The Sahara of Vietnam in Mui Ne: Sand dune exploration

Despite living within an acceptable travelling distance from the Sahara Dessert for most of my life, I have never actually visited the desert, not even in Australia, when I lived in New Zealand .

When I got to Vietnam from Cambodia, I had read up a little on Mui Ne, and also had some recommendations to visit the sand dunes there.

Sand dunes don’t sound too exciting. In fact, in the North Coast of Northern Ireland, where I grew up, we have some cool sand dunes, where I have spent many a weekend rolling and sand surfing down. However, one quick search online, changed my mind, the sand dunes in Mui Ne looked incredible.

How to get to the sand dunes in Mui Ne?

The Sand dunes are located in various places, with the White Sand dunes being the most impressive, and the furthest away. The Fairy stream and The Red sand dunes are located at the far end of the main street in Mui Ne. Depending on where you are staying, I would say they would be not much more than a 15-20 minute walk away.

It is possible to hire scooters or motorbikes and get there yourself, but I have heard that maps to these areas are hard to get your hands on. Although, I later came across this site, with some good directions, if you want to do it yourself. 

Although I had some motorbike adventures in central and southern Laos, I decided for convenience, I would book a tour to see everything in one hit.

Tours to the sand dunes: The Cost 

As ever, the Vietnamese cash in on tourism, with tours to the sand dunes for sunrise and sunset. Tours are comparable all over Mui Ne; I checked prices with a few agencies, in the end, I bought a ticket from the hostel I was staying at (Mui Ne Backpacker Village – which is an incredible resort like hostel) for US$7, or 152,000 Vietnamese Dong. This included the transport only to the sand dunes, there were other charges, as described below.

Tours to the sand dunes of Mui Ne: Where we went 

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After being picked up in an old, and bright blue Jeep around 1pm, I was driven, with 6 other backpackers to the first stop – the red sand dunes and fairy stream, I was surprised that it only took 5 minutes to get there, and thought I had wasted my money by paying for a tour (after getting to the White sand dunes, I felt it was worth it)

The Fairy Stream and Red Sand Dunes 

At the fairy stream, two young Vietnamese boys, sat in the sun, playing a game of cards, they charged us 5,000 dong (US $0.20) for the entry. The driver, told us that we had 45 minutes to explore.

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So after a few steps down, we walked along what looked like a muddy stream, for a good 10 minutes. It didn’t seem that impressive, but then, just around the corner, we saw the dunes, a deep and dark red colour. A steep climb to the to top gave us a pretty amazing view.

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Along the stream, there are various other detour activities, including Ostrich riding. I am very much against the use of animals for tourism purposes (although I did visit Tiger Kingdom in Thailand), so gave this a miss.

 The Fishing Village

Coastal towns in Vietnam are quite popular for fishing, and in Mui Ne, various eateries known as ‘BoKe’ (pronounced Bo-kay, as opposed to the way Northern Irish people say the word for vomiting!) So our next stop was to view the fishing village, not far down the road. Various boats lined the sea, which was actually really nice to see, as apart from rivers and lakes, I hadn’t seen the sea since being in Krabi, Thailand  a good few months earlier.

Our stop here was quick, and it wasn’t something that interested me a lot, to be honest, but nice to just watch the sea and locals for a little while.

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The White Sand Dunes

 

The White sand dunes, were what I was most looking forward to during my tour. It was the most desert like experience I had ever had. Driving out to the white sand dunes took a good twenty minutes or so, from where we were, (they are about 30km south of Mui Ne itself) and the entry fee cost us another 10,000 dong (US$ 0.40 cents). The walk up to the top of the sand dunes took about 15 minutes or so (quicker if you are fitter!) You did have the option of hiring a dune buggy for another US$10 or so (note, this price may not be accurate, I just heard that they wanted more than $5, and I said no).

The buggies do spoil the view and tranquillity somewhat, despite looking like a lot of fun. Most of the backpackers I went with hired out one, apart from one other girl from Holland, so we took a leisurely stroll to the top. Upon getting there, my jaw dropped – it was as beautiful as the pictures said it would be.

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We wandered around, watching people play on the dune buggies, making tracks across the pristine white sand, and posed for the obligatory photograph.

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This area was definitely one of my favourite spots in Mui Ne, and indeed South Vietnam.

The Yellow sand dunes

Our last port of call, was to the yellow sand dunes, were we could do a bit of sand boarding and watch the sunset. Upon arrival at the dunes, we were hounded by various Vietnamese children offering us sand boards for different prices. In the end, we purcahsed one for 20,000 dong (US$0.80), and shared it between all of us. However, it was less of a sand board, and more of a piece of plastic with a short piece of rope. Yet, we persisted with it, and managed to slide down, in some sort of fashion, getting sand everywhere.

After being exhausted by this activity, we sat on top of one of the dunes, watching the sun setting. It was cloudy, but with the backdrop of the dunes, it was pretty awesome looking.

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We were later driven back to Mui Ne, and dropped at our respective accommodations, were we arranged to meet up to try out some of the food at the BoKe restaurants.

This is possibly one of the most impressive areas that I visited during my three weeks in Vietnam. If you are in the South of Vietnam, I’d add this area to your itinerary. Mui Ne is a 4 hour bus ride North of Ho Chi Minh City.

 

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