Mui Ne : Sand dunes, fairy streams & other beautiful scenes

Mui Ne Travel Blog

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More 'traditional' Vietnamese 'locals' ready to add picturesqueness to the proceedings for the Chinese.

Mui Ne is the first of about a five point bus route plan that will take me along the east coastal flank of Vietnam about halfway up the nation’s stretch eventually to Hue.  It is a small, pretty much one road town approximately 150 kilometres east of Saigon.  Historically a coastal fishing village, whilst this remains a mainstay of the Mui Ne community tourism has of course spotted the rather fabulously long (11 kilometres) and attractive stretch of beach that exists here and has long since flounced into town carrying its surf boards, beach towels and bottles of sun tan lotion.  Both existences seem perfectly at ease in each others company here though.

Gray, my now fairly long-standing travel companion and I are booked on open bus tickets through different travel agencies so will not be travelling point to point on the same transports but endeavour by various schemes to meetup at each town over the coming week or so following our respective arrivals.  This does not today prove problematic and a very kind and well-informed Dutch lad Tommy takes us immediately under his wing to tell us the best and cheapest places in town for food, accommodation and entertainment.  A really genuine guy whose utterly in love with Mui Ne and its people.  This is his second stint here on this particular journey.  He’s already spent 6 weeks here previously and returned for another 6 week residence.  I find this quite amazing after Gray and I’s 36 hour stint here is done.

Stevie at the 'Yellow' dunes.
  There is much that is beautiful here in Mui Ne and the people are friendly but unless you’re an avid kite surfer (which Tommy is not) we marvel at what he could possibly have found (not love apparently) to make him want to be on this one-road neon strip of travel agencies and tacky hotels for such a period of time?!  But then you have to stop asking such questions.  Of course.  To desist from overlaying your own responses to a place and situation on top of someone else’s.  It’s quite fabulous how travel can clearly do this to you.  Somewhere, some-when, someday you just find yourself somewhere - it doesn’t matter where - and you just wake up or walk down the road and realise “this is your place”.  It’s where you want to be.
Sun rise over the 'Yellow' dunes of Mui Ne.
  So you stay.  Fair play.  It may well happen to me someday.

On our one full day in Mui Ne Gray and I sign up for a morning tour of the varied and quite beautiful natural sights that Mui Ne and the lands about it have to offer.  Anyone of a countless number of hotel and travel agents will offer the same gig for you and pretty much for the same price.  Gray and I pay $13 each for a private jeep-trail.  If you’re happy to go with a group you can get it down to $10 a head if you’re happy with being more cramped.  Agencies do either dawn or sunset oriented expeditions and they last between 4 -5 hours. 
We’ve opted for the former so yet again are “up at sparrow’s fart” as we say in England to blearily put our underwear on back to front and wash our faces with toothpaste and scrub our teeth with soap in the usual half-awake manner.

:D
  We are soon enlivened and invigorated by the rush of sea winds through the rattling open sides of our jeep as we dash out of town (about 7km) towards the ‘white’ or ‘yellow’ sand dunes hopefully in time for sun up.  Already the silvery dawn sea is visible to our right and the skies about are lightening.  Dropped off, we stroll another kilometre or so, hard work through the beginnings of the soft, soft sands and clamber to the top of the first of the marvellous dunes that lie here in Mui Ne. 

Of course it is far too much to expect that you will ever be ‘alone’ in such moments in the tourism-suffocated world of the 21st Century.  But it ain’t too crowded.  The main hindrance to peaceful appreciation of the beautiful setting is a sizeable group of middle aged nouveau-riche Chinese photography-tourists who chatter and laugh at many-a-thousand decibels whilst staggering under the weight of cameras that have lenses longer than they are tall and which it is quite clear none of them know how to use.

  Still it’s a holiday! 

Two pretty girls sit picturesquely on the lip of the dune.  Bored and beautiful in their pristine white patterned silk ao dai dresses with ‘non la’ conical hats in hand.  Also two ladies in purple ‘peasant’ garb with their produce bearing wooden yolks and baskets.  No produce in sight though.  Pretty much these ladies and gals I reckon are being paid by the Chinese to come and add an air of orientalist beauty and ‘authentic’ traditional aesthetic and charm to their photos.  They’ve lugged these over-priced cameras all this way, and must get those perfect postcard photos.  Fakery is not a problem.  Later observations prove my interpretation to be true… but at least Gray and I get some cracking photos off the back of it too!

The sun rise when it arrives of course is beautiful.

Bride & Groom amidst the dunes.
  Slowly the dunes, aided by the burning gold shades of light and the defining power of shadows cast, are revealed in their full beauty.  Quite a wonderful way to greet the day I must say… even with the dawn chorus of Chinese photographers!  Small local boys here carry curved lengths of blue vinyl matting about which for 10,000VND ($0.60) you can borrow to slide down the dunes on a couple of times.  After about the millionth repetition of “in a minute, in a minute” to one of the lads, he eventually, unfortunately gives up on Gray and I whilst we snap away with out cameras.  He traipses home and we don’t get to have a slide.  Oh well!

Next stops on our morning jeep tour are the fab burnt red gash in the landscape of the Red Canyon, a clamber up the rolling waves of the ‘Red’ sand dunes and a visit to the traditional fishing village port where tasks and boats, unchanged probably in process or appearance for centuries past, continues in their diurnal, fishily aromatic manner.

