Mui Ne is a coastal resort town in Phan Thiet – the capital of Binh Thuan province, about 4 hours by bus from Ho Chi Minh City. The name ‘Mui Ne’ interestingly has many origins. The first meaning comes from the fishing people in the past. They usually faced sea storms, so they used to hide in a cape, which was called ‘Mui’ in Vietnamese, and ‘hide’ meant ‘Ne’. The second one originated as the name of the youngest daughter of Cham King – who was known as the owner of this land. Her alias was Ne, therefore, the cape where her temple was built, was called ‘Mui Ne’.
Mui Ne is a tropical beach with wonderfully warm weather, which is ideal for swimming. However, since the area from the central stretch to the northern end is dominated by fishing industry, the southern part is more suitable for swimming.
With strong sea breezes, Mui Ne is most famous for kite and wind surfing. Days from November to March have clear skies with perfectly strong winds from 11 am until late evening. The rock-free water makes it relatively safe for the kite surfers. There are also some Kite Surfing Schools, in which kite surfing starters are helped to launch the kite by beach boys. For starters who want more self-practice, you can try the western part front around Kite Surfing School Windchimes, where there are not many surfers, so that you can avoid unwanted accidents.
Mui Ne is famous for its enormous red and white sand dunes. The white dunes are the more impressive, the near-constant oceanic winds sculpting the sands into wonderful Saharaesque formations. But as this is Vietnam (not deepest Mali) there's little chance of experiencing the silence of the desert.
Prepare yourself for the hard-sell as children press you to hire a plastic sledge to ride the dunes. Unless you're supermodel-light, it can be tricky to travel for more than a few meters this way.
Quad bikes and dune buggies also destroy the peace. Bizarrely, ostrich riding (100,000d) is offered as an activity, but we don’t recommend it. Expect some litter too; periodically there's a clean-up, but the red dunes were badly littered on our last visit.
You’ll need a jeep to explore the dunes properly, but be careful to agree on an itinerary for the tour, preferably in writing. We’ve heard complaints, particularly about ‘sunset tours’ that cut short with the sun high in the sky.
Also of interest is the Fairy Spring (Suoi Tien), which is really a stream that flows through a patch of dunes with interesting sand and rock formations. It’s a beautiful trek wading up the stream from the sea to its source, though it might be wise to hire a local guide. You can do the trek barefoot, but if you’re heading out into the big sand dunes, you’ll need leather soles on your feet; sandals are even questionable during the midday sun.
West of Mui Ne, the Po Shanu Cham towers occupy a hill near Phan Thiet, with sweeping views of the town and a cemetery filled with candylike tombstones. Dating from the 9th century, this complex consists of the ruins of three towers, none of which are in very good shape. There’s a small pagoda on the site, as well as a gallery and shop.
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