Guide to Mui Ne, Vietnam
One of southern Vietnam’s popular beach destinations, Mui Ne is a 12-kilometre long sweeping bay that boasts beachfront resorts. Twenty years of development have transformed the once sleepy fishing town into a water sports mecca, most notably for kitesurfing. What tourists know as “Mui Ne” is actually the village of Ham Tien. Sandwiched between Mui Ne (a fishing town to the east) and Phan Thiet, the capital of Binh Thuan province, Ham Tien is where the action happens. When Vietnam formally opened its doors to tourism in the 1990s, Ham Thien became an increasingly popular weekend getaway from the chaos of Ho Chi Minh City, a relatively reasonable few hours away and accessible by bus or train. Mui Ne is a fishing village that lies at the edge of the concrete resorts and up-and-coming bungalows, a quieter place with morning markets and no resorts and a lingering fish smell. Its climate is at once insanely dry and unnervingly sunny, the red and white sand dunes surrounding the village giving way to the rough waves at the water’s edge.
Many overseas visitors reach Mui Ne via “Open Tour” buses that run between Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) and Nha Trang. Most depart from HCMC between 7:30 and 9:00am or pm. In the opposite direction, buses typically depart from Mui Ne around 2:00Ppm or am and arrive in HCMC at 7:00pm or am. In total, it is a five hours bus journey at night or in the morning.
The buses will have a short break at Joe’s Cafe where you can also catch an outgoing night bus as it offers full service all night. Outside HCMC, the coach will stop at a petrol station with a pretty large shop and stalls selling snacks, drinks and fruit.
Ticket prices range between VND120 000 to VND140 000. Both sleeper buses and sitting buses are available; you can request for the type of bus you want, but it depends on availability of the types of buses. The recommended company to purchase your trip will be with Sinh Cafe. (Address: 127 BanCo St, District 3, HCMC; Tel: +84 8 62729925/ +84 838 3333 88) It is advisable to book your tickets directly from the shop itself the online booking does not always work and you will not be able to ask for a sleeper seat or a sitting seat.
You can search the schedule from this website: http://sinhcafetravel.com/open-tour-bus/
Mui Ne is a place where you cannot get lost as the whole place consists of a long strip along a main street, Nguyen Dinh Chieu. Motobike, ta xi (xe om), are everywhere and their drivers will bug you each time you leave the hotel. Bargain hard to get appropriate prices (10,000 to 15,000VND is more than enough to pay for a ride from one place to another along the main strip).
Taxis are also abundant, with fares slightly higher than HCMC but still reasonable (starting at 12,000 dong and going to around 20,000 dong).
You can also rent motorbikes and bicycles at many resorts and tour agencies. Since traffic is light, motorbikes or bicycles are a pleasant way to explore the surroundings. Motorbikes cost anywhere from 60,000 to 150,000 dong per day. Traffic is light, but nobody is aware of traffic rules, so you can find yourself in bike accident in no time. You don’t necessarily need a license to rent a motorbike but it will be at your own risk. Just be sure to wear a helmet to avoid getting stopped by traffic police on the road.
What to See & Do
Kitesurfing is offered by many outfitters and hotels. Kite surfing instruction is available, starting at $50USD/hour, beginners package of 5 lessons start at $250 USD. There are several kitesurfing schools along the beach, which all employ Beach Boys who will help you to start and launch the kite. It is widely common to tip the Beach Boys with 1 USD/Day. If you are a beginner but already can practice independent without an instructor, you might avoid the area around Sunshine Beach Hotel, because there are too many Kite Surfers and swimmers which may lead to accidents. Try the western part of beach front around the Kitesurfing School Windchimes. There are less kiters over there and you can practice without bringing you and others into danger. As kitesurfing is an extreme sport, the key is to get professional instruction at a reputable school. Below is a list of kitesurfing schools that you may want to check out:
Address: Đình 16 Nguyễn Đình Chiểu, Phan Tiet, Vietnam
Contact: +84 91 665 52 41
Jibes Beach Club
Address: 90 Nguyễn Đình Chiểu, khu phố 1, Hàm Tiến, tp. Phan Thiết, Bình Thuận, Vietnam
Contact: (+84) (062) 3847 405
Address: 52 Nguyễn Đình Chiểu, Hàm Tiến, tp. Phan Thiết, Bình Thuận, Vietnam
Contact: +84 167 342 2136
Mui Ne’s sand dunes – one red, the other white – are a fascinating regional phenomenon created by the high winds rushing to and from the ocean. The dunes have become the top attraction in Mui Ne, and with the increase in tourists visiting the place, their natural beauty somewhat diminished by the crowds scampering all over it. It is best to visit the dunes by booking Jeep tours with your hotels. There is not a particular company to be recommended as the hotels will link up directly with the jeeps and all the prices are around the same at VND70 000 to VND100 000 for a round trip. So, fret not. All you need to do is just making the payment at the hotel concierge and these jeeps will pick you up from your hotel at the stipulated time slots you have signed up for.
The white dunes are taller and vaster, with much of them marred by tire tracks and the sound of ATVs racing all over. Alas, You can always rent an ATV at VND 400,000 dong for 20 minutes. Do bring a scarf to cover your face if you intend to ride on the ATVs as strong winds may cause sand abrasion on your face.
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Suoi Tien (Fairy Spring) is situated in a nice place, one side of Suoi Tien is white and red sand dunes intermixing together, another side are rows of shading coconut palms, lines of trees with luxuriant leaves. All of these things create a poetic and charming stream. The water stream of Suoi Tien has the red color from the sunlight and from the red sand in the bottom of the stream.