Stevie at the Red Canyon.
  A large stone stairway drops far down onto the beach where many clusters of women and girls, all in their ‘mollusc’ conical hats squat on those Vietnamese haunches of steel and sort through, grading, gutting and shelling all manner of fruits de mere; fish, shrimp, clams, crabs and whelks.  The men are either out or returning from the sea, many of them in the curious, shallow, perfectly circular little boats that are used in these parts.  There is great visual poetry I find to these scenes of daily toil by the lands edge.  Many of the fish here will make it to the large clay fermenting pots for the creation of the highly potent smelling ‘nuoc mam’ fish sauce for which Mui Ne is famous.

Following this we are driven back towards the main drag of Mui Ne and the final stop of what has been already a highly, highly satisfying morning adventure.

Mui Ne fisherman's port.
  A photographers dream of natural wonder and local visual subject matter.  Wonderful and there is still more beauty ahead of us; quite magical beauty in the form of the appropriately titled ‘Fairy Stream’.  This is an extremely shallow stream bed that runs down for about 1.5 km to the sea.  It flows through the most beautiful scenery and it stained a bright rusty orange colour by virtue of the almost neon coloured rock beds and sands that the waters pass over here.  It offers a beautiful, fantasy-style environment to gently splash through.  Most likely you will be gently pestered and accompanied (whether you like it or not) by a small local boy or girl with rudimentary command of the English language who wish to guide you up the stream.
  They even have a name, ’Thumb Guides’.  I’m not sure if this is because of their Tom Thumb size or what?  Gray and I pick up our own little tourist remora who sticks doggedly too us, but we’re not too bothered.  We reach of point of mutually agreeable separation and of course monetary reward is expected.  Being that his services were never required or asked after though I offer a fairly mean 6,000VND ($0.30) to which he’s not happy and proclaims “But Mister, Mister is not enough…when the big boys, they get me, they bully me and take my money what will I have left from this?!”.  “Well kid, if you put it like that, you may as well suffer the lesser loss of a  5,000VND note than a 50,000VND note so think smart, stop lying and scram!”.
Our little 'Thumb Guide' at the streams.

The rest of our day, as planned, is spent doing nothing more complicated than sitting and lounging about on the beach reading our books.  I’m still labouring under curious, lingering symptoms of illness probably picked up in the Delta and have put myself on a strict non-challenging diet of plain rice ’n’ vegetables and Coke until things start to return to normal.  Despite so many months of careful melanin production, tanning under the world’s suns and also playing it safe with the amount of time I expose myself today I manage to burn myself to b**gery.  Especially my hands! Strange.  I barely thought that was possible, they’re so ceaselessly exposed to the elements.  Oh well, time to move on from beautiful little Mui Ne and await the peel.

justasimsim says:
Awesome shoot!
Posted on: Jan 18, 2010
trekkearl says:
Thanks for the beautiful pictures and the nicely-written blog:) Reading it has made me decide to head to Mui Ne in December
Posted on: Nov 06, 2009
mabby says:
beautiful, beautiful photos!
Posted on: Nov 04, 2009
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More traditional Vietnamese loc…
More 'traditional' Vietnamese 'lo…
Stevie at the Yellow dunes.
Stevie at the 'Yellow' dunes.
Sun rise over the Yellow dunes o…
Sun rise over the 'Yellow' dunes …
:D
:D
Bride & Groom amidst the dunes.
Bride & Groom amidst the dunes.
Stevie at the Red Canyon.
Stevie at the Red Canyon.
Mui Ne fishermans port.
Mui Ne fisherman's port.
Our little Thumb Guide at the st…
Our little 'Thumb Guide' at the s…
Traditional ladies in their beau…
'Traditional' ladies in their bea…
Bloody Koreans and their oversize…
"Bloody Koreans and their oversiz…
The Yellow dunes by dawn light.
The 'Yellow' dunes by dawn light.
Amazingly, beautifully after all b…
Amazingly, beautifully after all …
Visitors to a large, pretty lilly …
Visitors to a large, pretty lilly…
Water lillies.
Water lillies.
Twan, our jeep driver for the morn…
Twan, our jeep driver for the mor…
The Red dunes (well, sort of red…
The 'Red' dunes (well, sort of re…
Kidz and slides at the Mui Ne dune…
Kidz and slides at the Mui Ne dun…
Sifting through the mornings catc…
Sifting through the morning's cat…
Coming back to shore.
Coming back to shore.
Traditional circular boats of the …
Traditional circular boats of the…
Broken Shells.
Broken Shells.
Quite a sad sight : a naked herm…
Quite a sad sight : a 'naked' her…
The amazingly pungent smelling cla…
The amazingly pungent smelling cl…
The beginnings of our stroll up th…
The beginnings of our stroll up t…
Fairy Stream (detail)
Fairy Stream (detail)
Incredible shifts in colour of the…
Incredible shifts in colour of th…
Gray amidst the colours.
Gray amidst the colours.
The little waterfalls that marks t…
The little waterfalls that marks …
Wind whipped hair! :)
Wind whipped hair! :)
Mui Ne is a kite surfers paradise …
Mui Ne is a kite surfers paradise…
Mui Ne
photo by: TrudyNRonnie