In February 2013 I visited the sea-side town of Mui Ne, 220 km east of Ho Chi Minh City. My parents have been coming to Mui Ne annually over the last 7 years and I thought I’d join them this time. So, what gets them coming back to this spot every year? They (and I) love that, as well as being a tourist destination, Mui Ne is primarily a working fishing town. My father is a keen amateur photographer and Mui Ne is a photographer’s delight. It’s harbour is filled with hundreds of brightly painted fishing boats. Looking down on the harbour especially at sunset is a glorious scene. My father loves to mingle with the locals and photograph them (with their permission) going about their daily work. More of this a little later.
For adventurers among you, the southern end of the 10-15 km beach at Mui Ne is a very popular destination for Kite Surfing. Mui Ne has excellent wind conditions for this sport. Mui Ne is also famous for its red and white sand dunes which rise to the height of small hills, behind the town. They are fun to walk on and slide down on plastic mats. Again, they are a photographer’s dream, especially at sunset with the setting sun casting shadows across the dunes. At the nearby fishing village of Ham Tien there is a popular walk along a small river canyon. The grooved orange walls of the canyon walls have been weathered by the stream and the elements.
We travelled from Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) to Mui Ne by bus (USD$7-8 each), a 6 hour journey that includes a 30 min stop half way for refreshments and toileting. Most of the buses go from Pham Ngu Lao St in District 1 HCMC so my parents have found it convenient to stay at the Elios or Liberty 3 Hotels which are conveniently situated in this street and are very reasonably priced at USD$40-50/night which includes breakfast. It is very easy to book your bus journey at any of the bus agents on the street below.
My parents have also made the journey via a hired car and driver through a friend. It which took 5-6 hours and cost USD$110 (direct from the airport at HCMC to Mui Ne). You can arrange a private taxi from the airport or HCMC to Mui Ne through your hotel. I am not sure what the price would be but it’s likely to be similar. I was surprised to see so many churches along the way, and many houses had statues or pictures of Jesus and the Virgin Mary above their doors. We must have passed no fewer than 60 churches and only a handful of temples! Apparently the Southern Vietnam has quite a large Catholic population, despite Vietnam being a predominantly Buddhist country. Apparently Catholics make up 7-8% of the population and Protestants 1% – they must all be in the south-east of the country!.
We passed many plantations of the cactus-like fruit plant, Dragon Fruit before reaching Phan Thiet.
We stayed at Little Mui Ne Cottages and Resort in the village of Ham Tien. Our beach-front bungalow was only 10 metres from the beach. Mum and Dad return there each year as it has become a second home to them and they have got to know the staff. The sea is calm in the morning but gets more choppy as the wind picks up later in the morning. The stretch of beach where our resort is would not be for everyone but we love it. You see, this is where the fishing village is and early each morning the local people are out there with their 200 meter long nets catching fish and shellfish. They use small circular coracle boats to help set the nets, and later 6-8 members of the family or friends pull it in. We love to see their catch, and have even helped out the odd time with pulling in the nets. My father has become friends with some of the fishing families, and each year brings them small gifts like reading glasses and photographs he has taken of them ( they don’t have cameras). The local fisher people work very hard and their catch varies from meagre to bountiful, depending on the luck of the day. We wonder if their way of life is under threat because this area is over-fished. You can see why when you see the hundreds of fishing boats in the harbour a few kilometres up the road. Being a working area of beach there are often dogs and cattle on it, so it is not the best for swimming, but it doesn’t really matter because the resort’s pool is superb.
There are plenty of local restaurants in the village and town. The food is cheap and delicious.
One of my favourite things to do in Mui Ne is to hire an automatic “moto” (an automatic motor scooter. You can also hire a driver inexpensive or catch a moto-taxi – both inexpensive) and tour between the village and the town, visit the dunes and explore the local countryside. So much fun. I can see why my Mum and Dad return year after year 🙂
Mui Ne is also a great stepping stone to continuing your journey north to Nga Trang or Da Lat.