Mui Ne – the kite surfing Mecca

Posted from Phan Thiet, Binh Thuan province, Vietnam.

Welcome to Mui Ne!

Welcome to Mui Ne!

In late morning the sun was already testing my un-liberal sunscreen practices. It was hot. So hot. I would be pink in no time and that thought still didn’t persuade me to avoid my impending sunburn. At least there was wind. I winced at the kite-surfers as I clung to the cushion on my lounger – certain at any moment we would both launch off the veranda and go sailing down the shoreline. Mui Ne, Vietnam is renowned for being one of the windiest places in Southeast Asia. I didn’t know that when I chose to go there. I had heard of villas and beaches and your general all-around traveller’s Shangri-La for sea-side relaxation. But after nearly being bowled off my feet a few times by the waves I settled for a constant exhibition of far too fit kite-surfers in board shorts, with sun-kissed hair, tan skin and heart-pumping acrobatics. I’d figure out a way to survive.

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It was a wonder I got to Mui Ne anyway. The road from Saigon was packed with holiday travellers making their way home with trees, chickens, cases of Coca Cola and whatever else they could fit on their scooter along with their family of four. My bus driver, however, was determined to maintain his schedule, no matter how much traffic was in his way. It’s not unusual for journeys to be delayed in Vietnam, let alone during Tet, but we made it to our destination on time, five hours later – a few years short of my life due to several mild heart-attacks. I was beginning to think I’d have to surgically remove the lady’s fingers from the seat cushion next to me, but she sprang off the bus like a cat in water when we finally got to Mui Ne.

Just a note about driving in Vietnam: While there is a centre line painted in the middle of the road here, it doesn’t mean the same thing. Basically it’s a gauge. For instance, if the road is wide enough to fit four buses side-by-side, theoretically, if the drivers are all good enough, two buses should be able to overtake one bus (at the same time) while another bus passes in the opposite direction. This is something they practice regularly.

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In the distance is a boat that has broken free from it’s ties. It drifted until it was beached and then had to be dragged back to whence it came.

Everyday but one the winds howled. And on that day the restaurant bars were full. But they howl and blow with such force here that it’s hard to comprehend how people’s arms aren’t torn from their bodies. It’s fierce, the waves huge and the water is deep, so it’s not for the weary. But if kite surfing or wind surfing is your thing, you’d be crazy to not be out in the water. There are numerous schools along the shoreline, the majority charging $250 to pass on their kite-surfing knowledge. If wind-surfing is your thing there’s signs around town boasting “learn to wind-surf in three-hours.” It seemed a little violent on the water to me.

I worked on my tan.

The white sand dunes aren't as spoiled as the red ones. They're farther away and bigger.

The white sand dunes aren’t as spoiled as the red ones. They’re farther away and bigger.

I did go see the sand dunes. There are massive white and red sand dunes within 40 minutes of the main beach strip. Tours are offered in jeeps for about $8 or $9. Once at the white sand dunes you’re asked to spend more money and rent a four-wheeler to go cruising through this ecological splender. Seeing tourists sat on quads, spinning wheels, stuck in the sand kind of ruined it for me. The red sand dunes weren’t much either, plus they were litered with garbage. When my jeep group decided to leave we had to get the other drivers out of our jeep and convince our driver to end their sunset disco dance party (he had a good sound system.) On this “tour” they also take you to something they call a fairy stream – which is really just a creek that ends in a three-metre high waterfall with Russians splashing around in it. The fishing town was probably the only nifty thing. If I could ride a motor-bike, I would’ve done it on my own.

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If you’re looking for an authentic Vietnam experience, you won’t find it Mui Ne. This is a beach-resort town. Years ago, though, it was a gem on the Vietnam cost, known to only a few and coveted for it’s isolation. Now it’s overrun by huge hotels, expensive Western restaurants and a massive, albeit dumb-founding amount of Russians. Most shop signs here are also in Russian. There’s something for every budget range though, from $1,000/night rooms to $8/night dorms. There’s plenty of accommodation, but the more popular and cheaper places along the beach sell out early in the day. My choice of stay was Muine Backpackers. It was more expensive due to Tet, but there’s a pool, AC in the dorm rooms and loungers by the water, so I figured it was worth the $9-12. It’s right at the edge of the beach – an ideal location to ogle the kite-surfers.

If one looks carefully, they can avoid the ample Western food places and still find a few local eateries up the side streets where the prices are 1/3 the cost on the main strip and you’re supporting local Vietnamese families. I found a nice little joint up one of these side streets and frequented it at least once a day for a meal.

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I spent five nights in Mui Ne, the longest I’ve spent anywhere yet. At first I really regretted my decision to stay in one place for so long, but with the hassle of travel at Tet, and having the rare ability to actually afford some luxury in a resort town, I soon found my decision one of my best yet. I relaxed, had great food, met lovely people, enjoyed a wonderful Tet celebration and got a spectacular tan. Plus I think the next time I think I may actually fork out the money and try my hand at learning kite-surfing. Somewhere a little less windy, though.

My next stop is Nha Trang, another beach-side city a little ways up the coast. It’s a bigger city, but I plan on only spending about 24 hours there before I make my journey on an overnight bus (which will be a whole other experience) to Hoi An – a town known for it’s vast number of tailors.

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