After spending a few days in Saigon, I was ready to escape the busy streets of moving madness! Motorcycles were relentless and buzzed about their business wherever they found an inch of space from the streets to the pavements. It was like playing a game of real-life Frogger. Pedestrian crossings was merely minimalist art and traffic lights were christmas decorations. It wasn’t my scene, and I was ready to go!
I went to De Tham street, District One (main tourist area) where all the travel agencies and low-budget guesthouses were located. I was overwhelmed with all of the options they had as there were many cultural, scenic places to choose from. However, what took me by surprise was seeing the photo of a majestic desert with title captions labeled: Mui Ne Sand Dunes. I thought to myself: What’s a desert doing in tropical Southeast Asia?! I MUST SEE THIS.
For 100,000VND (or $15), I was off to Mui Ne! I took the bus down with Sinh Cafe, a bus company, and sadly, there was no espresso machine on board. What they did have was air-conditioning, bunk sleeper seats, and wifi. Within 5 hours of watching Adventure Time episodes on my iPad, I was in sunny, coastal Mui Ne!
What once was a fishing village, is now a destination for surf riders of the sand, waves, and life. Not only does Mui Ne have Sand Dunes, but they also have a long stretch of beach and sea. It’s one of the popular destinations for the locals in Saigon to go to as a nearby resort vacation with water activities.The best wind for surfing in Mui Ne runs from August through December. For the kiteboarders and windsurfers, it’s late October through April. Best part? Water doesn’t get cold!
I went in October, and rented a surfboard for $10 for a few hours. I walked around the main beach, Mui Ne beach, where there was kiteboarding and surf schools at the beachfront. I was told that the best time to ride for beginners was early morning. 5:30am early at a lesser known beach. With the help of an invigorating cup of Vietnamese coffee, I was up and ready to catch some waves!
In the morning, I drove my scooter to Hon Rom Beach (also known as Malibu Beach). It’s about a 10 minute drive from Mui Ne Beach, and it’s a scenic drive getting there. I zoomed through the local fishing village, away from the tourist circuit, located at the north end of Mui Ne bay. Fishermen were just coming back from a fishing trip in their colorful round fishing tubs, busy laying out the squids in the sun to dry.
I was pleased to find Hom Rom Beach with the help of Google Maps. I was always worried that there would be too many people on the beach, and that I would smash into someone. To my surprise, it turned out to be a nice, private off the shore beach, with only one surf school called “Kitenam” that had boards to rent. It’s Russian-owned, with a beachside cafe included.
The beach was quiet and spacious. There was about a dozen people on the water, and everyone was spread out and made space for each other to catch a few waves. The whole morning was quiet, with a few early morning surf birds there to catch the waves. Perfect spot for beginners in the morning. Wind catches up around 11, ready for the intermediate surfers to practice their styles.
After I had enough of surfing in the water, I was excited to see what it’s like surf in the Red Sand Dunes of Mui Ne. To my surprise, it took about a 5 minute motorbike drive from the beach! There were places where you could park the motorbike and pay money, or buy something from the restaurant in exchange for parking. Either way, ask around and bargain for a fair price. And remember to have fun!
The Red Sand Dunes is a little bit of an overlooked adventure, but a great place to get some beautiful photographs, and to enjoy the cheap thrill of riding down a Sand Dune! For 20,000VND ($0.80), I rented a blue plastic mat from a Vietnamese grandma who showed me how to wax it. As I climbed up the top of the steepest Sand Dune, the Vietnamese grandma raced me down, and laughed because she beat me! Apparently, the more wax you rub on the bottom of the mat, the faster you slide!
It’s well worth a visit while you’re there and it’s also free admission. The best time to go would be in the late afternoons, where you can catch the sun setting, overlooking the sand dunes and sea view. Beautiful place for taking photos, and easily accessible. Mui Ne also offers another Saharan-like desert called the White Sand Dunes, but it is an hour away by car.
Next time you’re heading to Vietnam, consider Mui Ne as stop which would satisfy your curiosity. Who knew Vietnam would have such a spot that has both desert and beach? You’ll have to see it yourself to believe it!