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  • Writer's pictureDeb Smithers

The Sand Dunes of Muine. Vietnam

Exploring the geological wonders

After spending many months in Hoi An during the pandemic, it was a magnificent feeling to finally be free to move around parts of Vietnam again. Aware that provinces could at any time return to lockdown, and that the Vietnamese government gave little warning when they did so. It made me extremely mindful of the possibility of an unplanned extended stay somewhere away from home, but it was difficult not to take a trip and move around the country a little after spending months on end in a small village.

I left Hoi An to catch up with friends in Dalat, then across to Nha Trang, Mui Ne and Quin Nhon. Dalat is in the central highlands of Vietnam and is known for its wine, magnificent French architecture, and lush green pine trees. I fell in love with the city the moment I arrived. After a very memorable few weeks enjoying the cooler climate of Dalat, I left on a five-hour bus journey to arrive in the sweltering hot coastal town of Mui Ne, south east of Vietnam, and only four hours from Saigon.

Choosing to take the sleeper bus to relax, stretch out and marvel at the stunning landscapes, serene lakes and rice terraces on this picturesque journey.

I made the trip to Mui Ne especially to visit the much documented, Red and White sand dunes. I wanted to Quad bike down these vertical mountains and experience the remarkable sunset over the dunes and the impressive colours that flow through the sky.

Mui Ne was in the past occupied by the Cham kingdom, as seen by the Cham Towers that overlook Phan Thiet. Built in the 8th century, it is well worth visiting these remarkable spiritual temples to admire the magnificent Cham architecture.

Mui Ne, meaning sheltered peninsula, is used as a seasonal Harbour for fishermen.

Take a ride out to the Munie fishing village at sunrise for an incredible experience not to be missed. As the fishermen return to shore and unload the catch, the women clean the seafood at record speed and when the sun begins to rise, it all becomes a very atmospheric experience. The women are yelling and bartering to make sales as the night's big haul glistens along the shore line. The men are then off to drink coffee and play cards as they do after each catch.

The people of this village are very laid back but with little English, I just loved that they were always ready to spark up a conversation. I sat in a tiny street stall to drink coffee and ended up amongst a group of local women, making a load of Banh Mi pate. Hands in buckets mixing up those chicken livers, and making memories.

I rode the motorbike out to the sand dunes myself; I like the flexibility to explore at my own pace and you never know what you may find along the way. In the early hours of the morning, I awoke the senses by traveling 30 kms to reach the white sands before sunrise. Finding the dunes is easy, it is almost one long road from the town, and entry is around $20.

Arriving to almost silence, apart from the sound of hundreds of crickets in sequence. At first the place looks almost unworldly and as I make my way to the top of the dune via the narrow-designated path, the sun begins to peer through. The play of light and shadow on the dunes creates a mesmerizing scene. It is the perfect place for photography enthusiasts, to capture the sky transforming into shades of wispy pink and violet. The fine sand stretches out for miles creating the illusion of a desert landscape against the backdrop of the south China sea.

If you are after a bit of added adventure, then renting an ATV is the perfect way to explore the dunes and have some extreme fun. The rental is cheap, costing about $30 for an hour of extreme fun. I took a strong cup of Vietnamese coffee, had the quickest safety lesson, and just like that, I was off! They take a little to get used to, but once mastered, enjoy the adrenaline rush while riding through the unique terrain, taking in the magnificent landscape.

The ride back from the white sands in the daylight was amazing, enjoying the rich red Grand Canyon-esque landscape dotted with hundreds of wind turbines. The ocean on your left and the dunes on your right, a salty breeze and a wide-open road.

Arriving at the Red dunes is quite a sight, and I was amazed by the colours of the sand. They are much smaller but the vibrant colours reflecting over the red dunes at sunset is something you must experience when in Mui Ne. This piece of rust red desert is perfect for sandboarding. Hold on and take the plunge down one of the many glowing orange dunes as the sun drops past the horizon for a fun experience. You can rent a sledding board from one of the locals, but be mindful as to what they try to charge you.

I absolutely recommend seeing the sunset over the red sands, but the daytime visit for me was quick. There were too many tourists and it was a shame to see so much rubbish scattered around. I only spent about 20 minutes there, instead deciding to ride further, explore the area more and take some photographs.

I personally wouldn't book a tour to spend a day visiting the dunes and Fairy Stream. They are all quite easy to find, just drive yourself and rent the quad bike when you arrive. By the time you have enjoyed your coffee, the ATV will be ready.

The only thumbs down for me when visiting the White sand dunes was that although they did offer a range of cool activities, unfortunately on offer were Ostrich rides, which were awful to see. Come on guys, It's a Bird!!!

Fairy Stream, Mui Ne

Drone shot of Fairy Stream.

Photo by Jony Melon

While in Mui Ne visiting the dunes, you must take the opportunity to see the Fairy Stream, known as Suoi Tien. It's only ($1) 10 000 dong to enter, keeping in mind it is a popular spot for Influencers and Instagramers, so it can get annoyingly crowded at times. Finding the stream is relatively easy, follow the main road through town and you will see signs to the fairy stream, take the path that will lead you there.

Be careful not to be scammed by the local kids asking for a fee or to carry your belongings, they are little professionals.

The stream flows through the red canyon and is shaded by coconut palms and bamboo trees. What makes it special is the water that is coloured by the soft clay and limestone rock. The stream is one km long and takes about 20 minutes to reach the end. The water is only a few inches deep so be sure to take off your shoes and let your feet feel that therapeutic clay mud between your toes.

Don't forget your water bottle and bug spray.

While enjoying Muine -

  • Take a kite surfing lesson in Ham Tien with a professional

  • Go Quad Biking up and down these ever-changing giant sand formations

  • Take a scenic ride out to Ta Cu Mountain

  • Hot air balloon over the magnificent dunes at sunrise

  • Fairy stream (a muddy stream between a brilliant red canyon and lush forest)

  • Cham Towers, sit regal on the top of Ong Huan Hill, also known as Heavens Hill.

tận hưởng từng khoảnh khắc

Enjoy every moment


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