I was staring out the window, watching the bustling city of Saigon dwindle into dark countryside farms along the highway; the bright city lights of Saigon slowly faded into dim headlamps of vehicles and the occasional streetlamps. The journey to Mui Ne is short and everyone wanted to get some shut eye but I couldn’t sleep. I particularly noticed a number of fields brightly lit up by several hundred bulbs and wondered what was being grown.
I did later come to know that it was used to help the juicy dragon fruits grow during the off-season as well. We reached the town of Mui Ne around half past twelve. We walked to our accommodation, Blue Sky Guest House, which was about 500m away from the stop. I informed the caretaker that we would need a vehicle for tomorrow and he asked us to get ready by 4:30 so as to not miss the sunrise.
White Sand Dunes:
Startled, I awoke to the knocking on the door and realized it was 4:30 AM. The jeep guy was punctual and waiting to take us to the dunes before sunrise. We freshened up and hurried to the jeep. We still had hopes to make it before sunrise as it was still dark. The beach was along the road for most of the journey and we saw the sky getting lighter. The sky was cloudy along the horizon and we would not have been able to view the sunrise anyway. We reached the place after about 45 minutes of drive with bright skies above us.
The White Sand Dunes was a stunning sight with the fine grain white sand dunes towering against the clear blue skies in the background. The turquoise blue waters of the Bau Trang lake next to the dunes and the greenish pastures on the other bank of the lake made it a picturesque spot for a number of clicks. There were a couple of hot air balloons soaring in the sky above the dunes. There were noisy ATVs available disturbing the otherwise peaceful atmosphere.
Red Sand Dunes:
The Red Sand Dunes seemed like a miniature version of the White Sand Dunes by size except that the color of sand was darker giving the reddish appearance. It was a little disappointing after seeing the White Sand Dunes. Sand-boarding was available here but skipped it as the heat was too much and we were starving too.
Our next stop was the beach filled with fishermen cleaning their fresh catches and throwing away unwanted tiny fishes, starfishes and several bivalves. The sad part is that they just throw them along the beach to die rather than letting them back to the ocean. The other big fish, crabs, lobsters, shrimps etc were kept in a bowl of water as live catch was worth a lot more. The vegetarians in the group didn’t get down to the beach as the sight and smell was a bit too much to handle for them. The rest of us managed to get some nice clicks down at the beach. The live seafood was available for almost giveaway prices but we were nowhere in a position to cook even if we wanted to.
Hungry and tired, we reluctantly got into the Fairy Stream. The Fairy Stream is a tiny rivulet that is muddy from the sand dunes and rock formations on one side. The other side is covered with lush green vegetation. The water seldom gets deeper than the ankle and provided a cool refreshing feeling to the feet as we waded through it. The beautiful rock formations of white, red and brown colors distracted us from our fatigue and we indulged in some photography in this colorful landscape. On the way back, we found a lady selling tender coconut which provided some relief to our starving selves. I drank till my stomach was full with the sweet coconut water.
We stopped for lunch at a small eatery that was empty. A custom meal was made for the vegetarians under their watchful eyes. I tried the seafood soup which was pretty decent. The food was not the best we had but no one complained due to the hunger and fatigue. A good sleep is all we wanted now and that’s exactly what we did as soon as we reached the hotel.
Mui Ne Beach:
Sleeping and skipping the afternoon heat, we decided to head for Mui Ne beach. We had to find a source of transport as the jeep was hired only till afternoon. I was excited to take the local bus and convince the others too that we should take the same. Although the rate on the bus was fixed, the conductor took us for a ride and charged double. Even none of the other passengers batted an eye about that. Since not many other transport options were available, we unwillingly paid him the amount.
The crazy evening didn’t end at that. Despite mentioning to the conductor several times that we wanted to head to the beach, he didn’t inform us when we had to get down. After a while I checked the route on google maps and we had crossed our stop and gone ahead. We now had to walk about 3 km back to reach the beach. The walk was tiring and I wasn’t too thrilled to get in the water. I expected the beach to have a lot of activities such as kite-surfing and sailing but it was quite empty. Only Vijay seemed to have a good time in the water where he practiced on his swimming. The rest of us just sat down on the beach to relax and watch the sky turn dark.
We found a taxi willing to take us back to the hotel as we didn’t wanna take any more chances with the local bus in Mui Ne. We had dinner at a restaurant nearby where to my amusement, I saw ACP Pradhyuman talking in Vietnamese on TV. Apparently the lady running the shop was a big fan of Indian shows. We ended the day with a much needed relaxing massage after the long, tiring day.
Mui Ne is a small, quiet town along the coast. The sand dunes and Fairy Stream are the highlights of this place. The beach was clean but would have wanted more activities available, for which the season is important. Although the facilities aren’t great, the silent coastal town was a welcome change after the bustling Ho Chi Minh City.