Burning up at the White Sand Dunes - Mui Ne, Vietnam, Southeast Asia

Burning up at the White Sand Dunes - Mui Ne, Vietnam, Southeast Asia

Burning up at the White Sand Dunes - Mui Ne, Vietnam, Southeast Asia

Jackson Bentley: What is it, Major Lawrence, that attracts you personally to the desert?

T.E. Lawrence: It's clean.

- Dialogue from Sir David Lean’s classic film, “Lawrence of Arabia”


Depending on your transportation options, the long beach strip of Mui Ne is about a 4-6 hour bus ride north from Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City). I decided to lay my head at the highly recommended Mui Ne Backpackers owned by an Australian named John Jenkins who married a local Vietnamese woman and never left the country.

One day I asked John how to get to the famous sand dunes.

“Which one” he replied?

Apparently there are two distinct sand dunes one can visit. The Red Sand Dunes are the closest to town and are the easiest ones to visit. The larger of the two, the White Sand Dunes are a little further out and features a little lake. John and his affable Australian personality recommended I take his sunset jeep tour. I am not a group tour type of guy so John set me up with a motorbike rental, a general map of the area and off I went to explore the White Sand Dunes.

I quickly discovered the map was a poor excuse for cutting down a tree. I drove for about 45 minutes outside of town and I could see the White Sand Dunes off in the distance, but could not find the road to cut across to them. So for about 90 minutes I burned a lot of petro just driving around in circles. Finally off in the distance I spotted a tourist van and I quickly a followed it out to the dunes.

We turned off the paved highway and onto a dirt road that was full of potholes, rocks and soft sand. Of those three obstacles, soft sand would be my enemy. At this point in my trip I had driven a motorbike in Malaysia, Thailand and in the wild, dirt roads of Laos. Driving a motorbike in Southeast Asia is by far best way to see the landscape and meet the locals, but I’ll be honest, it can be dangerous at times (if you spend any amount of time here you will see many young backpackers with scrapes, bruises, bandages all compliments of motorbike accidents). In my entire six months in Southeast Asia I never had an accident with the sole exception being my jaunt to the White Sand Dunes.

What happen?

So we bounced along the dirt road for a while and then out of nowhere a lake in the middle of this desert appeared on our left hand side. It was a sight of beauty. As we finally approached the entrance to the sand dunes a patch of soft sand appeared.

Rule #1 in motorbike riding: Keep a steady pace and drive in a straight line when riding over soft sand.

For some odd reason the van in front of me stopped abruptly (I can only assume that somebody wanted to take a photo). As a result, I quickly put my brakes on and lost traction in the soft sand. My motorbike began to wobble uncontrollably and I was heading to immediate disaster. I made the quick decision to just lay the bike down so I could come to an immediate stop. So I leaned to the left and just slid my bike on the soft sand.

Perfect landing!

No broken bones and the motorbike was intact. Laying down on the sandy road, I felt a burning sensation on the lower, inside part of my right calf. Apparently my right leg had made contact with a very hot motorcycle exhaust pipe. Two unfortunate events worked against me that day. One, the motorbike didn’t have a heat shield (some, not all, of the motorbikes I rented had them). Two, I didn’t wear long pants that day (I normally would wear them when I ride, but that day I wore shorts).

So here you have the White Sand Dunes of Mui Ne, Vietnam compliments of my Canon 5D Mark II and a slightly burnt right calf.

I still have a little scar on my right calf. Every now and then when I wear shorts people notice it and ask, “What happen there?”

I simply reply, “Vietnam!”

Check back for more of my adventures in Vietnam!

Happy Travels!

Text and photo copyright by ©Sam Antonio Photography

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Taken on: 11th April, 2012. Copyright: All Rights Reserved - See Sam Antonio Photography's page of Flickr

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