When I first came to Vietnam I was aware of the cities, the strong culture, the jungles, and the food; but one thing I was not aware of was how beautiful the beaches could be, specifically, Mui Ne.
After being away from home for over 15 months, my parents decided it’d be a good idea to come visit me (I’d already made up my mind not to visit home until Christmas), and so, after a few weeks of deliberating, we came up with the plan of spending a few days in the city and a few days elsewhere, namely, the beach. Now, I’m no beach person. Sure, I’ve spent time on a few beaches during my travels, but lying on a beach all day in the sun doesn’t really appeal to me, especially when this happens to be for several days at a time. Nevertheless, as I’d not seen my family for a while, and I thought that a couple of days in the sun would be beneficial, especially given that I’d not really left the city for 6 months…
So, if you’re in the south of Vietnam and don’t want to travel too far (or fly for that matter), which beach do you go for? Well, after asking a couple of people, Mui Ne seemed to be the best option. After a couple of nights catching up in Saigon (and plenty of beer guzzling), we looked forward to our 4hr sleeper bus trip north east (which was an experience for my parents, to say the least).
Mui Ne is situated in the Phan Thiet area of Binh Thuan province, about 4hrs north east of Ho Chi Minh City, and is well known as a fishing village and tourist hot-spot. I’d been chosen, rather shrewdly, to find a decent hotel in the area which, if I’m honest, isn’t my thing; I’m used to finding cheap hostels and guesthouses for myself when I travel, and not being concerned with the comfort of others (or even myself sometimes- I’ve stayed in some real f**king dives!) But, in the end, I managed to find a not too expensive hotel that was near the beach, had good food, a swimming pool, and pretty decent service- hallelujah!
So, what’s so good about Mui Ne? Well, first of all, the beach. The golden sands were far more pleasant, and cleaner, than most beaches I’d been to over the last year, and this, for some reason, helped to make the sea look more appealing. Yes, the sea was, for a change, pretty well behaved in terms of allowing reluctant bathers to enter (unlike a lot of other areas in the country) and was more than a joy to swim in; even far out the water wasn’t overly chilling and, apart from having to look out for nearby jet skis or windsurfers, didn’t seem dangerous at all, which is pretty good for the weak swimmers out there.
Lying on the beach, reading a book, and sipping on a cold one was, I must admit, pretty relaxing for a couple of days; truth be told it was the first time I’d truly relaxed since arriving in Vietnam as, even when not at work, living in the city just makes truly relaxing quite difficult at times. We all passed the time without a care in the world. We all caught up on things that’d been happening at home and during my travels, what our future plans were, and just general chit chat about this and that: it was nice.
However, not content with sitting on my ass all day, I decided that we should visit at least one local landmark, namely the fairy stream.
The fairy stream is about 5 miles north of the main strip of Mui Ne, which will cost about 70,000vnd in a taxi (or less if you haggle more) and 5000vnd to enter. I’d been told to come here by a friend from the city and, not having looked it up beforehand (which is unusual for me), I was unaware of what we’d see.
We followed the shallow waters upstream, passing through woods, into scorching hot openings, and along the edges of brightly coloured fiery rocks, clay and sand dunes which, at some points, are collapsing. The contrast between the dark greens of the trees and the sun shaded colours of the sand is something you rarely see, and is actually somewhat fascinating on first sight; it reminds me of the Zhangye Danxia landform in China, which is otherwordly.
The water you wade through is cool enough and can become knee deep in certain areas, especially around the little ‘cafes’ that you see dotted up the stream (amusingly with chairs actually in the water). Passing under arching trees and through narrow rushes of water, we finally reached the end of the line. which is in the shape of a tall rock formation and fast running waterfall; if you look close enough you’ll see fish here and there.
The walk itself is a pleasure if you take your time, though depending on what time of day you go, how comfortable the water is and the overall temperature will be different. However, don’t be fooled; if you plan on getting a decent photograph from up high, and you left your shoes back at the entrance, be careful when walking on the dry sand dunes as the heat is unbearable; we had to sprint up and down whilst also finding tiny areas of shade to stand in!
My sister, who herself is becoming a bit of a traveller (having visited may countries already, considering her age), thought that Vietnam was ‘pretty cool.’ It must’ve been quite daunting going half way round the world to a country which, lets say, is far different than from home, and to eat local food and get used to the local culture must’ve taken a lot out of her, especially when crossing the city roads (where she was told to stick to me like glue). However, having asked her about her experience, she claims that Mui Ne was tranquil and that overall the food was great, even the Pho! Though I suspect that she preferred chilling on the beach to dodging traffic in the city, she did say that she could understand why people live in cities like Ho Chi Minh; the liveliness and potential for doing new things was something she found enjoyable…
All in all, the ‘reunion’ with my family was great, and Mui Ne was a perfect place for a more calming catch up than the city sprawl will ever be. We all had a laugh, enjoyed the beach, were overly happy with the fairy stream, and filled ourselves with some of the nicest food the area had to offer; it was a great place to just kick back and forget about city life for a while.
As I said earlier, I knew a little about Vietnam before I came, and thought I knew a lot whilst I’ve been living here, but now I realise that I know very little about the country outside of the cities, which is something I’m definitely looking forward to finding out!