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Mui Ne is a sleepy little fishing village in southern Vietnam with a big following. Tourists and locals alike flock here for respite from the buzzing madness of Ho Chi Minh City, enjoying an unmatched sense of good vibes and chill that other beach cities like Nha Trang and Da Nang just can’t match. Despite its small size, there is a world of things to do in this little gem.
Renting a bike is the best way to get around in Mui Ne, as the roads are empty and there are hidden gems you cannot find if you use other means of transport. If you do not drive, it is not the place to learn. Either find a friend who drives, or you can opt for a bicycle and peddle around. Make sure you wear a helmet, and also be very cautious around buses (they seem to be on a mission to demolish anything that comes their way). While you drive around, just stop at anything that seems interesting – fishing villages, small markets, cafes, beachside restaurants, and empty beach strips. There are plenty to see that are not common tourist attractions.
The most famous attractions in Mui Ne – and the main reasons people visit this beach village – are the red and white sand dunes. Yes, Vietnam has everything – mountains, caves, waterfalls, national parks, plus a very, very long coastline. But in Mui Ne, there are sand dunes. Clearly there’s no shortage of natural landscapes to see in the country. The White Sand Dunes, 15 miles (25 kilometres) away, are best for quad biking, and after a while of speeding up and down the hill, you can end your ride over at the lotus pond. The Red Sand Dunes, closer to the town centre, are ideal for catching the gorgeous sunset. Here you can also try your hand at sandboarding. Take a good, long shower after you head home if you don’t want to find sand still lodged in places two or three days later.
The Fairy Springs or Stream can be seen on the way to the sand dunes so you can make a whole evening out of it. This aptly named stream flows through a patch of dunes and is surrounded by intricate, colourful limestone formations and greenery. At the entrance, you will be asked to remove your shoes and either deposit it for a small fee, or carry it with you as you wade through the water barefoot. Don’t be afraid to stray away from the main tourist path. It’s a rather calming experience and a pleasant walk all the way to the source – a small waterfall you can climb.
Head to the Mui Ne fishing village as early as possible to catch a glimpse of what life is like for fishermen in Vietnam. The sunrise here is beautiful and fantastic for photos. Not only will you get beautiful views of the palm tree-lined coast, but you will also see colourful fishing boats lined up along the water, and fishermen standing peacefully, knee deep, as they wait patiently for fish to get tangled in their nets. The whole deal is a bit of a family affair – the husband catches the fish, then the wife sorts them out into buckets and sells them to local traders, restaurant owners, street food vendors and other customers. It’s a little similar to Wall Street, but smellier and more chaotic.
Additionally, you can also learn about the ubiquitous fish sauce you find served with virtually every dish in Vietnam. Mui Ne is the home of fish sauce and you will find a number of factories in the area fermenting this delicious sauce in huge vats.
Po Shanu Cham towers are similar to Thap Po Nagar in Nha Trang. The Cham Kingdom extended over coastal Vietnam hundreds of years ago, and these beautiful towers have been around since the 9th century, at a time when the Cham flourished. The towers are located on Ong Hoang Hill, so you will get beautiful views of Phan Thiet and the coastline from up there.
Phuoc Thien pagoda also warrants a visit as this is centrally located and easily accessed, right above the eastern end of the Mui Ne strip. Again, the views from here are magnificent. At both locations, please dress conservatively as the monuments are still used for religious purposes.
Most seaside hotels here have their own beach and if you’re lazy, all you really have to do is just step out of your room and onto the sand. But if you really want an adventure, and a whole beach to yourself, hop on a bike and go for a spin. Just explore without any direction in mind and you will come across many secluded areas of the coastline, perfect for a takeaway coffee, or some skinny dipping if that’s your thing.
The windy beaches of Mui Ne and Phan Thiet are perfect for kitesurfing, whether you are an experienced kitesurfer or not. There are many kitesurfing schools in the area that offer courses for amateurs at really attractive prices. You can check out Kitesurfing Mui Ne for more information, or do a quick Google search.
While there are many international restaurants serving kebabs, curries, quesadillas, burgers and pizzas, you should forego those cravings and try some local seaside restaurants for authentic Vietnamese seafood dishes. You will come across many lined up on the beach strip, from small shacks with a few chairs laid out, to mom-and-pop shops serving a small, yet delicious menu, as well as more upscale, larger restaurants with a diverse offering. No matter what you choose, know that your ingredients are fresh and your palate is in for a wild ride.