong each and waited in the shop for the jeep to come and pick us up.
Despite it having been sunny all day, as soon as we set off it began to rain. Typical! Our first stop was the Fairy Stream, which we had half an hour to see. This is a stream that runs red through Mui Ne, but is really wide and shallow – it almost looks like a road! You can walk up and down, with the scenery around the river becoming big sand dunes as you walk upstream. I didn’t want to risk getting the bandage on my leg wet/sandy so didn’t go in, but James took GoPro videos all the way up so I could pretend I was there!
After the Fairy Stream we then headed to the Old Fishing Village. I think as we’d done the afternoon tour, there wasn’t as much to see as when it’s busy in the mornings. There wasn’t much being sold, so I think most of it was probably packed away. However there were still a few people selling their catches! They sit in little wooden shacks, much of which are literally made of some wooden poles and material thrown across the top. The brightly colour circular fishing boats are stacked up around these.
Looking out to sea, the horizon is completely covered in fishing boats. All docked up just past the waves, they use the circular fishing boats to get out there and collect the fish. We watched as they set off in one of the circular boats, which they paddle so quickly! With big waves crashing in the shore, they manage to balance the boat and go through them, seeming to narrowly avoid capsizing!
The shoreline is covered in rubbish, though apart from some plastic most of this is shells or cuttlefish. I couldn’t get over the amount of crab shells/dead crabs that lined where the waves come up to! There must’ve been hundreds for as long as the eye could see.
We didn’t spend too long in the fishing village, just long enough to have a look around at the boats and stalls before heading back to the jeep. Our next stop were the White Dunes, which are the bigger of the two (compared to the Red Dunes). Once we got there, we had the option of renting a dune buggy or walking ourselves. We decided to walk, as a dune buggy was quite expensive! I think we worked out it was about £30. The sand was soft, so walking was pretty hard! Still, we managed to make it to fairly high up when it all started to go wrong…
The sky had looked a bit dark, but I was hoping it may just be some light rain. Instead, the winds picked up, battering our legs with the tiny grains of sand. I wish I hadn’t been wearing shorts! I’d put a bandage over my leg, but it really, really hurt. We’d put our rain macs on by this point, and the rain came down like pellets. It was awful! We made our way back down to the shelter where the jeeps was parked, trying to run through the wind, rain, and now thunder and lightning. The wind, rain and sand was destroying my bandage on my leg, so James took off his mac to wrap around my legs – what a gentleman! By the time we made it back to shelter, he was totally drenched through. I was also pretty wet, but nowhere near as bad as him. I won’t lie, it was awful. It’s hard because the weather changes so quickly, so you can’t really predict when it’s going to rain. But if you know it is, I wouldn’t advise seeing the sand dunes on that day! I’d luckily brought with me some leggings, so I got changed into those. We abandoned the idea of wearing shoes, as they were so wet it just was better to go barefoot! The one positive of this whole situation was the most adorable puppy was in the shelter, so I just played with it whilst I dried off.
We waited for the rest of our group and for it to stop raining, then headed out to the Red Dunes. First of all though, we pulled over at the side of the road so one of the groups in our keep could have a little photoshoot. Whilst they were narrowly avoiding getting hit by cars to get the perfect shot of them jumping in the middle of the road, our tour man asked if James and I wanted a picture. We felt pretty tame just stood awkwardly by the lake… The group then asked for a photo with us too, which was pretty sweet of them!
After the photoshoot was over, we got back in the jeep and headed to the Red Dunes. The sun had come out, and the dunes were incredible! I wasn’t expecting the sand to actually be as red as it was. As we walked up the dunes, we got followed by two girls who were trying to rent us a sledge to go down the dunes on. If it hadn’t just rained, we would’ve probably got these! However, the sand was wet so we didn’t see the point. We did see people trying to go down them, but they weren’t getting very far!
After a wander around and taking some photos we went back to the jeep and got taken back down into Mui Ne where we’d been picked up. I was so glad that we’d done a tour rather than do it ourselves, as it was cool to see the fishing village and fairy stream as well as the dunes! The fairy stream is actually only a walk away in Mui Ne and is free, so if you’re heading there and don’t fancy doing a tour, you should go see it anyway. Although we’d had a disaster at the White Dunes, we’d still had a great day. You can’t help the weather!
That night we decided to eat in our hotel, as we were feeling pretty worn out! The weather was still pretty wet, and we didn’t fancy venturing out and getting caught in anymore rain. We got a table next to the pool which was really pretty, and decided we didn’t really want to leave this hotel just yet. We had a lot of work to catch up on, as we’d been quite slack recently with all the driving we’d been doing! We decided to book another night, and have a day to chill and work the next day. We had to pay the price of the Bliss hotel, rather than Budget as before, but this was only a couple dollars more.
The next morning we got lots of work done, only leaving to get some lunch from the pool restaurant. At about 4pm I decided I’d walk down to the pharmacy (again – I don’t know how much of the trip I’d spent looking for pharmacies), as I’d run out of gauze for my leg after the sand dune fiasco the day before. I underestimated the distance to the pharmacy, as the day before we’d been on the bike. However I finally reached it, realising I’d actually walked nearly 2 miles! I walked back toward where we were staying in Mui Ne, and James met me half way. We decided to go for a drink and get some nachos at Joe’s Cafe, where we sat outside next to the sea. The views were lovely, until a huge wave crashed up and covered us! We moved inside to finish our drinks, before carrying on our walk.
We then went to another place for a drink, which I’m pretty sure was also called Joe’s but I’m not too sure! This place was really pretty, with red lanterns hanging from the ceiling, making it feel nice and cosy. We did feel like we were getting attacked by mosquitos though!
Deciding to go on a bit of a bar crawl, we left and headed to a place called Dany’s Pub. This was a sports bar, where we watched the Grand Prix and motorbike racing whilst playing pool. We had so much fun! We played for at least an hour I’m sure, then realised that it was pretty late and we hadn’t actually had dinner yet. We walked back to near our hotel, grabbed food at the only place open and then went to bed. We’d been drinking since about 5pm, I’m not sure where the time had gone!
The next day we woke packed our bag up, checked out and got some lunch in the restaurant before leaving for Phan Rang. James was feeling a bit hungover, so we had to wait that out before we drove anywhere! We’d had a fun time in Mui Ne, but the weather hadn’t been great which had got us feeling a bit down at times. If you’re in Vietnam, Mui Ne should be on your itinerary but you don’t need longer than a day to see everything there! We had been rushing a bit so it was nice to spend more time there and relax, but this was more due to the nice hotel than Mui Ne itself. There are a lot of bars in the area though, so it’s a fun place to go!
Charlotte Rick x
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