Fishing boats in the village of Mui Ne. By Lee Starnes
A sleepy stretch of the southern coast, Mui Ne has evolved from once-barren shoreline to increasingly sophisticated seaside retreat over the years, catering mostly to visitors who come for the surf, sun and mellow atmosphere.
Most of Mui Ne's appeal comes from the 12 kilometres of beach that run from nearby Phan Thiet all the way to Mui Ne proper, where the area's original fishing village still remains. Down at the harbour, early risers can see an army of brightly coloured fishing boats bobbing up and down with the tide, while beachgoers are free to soak up the sun anywhere along Mui Ne's main strip.
The town's most popular stretch of coast, Ham Tien, is now mostly divvied up between resorts and eateries. While there's minimal public beach access nowadays, a handful of bars and restaurants will let you lay out during the day. If you're up for a bit of activity, Mui Ne is also the place to try kitesurfing, its most popular water sport, as well as other oceanic activities such as paddleboarding and windsurfing.
Beyond the sea, the area also holds its fair share of unusual landscapes. Mere kilometers from the coast, a couple of sand dunes, one red and one white, are positioned like deserts in the middle of a seaside oasis. The red sand dunes are most accessible, however the white sand dunes, roughly 30 kilometres away, are a more impressive sight. Whichever you visit, be sure to try your hand at sand-sledding while you're there. The freshwater Fairy Springs is also home to a series of strange natural formations, carved out of the sand by wind, rain and a gently running stream.
Given the appeal of its beach and natural landscapes, Mui Ne may not be known for its culture, however the Cham Towers are worth a visit. Perched between Phan Thiet and Mui Ne, these thousand-year-old Hindu temples belong to the former Cham empire, a medieval kingdom which ruled much of the southern coast for centuries. Be sure to take in the view overlooking Phan Thiet at the top of the hill.
When it comes to cuisine, travellers won't find a host of options in Mui Ne, however the local seafood is well worth a try. Vendors set up camp every night along the seaside at a series of stalls with the catch of the day on offer. Cheap local restaurants also offers tasty, affordable Vietnamese dishes by the beach, while a handful of western restaurants can also be found along the Mui Ne stretch.
Take an early morning stroll down to Mui Ne Harbour, where colourful fishing boats sit atop the waves. You'll also pass the local market on your way. When you return, hang a right off the main road to visit Fairy Springs before grabbing a bite to eat. It's worth taking an extended siesta at midday – perhaps on the beach – as Mui Ne's minimal shade makes high noon particularly hot. After lunch, hop in a cab or onto the back of a motorbike for a ride to the white sand dunes, and round out your day with a sundowner on the beach.
For a two-day visit to Mui Ne, tack on a bit of extra R&R time at the beach in the morning, or try your hand at a water sport. In the afternoon, you can hire a bicycle and pay a visit to Mui Ne's red sand dunes or make the trip out to the Po Shanu Cham Towers in the late afternoon for a view of Phan Thiet.
You'll find the weather is best between November and April, when a slightly cooler –but no less windy– dry season prevails, however even Mui Ne's rainy season is fairly tame, making this a year-round destination. Tourist arrivals in the town reach their peak between November and January, so it's wise to book ahead during this time, as prices can change.
Roughly 220 kilometres from Saigon, Mui Ne attracts occasional weekend visitors from the southern hub, as well as travellers heading south from Nha Trang and Dalat. Tourist buses routinely stop along Mui Ne's main stretch, while the local bus station lies just east on the edge of town. For train travellers, the nearest station lies in Phan Thiet, a 30-minute drive from Mui Ne.
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