I have always dreamed of going to Mui Ne. It was spoken to me as a destination so far away and difficult to access (no airport nearby) that for a long time, I thought it was on an island lol 😀
Mui Ne, which is 5 hours from HCM city, is known for its sand dunes, its kitesurfers (it is rare to have beaches with so much wind in Vietnam) and incidentally for its seafood.
I was a bit disappointed by the beaches of Mui Ne because I forgot that this city was known for its dunes and not for its beaches. I don’t know why my brain added “clear water” when Mui Ne doesn’t have any because of the wind (and therefore the waves). The dunes, on the other hand, were beautiful.
Part 1: Travel Diary Part
2: Practical Tips
Part 1: Travel Diary
From Ho Chi Minh city, the bus company Viet Nhat drops us off at their HQ in Mui Ne around 1pm (we left at 8am). They propose us to have lunch at their place and then they will drop us off at our hotel for free. Feeling the trap closing on us (the lunch must be not good and very expensive), we thank them and decide to take a cab.
However, they have time to sell us bus tickets to Nha Trang with free pick-up from our hotel (hotel undetermined and undetermined time), in “open ticket” mode. Beside, a guy calls us for the rental of his scooter at 120 000VND/day. It will be the lowest tariff that we will have of all our stay, but we are too lazy to transport our luggage by motorcycle so we took a cab.
Why so many Russians and Chinese in South Vietnam?
Our hotel is located on Nguyen Dinh Chieu street: It is the most touristic part of Mui Ne and we are invaded by Russian and Chinese tourists. On paper it looks awful like that, the most rude tourists in the world concentrated in one place. But we say the same thing about Vietnamese and French tourists so… 😀 The Russians and Chinese are so numerous that everyone (waiters and drivers) now speaks Russian and Chinese (in addition to English and Vietnamese). Russians are particularly bad in English, that’s why the menus are translated into English and Russian. A cab driver tells me that Russians get out of the cab right away if the driver does not speak Russian (they are afraid that the driver will not take them to the right place).
The growing Chinese presence in Vietnam is a reflection of a trend observed throughout Southeast Asia. In addition, the Chinese are also entitled to visa exemption for stays of less than 15 days. Neighboring and cheaper countries such as Thailand and Cambodia try to regulate Chinese tourists by posting rules and applying fines.
If I am not mistaken, the presence of the Russians has started since the creation of the VinPearl Hotel in Nha Trang. It is a 5-star hotel built by a Vietnamese billionaire and polygamist. He was educated in Russia and one of “his wives” is Russian (polygamy is forbidden here but when the guy is rich and the girls consent …). All the hotel and the amusement park next door are translated into Russian. It is this hotel that first attracts the rich Russian clientele. Mui Ne, which is close to Nha Trang, also benefits from it.
From what I have seen, the Russian and Chinese tourists who come here have good purchasing power and behave well. Unlike the very rude Chinese tourists we saw in Thailand or the Philippines who spend their time spitting and walking around with their bellies in the air. I think that the high cost in Vietnam helps to eliminate a bit the “basic tourists”.
Let’s get back to our sheep
After this long introduction, let’s come back to Mui Ne: our hotel (Herbal Hotel and Spa) 21 rue Nguyen Dinh Chieu is run by a Canadian-Vietnamese couple, really adorable. Once, we returned to the hotel under the rain and the boss came to pick us up with an umbrella. Moreover, the spa (Herbal Spa) next door is tip top (-30% for the customers of the hotel and the one hour Vietnamese massage is my favorite !!!!).
The beach is 3mn away, we go along a small street full of sand and arrive on a large beach with fine white sand. There are a lot of waves and we see a lot of kitesurfers. The 7h courses cost 380$ (snif) and apparently you have to stay in Mui Ne 3 to 4 days to complete them, so I had to give up my dream.
We don’t come here for clear water…
I’m a bit disappointed by the beach, the water isn’t transparent (too many waves) and the water is deep (waves + depth bof bof). But the sand is super fine.
The owner of the hotel tells me that the beach next door, near Sealinks (a very classy hotel) is much quieter and very clean. It is free of access and you have to walk 10mn.