Po Shanu Cham Towers
You don’t have to book a separate tour to head to the Fairy Spring as it a staple in a sand dunes tour.
Perched on a hill between Mui Ne and Phan Thiet, Po Shanu was built in the Hoa Lai style in the ninth century. The ruins today consist of two tall towers and a smaller third building, built to worship Hindu God Shiva. It can take you as little as 10 minutes to see the site. There is no exact address to the towers, but you can ride along Phan Thiet road, onto Nguyen Thong Street to find it. It is located about 5km away from Mui Ne’s tourist centre.
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Phan Thiet Harbour
Visit Phan Thiet harbour and its many larger fishing vessels, with fresh catch of the day for sale on the bridge linking Phan Thiet and Ham Tien, and fish pho at the nearby market. It is located at Cang Phan Thiet, at the mouth of the Ca Ty River. You can also find fresh fish on the bridge near Mui Ne’s smaller harbour. Some tourists buy the fresh seafood from the fishermen and bring the loot to a nearby hawker or restaurant for them to prepare it. You only need to pay a small sum of VND150 000 to 200 000 for the chefs to whip up delicious Vietnamese cuisines with your own ingredients.
If you want to learn to cook Vietnamese food, check cooking classes from Muine Cooking School (http://www.muinecookingschool.com/c2sky-kiteboarding/) near C2SKY kitesurfing school (opposite Kim Shop). You will learn to cook pancakes, Pho Bo soup, shrimp salad and fresh spring rolls. All ingredients are ready, you’ll just mix them under supervision of Vietnamese cook. It is only VND400 000 for an hour long.
Lazing by the Beach
Other than those that your various accommodation already cordoned off for resort guests, below are some beaches that will give you privacy along the main road of Mui Ne.
- Doi Duong aka Phan Thiet Beach
- Tien Thanh
- Khe Ga
What to Buy
Along the Mui Ne strip are several small nameless shops; all selling the same sundries and souvenirs. You can find packaged snacks (Oreos, cakes, biscuits, ice cream, etc), liquor, clothing, and souvenirs. Standard souvenirs offered include wooden and laquered bowls, wooden statues, snake whiskey, and pearl necklaces. Compared with Ho Chi Minh City, souvenirs are almost five times more expensive in Mui Ne.
What to Eat
When one thinks of Vietnam, the first foods that come to mind will be Pho and fresh spring rolls. Undoubtedly the most famous, Pho Ga, chicken noodle soup or Pho Bo, beef noodle soup is a simple dish that is cooked with chicken broth and fish sauce to taste. It is a simple, light and refreshing dish that you can have any time of the day. Each bowl will not cost you more than 50 000 dong. Some roadside stalls even sell them at 15 000 or less per bowl. Here is a list of other must-try dishes when you visit Mui Ne:
- Banh Mi, Vietnamese personal baguette sandwich
Baguette, pork, luncheon meat, shredded cured pork skin, pate, mayonnaise, radish, carrot pickles, cucumbers, coriander
- Bun Rieu, soup
Crab base stock, tomatoes, rice noodles, fried tofu, meatballs, pork, crab paste
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- Bun Mam, noodles dish
Broth prepared with fermented fish sauce, squid, prawns, pork, rice vermicelli noodles
Below are some recommended restaurants to visit:
Surfing Bird’s WOK
Address: 246/2B Nguyen Dinh Chieu, Mui Ne, Phan Thiet, Vietnam
Superb little food stall in the Dong Bui food court. It does noodles, rice and curry all with fresh veg. Simple but really tasty and well priced. Definitely one to check out for vegans as well in Mui Ne.
Snow White Restaurant
Address: 45B Huynh Thuc Khang Street, Mui Ne, Phan Thiet, Vietnam
A good and inexpensive restaurant. The restaurant serves many different kinds of soups, meat (crocodile, ostrich) and seafood (shrimp, lobster, crab, snapper). Everything is always fresh and delicious, served with a wide variety of tasty sauces and spices.
Long Son Mui Ne
Address: Street 706 | Hon Rom, Long Son – Suoi Nuoc, Mui Ne, Phan Thiet 800000, Vietnam
Extensive menu for both western food and Vietnamese food. All the ingredients are fresh and delicious. Be blown away with their bbq seafood with cheese.
=Where to Stay=
Takalau Residence & Resort
Address: Residence Block 5, Phu Hai, Phan Thiet, Mui Ne, Vietnam
Start your journey at Taka Lau Residence & Resort Conveniently located in Phan Thiet. In the most interesting places in the city, this 4-star hotel is has a private beach front that is right at your doorstep.
Mia Mui Ne Resort
Address: 24 Nguyen Dinh Chieu, Mui Ne, Vietnam
Fronting a white sand beach that is about a 5 minutes stroll away 14 km from the Red Sand Dunes.
Villa Aria Muine
Address: 60A Nguyen Dinh Chieu, Mui Ne, Vietnam
A large infinity pool and overlooks the sea. Even though they do not have a private beach, it only takes less than 2 minutes to get the sand and sea breeze.
Aroma Beach Resort and Spa
Address: Quarter 5 Phu Hai, Mui Ne, Vietnam
Overlooking the beach, this luxe resort with villas and bungalows is 2 km from Sea Links Golf Country Club. If you do not like the sea, the pool is large and spacious. A good location to laze your day away without a care in the world.