Jess Warren visits the popular getaway location for 36 hours.
Mui Ne is a popular destination for a quick, weekend getaway for the population in and around Ho Chi Minh City. I had been told about the area of Mui Ne ever since I arrived in Saigon, and with a weekend to spare, decided to hit the coastal location with a few friends, and tick off the ‘must-do’ activities.
Traveling northeast to Mui Ne there are many options. Train, taxi, bus and car are all viable modes of transport, but we decided to travel by sleeper bus. Wanting to experience the two-tiered beds, and amusement of clambering up to the top bunk, it seemed like a fun way to reach the destination.
Setting off at 8am and arriving at 12pm, the four-hour journey sped past, with a quick pit stop for snacks and the bathroom mid-way through, we were very much on our way.
After arriving and checking into our guesthouse, we grabbed our cameras and hurried to a nearby shop to buy waterproof ponchos. Whilst you can plan a trip away, you definitely can’t plan the weather … as we discovered.
Picked up by a bright green jeep, we sped down the road to our first stop; the Fairy Stream. The stream is a slowly meandering creek, coloured by the red and orange clay and limestone particles that make up the surrounding rock formations.
As the stream winds through the sand dunes of Rom Island, weaving its way between coconut trees, bamboo forests and the occasional boulder, it provides the most picturesque views, likened to parts of the Grand Canyon by some. We walked through the soft, sandy creek-bed, whilst sipping on fresh coconut water from one of the stalls that lines the stream. Heading back to the jeep, we were curious as to what the next stop would hold.
Whilst originally planning to head to the popular fishing village next, we were warned that the heavy storm would have made the location rather wet and it would have an incredibly pungent fish smell. Scrapped from the afternoon itinerary, the fishing village is best visited in the morning, when you can watch as the local fishermen arrive, and haul in their catches of shellfish and fresh fish from the early morning.
Heading to the white sand dunes next, we arrived to see the most spectacular rolling hills of sand, held together by the occasional shrub. If you want to head to the top of the sand dunes, you can hire a quad bike to take you up. With experienced drivers, you can either hop on the back of one, or drive your own, with a guide sat behind you to direct your steering, and help you up the large slopes.
We opted for the latter, and jumped into the driver’s seat of a hot and snarling quad bike. Speeding along the dunes, and reaching the top for some spectacular views, we took hundreds of photos, including the must-have photo running down a dune.
Driving to our next location in our trusty jeep, we arrived at the red sand dunes just in time for sunset. The red dunes, a similar colour to the red rock of the Fairy Stream overlook the sea and surrounding hills.
As we arrived, we were offered what seemed to be a long, thin sheet of linoleum flooring. With a fabric handle at one end, these bendy pieces of plastic were being used as sledges to sit on and speed down the dunes. Copying the technique from the children and families nearby, it took only minutes to master the quick push-off at the top, which would send you skidding down the slopes with ease.
Covered in red sand from where we had fallen off, and the wind whipping our hair, the day of activities had left our bodies tired but our faces grinning from ear to ear.
After reaching the guesthouse just before the heavens opened, we had time for a quick and much-needed shower before dinner.
Walking along Nguyen Dinh Chieu Street, we stumbled across the colourful restaurant of El Latino. This Mexican-inspired restaurant caught our eye, not only for the sombreros on each setting, but the happy hour sign advertising cocktails for VND35,000.
We sat down to enjoy a variety of fajitas, enchiladas, burritos and tacos, accompanied with pineapple rum cocktails and passionfruit mojitos. After asking around for recommendations for which bar to visit next, we were pointed in the direction of Dragon Beach Bar and Lounge.
Located further down the same street, we arrived and found ourselves a selection of sofas to sit on that overlooked the sea. Becoming increasingly busier as the night progressed, it was clear this bar targets the weekend visitors and backpackers. Staying open until 4am each night, we enjoyed the loud music and a wide range of drinks on offer in this popular nightlife location.
Heading home in taxis, we collapsed into bed after a long and busy day of sightseeing.
After waking up and realizing our beach plans had to be cancelled due to the heavy storm that had set in for the day, we sought out other alternatives. Walking down the road, we stumbled upon Joe’s Café Seaside Boutique. With table football, a pool table, large comfortable sofas and a large menu of food and drinks, we had found our haven from the storm. Stocking Bobby Brewers Coffees, Pasteur Street Craft Beer, and over 60 wines by the bottle, this location has previously been voted ‘favorite international restaurant’ by the Lonely Planet.
Settling down into the soft sofas, I ordered a quattro formaggi pizza, which had a delicious flatbread base, and was oozing with rich cheese. We set up a small pool tournament among our group, where I managed to shoot some billiard balls into pockets, but missed even more, which of course I am putting down to the stickiness of my hands in the Mui Ne heat. After a couple of hours fooling around with the games, it was time to catch the sleeper bus home.
Piling onto the bus after securing our rucksacks into the hold at the bottom, we clambered up onto our bed-like seats, and tucked ourselves up in a blanket for the evening journey back to Saigon.
After drifting off to sleep in the bus, we arrived back in the city at 10:30pm, and caught a grab car back home. Having spent around 36 hours in the popular getaway location of Mui Ne, we had managed to visit the popular sites, and enjoy the nightlife in a whirlwind escape from the city.