My cab driver says that thrifty Vietnamese tourists are near Hon Rom (the other big beach in Mui Ne). And Vietnamese executives book rooms at 100€ per night like Sealinks, Romana… So we changed hotel to find us in Nam Chau Beach Resort (viet economic side). It is very cute, there are only Vietnamese in this hotel, hidden in super comfortable bungalows.
But likewise, sea water isn’t the strong point of Mui Ne, the sand is white and fine, but we are too used to the transparent water that we prefer the pool and reserve our swims in the sea for our stay in Nha Trang.
It is so much nature that some lizards and mosquitoes live with us, but a large mosquito net is provided in the room. It doesn’t bother me too much because I have a good mosquito repellent: JB.
…but for gastronomy…
This is THE strong point of Mui Ne.
Below you see the local specialty: Go?i Ca’ Mai (raw fish marinated with lime). The aromatic herbs and fish are put on the rice cake. And we eat with the peanut chilli sauce. It is SUPER good!!
Grilled shrimps and prawns are sold by the KG or by the plate. For the others: crabs, lobsters, spider crabs… if there is a fixed price displayed on the menu, it is sure that it isn’t fresh. The price of seafood varies according to the success of the day’s fishing. It isn’t normal, in Mui Ne, to have seafood plates at a fixed price.
I have a good address for you: Tuan Thao (120 rue Nguyen Dinh Chieu), you show the spider crab you want (they are smaller than in France. Here, we don’t eat too much crab, but rather spider crabs), and the cooks will weigh it and cook it your way (steamed, BBQ or tamarind). To have more things to eat, prefer male spider crabs. The females are chosen only if you like to eat eggs.
The prices we had in Mui Ne: 380 000VND the KG of spider crab (15€). 250 000VND the KG of shrimps or 10€ (or 95 000VND the plate of 8 gambasses). That’s it, knowing that the prices vary according to the fishing of the day.
The fruits are cheap and very juicy. Longans are sold at 30,000VHD (1.2€) per half kilo, and mangoes at 40,000VND per KG (1.6€). 1,4€ the plate of pineapple, 0,8€ the coconut…
… and for the sand dunes
The white sand dunes seen from afar :
The white sand dunes are 40km away from Mui Ne. We paid an extra for a squad to take us to the top of the dunes (it’s possible to rent the squad and drive it yourself but we saw some people doing a loop with it…). On the picture below, I hope you can see from far the two lakes next to the dunes, and at the bottom, the ocean. Sorry it doesn’t look good on the pictures, but in real life it’s beautiful.
The red/yellow sand dunes, closer to Mui Ne, are famous for sliding on plastic boards that children rent from us for 30 000VND/person.
The Fairy Stream isn’t far from the fishing village. We go up the river, feet in the water (up to the ankle only) and after 20 minutes, we discover, gawked, this canyon… The water is brown, not because it is dirty, but because of the red earth.
Here, we spent in all 4 nights here, 2 nights too much because of the rain preventing us from visiting the dunes. But no regrets, we ate super well and it is the essential! We are rather going to take advantage of the beach in Nha Trang, my favorite city in Vietnam.
Part 2: Practical Tips
How to get there?
Mui does not have an airport, most people come from HCM city or Cam Ranh or Nha Trang by taking the bus (5 to 6 hours).
Buses from Sinh Café, Phuong Trang or Viet Nhat cost in the region of 140,000VND/person, with only one pee stop.
Modes of transportation
I underestimated the distances by looking on Google Maps. Going from one beach to the other, taking a cab to get from my Nam Chau hotel to Bo Ke (tourist place with lots of seafood restaurants including Tuan Thao that I mentioned above) or Lang Chai (fishing village with seafood restaurants, even cheaper) is expensive, very expensive (125 000VND one way).
So the most economical option is to rent a motorcycle (between 150 000VND and 200 000VND for 24 hours), at our own risk. Contrary to other countries, the risk of being caught by the police is much greater (we don’t have a license). The only method to make them close their eyes when they see us is to respect the speed. Unfortunately, the bike we rented didn’t display the speed, I had to download an app on my phone to measure it.
