Mui Ne: sun and sand

Continuing along the traditional backpacker route, from Nha Trang we headed to Mui Ne. We caught a bus from Nha Trang in the evening, meaning that we in fact didn’t get into Mui Ne until 1:30am. We were staying at the Mui Ne Budget Hotel for our two nights in the small beachside town and rather insightfully we did let them know of a likely ridiculous arrival time before leaving Nha Trang. However, once the bus pulled up to the laneway entrance towards the hotel we had no way of quickly negotiating the 300m almost vertical slant before us apart from walking up it with our 20kg backpacks. Exhausted, it was the last thing we felt like doing, but alas we had no choice and we did know there was a bed or two waiting for us at the top. Thankfully, the security guy was waiting for us. Asleep, but there with our sign-in sheet at least. As an added bonus we were actually upgraded from a standard twin room in the Mui Ne Budget Hotel to a Deluxe Family Room in the newly renovated Mui Ne Bliss Hotel complete  with an oceanview (which we uncovered the next morning, and however far away the ocean actually was in the distance). Plus this meant we had good access to both the Budget Hotel pool and the pool in the Bliss Hotel, whichever tickled our fancy!

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We slept in and the next morning went for a stroll along the main/only street. We were keen see the beach and later in the day do a trip to the sand dunes (the main reason to come to the quiet town) so set about finding a good price for a half day tour that arvo which we knew would also cover the fishing village and the “fairy stream” which we had heard mixed reviews of. We also craved western food and had read about Phat Hamburgers and thus set our sights these too.

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Well. We didn’t realise how far the burgers were from our place, that’s one thing for sure. After having a bit of a relax and a dip the beach (that was not all that nice) we set off in the direction of Phat Hamburgers, and even with checking google maps every 10 minutes and realising we were getting only mildly closer, we continued on our way, mostly only our own determination and stubbornness driving us to get there. Well the burgers were most definitely worth it. They were absolutely delicious, and definitely a nice change after 2 weeks of spring rolls, pho and noodles. The milkshake I ordered did, however, leave a little bit to be desired- it was less milk and more ice unfortunately. But back on the positive side of things, we did find a guy from the Rang Garden Hotel doing Jeep Tours to taking the sunset Jeep Tour that afternoon (~$8pp for a group (we were joining some randoms)), which would visit the white and red sand dunes as well as the fishing village and fairy stream, ending at one of the dunes for sunset.

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Back at the hostel, we relaxed for a bit before we had to set off for the tour. We umm-ed and ahh-ed about wearing our bathers for the fairy stream – there were contentious reviews and photos of the fairy stream online and didn’t at all know what we were getting ourselves into. We opted against the bathers, after we asked around and heard there wouldn’t be very much water in the stream in October given the wet season was drying up. We clambered into the Jeep once it arrived at the bottom of the hill. It was…rustic. We picked up the rest of the group as we headed out of town towards the first stop: fairy stream.

Well, upon first glance, it was as one review had so aptly put it. “Nothing more than a muddy stream that has somehow become a tourist attraction.” We paid the entrance fee – 5000 VND – which we later found out was in fact just a fee to allow the couple of young boys to watch over our thongs..completely unnecessary, especially as I don’t think they’d actually do anything if someone was to walk off with multiple pairs or the wrong pair of thongs. And then headed down the stream.

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We walked a little further down the stream and came across a small money sanctuary, which seemed very cruel. There were a couple of monkeys that were tied up by chains for tourists to gawk at while they ran around in circles and tried to grab things off them. One monkey actually got hold of my friends rubber bracelet and was determined to chew and keep hold of it in its mouth, quite disturbing actually when you could see the whole outline of the bracelet in its cheek. We kept walking and found a nice sandy cliff face to walk up which we thought might have a good view over the area at the top, so we all clambered up, which was reasonably hard work given the sand on top of the harder rock. But it did have quite a nice outlook and did make the whole stream list feel worth it. Seeing the forest meet the rock was a beautiful juxtaposition from above.

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After the fairy stream, we scrambled back into the jeep and headed towards the fishing village. Now it was here when the jeep started to have a few issues. With a cigarette in one hand, the driver lifted the bonnet f the jeep with the other and had a poke around, investigating the obscure smoke beginning to seep from the inner workings of the antique.

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Meanwhile we were left to take in the incredible site of hundreds of fishing boats docked near the shore. There was a collection of smaller round bats as well as medium and larger fishing boats. It was magnificent.

Eventually we were all eager to head to the sand dunes. We were conscious of the time and knew we had to visit the white dunes and then later the red dunes before sunset. Off we set. But unfortunately not for long. We traveled about 2 more km out of town when all of a sudden at a set of traffic lights, the jeep ground to a halt. The smoke bellow from the engine area had returned and we knew this was not a good sign. We only had one more night in Mui Ne and really did want to visit the dunes that afternoon.

Our driver made a couple of calls on his cellphone and eventually someone came to give him a hand. I think it was a lack of petrol or something, I can’t quite remember, but long story short (it definitely was a reasonably long time that we sat there waiting), we did get back on the road eventually and headed towards the white sand dunes. Upon arriving we were disappointed to find out that we would have to fork out extra money to get an ARV quad bike to ride across the sand, so on principle we not so politely declined and headed off into the distance to explore the dunes on foot. Boy were they magnificent. It was as if we were in the desert. After being at the coast half an hour earlier it was incredible to think we were now surrounded in every direction by kms of sand.

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After a fair amount of walking up and down the dunes taking in the incredible sights before us, we headed back to the jeep, similarly eager to see the red sand dunes in all their natural beauty.

Once again we were in awe of the natural beauty of everything before us. As the sun set, I sat alone, contemplating life, the travels I had been on so far and how lucky I was to be in such a position. It was a truely incredible atmosphere, with the wind blowing softly and no noise of car horns or traffic; I will never forget that beautiful sunset over the sand as I sat and waited for time to pass in front of my eyes.

Mui Ne, even with your steep climb to the hotel which we hated deeply every time and your average beach and your crappy vintage jeeps from the war, you delivered. You delivered some incredible memories I will treasure forever.

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