A touch of desert in Vietnam
Published/Last edited or updated: 24th November, 2016
Mui Ne’s sand dunes – one red, the other white – are a fascinating regional phenomenon created by the high winds rushing to and from the ocean. Since Mui Ne is thin on tourist sights, the dunes have become the top attraction, their natural beauty somewhat diminished by the crowds scampering all over it.
The dunes can be visited either under your own steam or a tour – the Jeep tours being especially popular and actually cheaper than renting your own motorbike. The red dunes are closest to town, 11 kilometres from the tourist centre. Simply head east on desert highway TL706B, virtually empty until you hit the predictable row of tourist shops – you can’t miss it.
The most popular time to see it is at sunset, when the amber sand radiates an intense fiery red; the effect is dramatic. However, you won’t be alone. This is the last stop on most tours and arriving vehicles are swarmed by women and children renting sheets of plastic to use as sleds; it’s 10,000 dong for a few rides down.
The second most popular time is at sunrise, and early birds are rewarded with cooler temperatures. You may have the dunes to yourself in the middle of the day, but it would be an absolute inferno.
The same all applies to the white sand dunes, a further 23 kilometres up the coast from the red dunes. The white dunes are taller and vaster, with much of them marred by tire tracks and the sound of ATVs racing all over. Alas, Vietnam loves nature for its profitable beauty so if you want to rent one, it is 400,000 dong for 20 minutes. It certainly does save you from a tedious slog up and down.
To get to the white dunes, from the red dunes continue along Highway DT716 for 20 kilometres, at the junction turn right. For the tourist parking, look for the second sign/entrance on your left (the first leads to the lake). You’ll be charged for parking/entrance.
If you want to avoid the tourist parking, there’s no reason why you can’t continue along the highway and find a spot– it’s sand and dunes for kilometres more. A local would tell you it’s not a good idea because there is no parking protection or shade but it should be fine.
Tours (which is actually just transport to the different sights) are an economical way to see both. They usually take half a day, departing early morning for sunrise or early afternoon so that it ends at sunset. Some pad it with a stop for a photo at a lookout to Mui Ne fishing village or the Fairy Stream. We saw hostels advertise “Jeep” tours for as little as 70,000 dong. Just double check if there are any extra fees. We did the trip with The Sinh Tourist for US$7. The bus was new, clean and air-conditioned, and it included drinking water. Their office is at 144 Nguyen Dinh Chieu St. T: (062) 384 7542; email@example.com; www.thesinhtourist.vn; open daily 07:00-22:00.
Cindy Fan is a Canadian writer/photographer and author of So Many Miles, a website that chronicles the love of adventure, food and culture. After falling in love with sticky rice and Mekong sunsets, in 2011 she uprooted her life in Toronto to live la vida Laos. She’s travelled to over 40 countries and harbours a deep affection for Africa and Southeast Asia. In between jaunts around the world, she calls Laos and Vietnam home where you’ll find her traipsing through rice paddies, standing beside broken-down buses and in villages laughing with the locals.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.