Later in the day, when I was sitting quietly in a jeep on my way to the white sand dunes, I saw a couple of tourists stopped by the police (I don’t know if it was for the license or for exceeding the speed limit). Now I’m much more hesitant about renting a motorcycle.
-> The best option is to find the right hotel in the right place. So I advise you to be near the super good seafood restaurant I recommended, so between 110 and 140 Nguyen Dinh Chieu street 😀
If you still want to rent a motorcycle at your own risk, the Nam Chau Beach Resort is a good choice: swimming pool, deserted beach and proximity with fairy stream, the dunes and the fishing village. Of course, without a motorcycle, this “proximity” quickly becomes a 30mn walk.
In case of arrest by the police, it is advisable to pay a fine of 200,000VND, in cash. And call the rental company ASAP if the police insist on keeping the motorcycle.
To reduce the risk of being caught by the police, respect the speed limits: 40km/h max on the street along the sea, and 60km/h max on Vo Nguyen Giap avenue.
To fill up your tank (and you have to do it as soon as you rent a motorcycle because the renters don’t put a lot of gas in it), there are stores with a red box marked “gas” on it. The measurement is approximate (it’s a hand pump) but it costs about 125 000VND to fill up.
- The services around the Viet Nhat bus company’s HQ (233C Nguyen Dinh Chieu) are the cheapest in the city (between 20,000 and 30,000VND cheaper vs. the fares given by hotels) so go there to :
- book your excursion (sand dunes, fishing village + fairy stream)
- rent a motorcycle (only 120 000VND/24h)
- buy your bus tickets
- Come with as much cash as possible. ATMs are numerous but they aren’t at all secure, there are never guards in front. Who says no guards says “possibility of falling on a fake ATM”.
- Several Vietnamese told me to be very careful with my stuff when I arrive at the top of the red/yellow sand dunes. At the top of these so-called dunes, I didn’t see any suspicious behavior, but it’s true that board renters tend to jump on me to wax my board (although I said no several times).
- To bring with you on an excursion (the sun is hitting hard):
- Lots of sunscreen
- A hat
- Be careful when swimming in the sea, ask the hotel reception if there are parts of the beach to avoid. There may be very strong currents taking you out to sea, only the locals know about it. If you don’t ask, they will never take the initiative to tell you.
- 1€ = 25 000VND
- 2h of kite-surf lesson (where you sit on the sand to learn how to handle the tool): 100$. 7h lesson: 380$ I think, including 5 hours in the water with or without the instructor
- Hotel: between 10€ and 200€/night, you can find everything, the hotels are really top, you just have to pay attention to its location in relation to the beach (for that, read the reviews carefully). The direct access to the beach is rare because the resorts are numerous and don’t have free access to the beach for visitors (you have to cross their hall to go to the beach…). If you like to sunbathe, prefer a hotel with a private beach (Sealinks is the preferred choice of the almost rich Vietnamese). Our hotels cost between 10€ and 25€ per night, there are week vs. weekend rates
- Transportation :
- HCM city – Mui Ne by bus (5h): 140 000VND
- Mui Ne – Nha Trang (5h): 140 000VND
- Excursion Mui Ne (dunes + fairy stream + fishing village): 120 000VND to 150 000VND. Extra : squad 200 000VND/person for the round trip to the top of the dunes; or 400 000VND if you drive yourself (20mn). Board rental: 30 000VND/person
- Meals: between 300 000VND (some shrimps) and 500 000VND (only seafood) per meal for 2 persons
- Others :
- Coconut: 20 000VND to 30 000VND
- Coke: 20 000 VND
- Pineapple plate : 35 000VND
- 1/2 kg of longane: 30 000VND
- 1kg of mangoes: 40 000VND
- One bottle of water (1.5L): 15 000VND
- One hat/cap: 100 000VND
- Chicken/Duck Rice (a specialty): 30 000VND
- Goi ca mai (another specialty), raw marinated fish: between 90 000 and 150 000VND
- Spider crab: about 380 000VND/kg
- Shrimp/shrimps: 250 000VND/kg
- Lobster: no more than 500 000VND/kg