Mui Ne Sand Dunes
Mui Ne Sand Dunes
Deep in southern Vietnam is the resort town of Mui Ne, situated on the South China Sea. Popular with visitors for kite and windsurfing due to the strong ocean breezes, Mui Ne is a well-loved resort town for western holidaymakers. Unlike other parts of Vietnam, which go through dramatic monsoon seasons with very heavy rains that keep visitors away, Mui Ne is dry for most of the year.
The Famous White and Red Sand Dunes
Nowhere is Mui Ne's dry climate more evident than amongst the Mui Ne sand dunes, which leave visitors wondering if they accidentally travelled to the Sahara instead of Southeast Asia. About 10 km north from the primary resort strip along Mui Ne Bay, you'll find 2 square-km of nothing but sand. With drifts that can be up to 10 meters deep, the otherworldly sand dunes are fun to explore and even more fun to slide down – a feat which local children will be happy to teach you, for a small fee.
In fact, it's worth mentioning here that the local children can be a little bit too persistent when it comes to western tourists on the dunes. What they want from you is about 10 to 20,000 ND to rent a scrap of plastic, which you can then use as a sled to slide down the mountains of sand. Used to tourists who will eventually give in to their demands, the kids have a hard time taking 'no' for an answer, and will tend to pester you until you either give in or very firmly assert yourself.
Entrepreneurial children notwithstanding, the Mui Ne sand dunes are still a very worthwhile stop on your trip to southern Vietnam. The view from the top of the sand dunes is magnificent. From the red sand dunes, you'll be able to see the ocean, while from the white dunes you'll have a view of the large dune lake ringed by pine trees. For a small fee, you can also go on a sunrise sand dune tour, which offers a breathtaking view of the sunrise that you will definitely not find anywhere else on the planet.
The red sand dunes, located closer to the sea, tend to be more crowded than the white dunes, which are slightly less accessible. With more people comes more peddlers, who, like the children in the white dunes, are eager to rent out pieces of thin plastic, but who also have food and souvenirs on offer. At the red sand dunes, the 'Arabian Desert' look gives way to a desert that also supports small, scrubby vegetation.
Getting to the Dunes
The easiest way to the dunes is to hop a ride in a jeep or motorbike. There are also plenty of tour operators who offer day trips around the area, which generally include a tour of the dunes, along with a trip to the fishing village on the northern end of town, and a trip to the Fairy Stream, or Suoi Tien. The Fairy Stream is a small river that traverses bamboo thickets, dunes, and a local canyon. The Fairy Stream, fishing village, and sand dunes together make an excellent day trip for anyone visiting the Mui Ne area.