Mui Ne offers visitors world-class
I’ve lost count. Sitting on a beach lounger under a palm tree, the
navy blue sea in front of me is a mass of colorful sails. Across
the bay, around 60 kitesurfers are criss-crossing the gentle waves,
interwoven by at least 20 windsurfers. Welcome to Mui Ne: the new
kitesurfing capital of Asia.
Just a few years ago, this 13-mile-long arching bay of
palm-fringed, white-sand beach was accessible only via a bumpy dirt
track. Backpackers and adventurous watersports enthusiasts were the
only visitors to disturb the local fishermen whose families have
lived on this coast for generations.
Things have changed. Today, Mui Ne’s (pronounced Mway Ne) single
paved street is flanked by new hotels, restaurants and bars. Small,
low-rise beach resorts welcome guests year-round, as do the surf
stores dotted around town. Meanwhile, the Ocean Dunes Golf Club
offers 18 holes, wireless Internet in the clubhouse and a four-star
A four-hour drive from Vietnam’s largest city, Ho Chi Minh City
(formerly Saigon), Mui Ne boasts a mixed visitor profile. Vietnam’s
white-hot tourism status attracts visitors from across Asia,
Europe, Australia and North America. The glimmering 4x4s and
air-conditioned family cars cruising the main street aren’t driven
by foreigners, however; they are owned by Vietnam’s nouveau riche
who have adopted Mui Ne as a fashionable weekend getaway. The New
York Times recently referred to it as: “something like the Hamptons
The area’s red dunes give Mui Ne
an otherworldly feel.
Mui Ne’s status as the rising star of Vietnam tourism is due to
geography. The curved southern coast bay looks out over the South
China Sea and the daily breezes that whip through the bay have
shaped the coastline creating a stunning landscape of white and red
sand dunes, as well as a lucrative watersports industry.
One of the first places I discovered was Jibe’s Beach Club,
where much of Mui Ne’s daytime action is centered. One of three
officially licensed kitesurfing teaching centers in Vietnam,
beginners and experts from around the world gather here daily to
prepare for their duel with the wind and sea. (Jibe’s offers a
10-hour kitesurfing lesson package for $400.)
The owner of Jibe’s publishes a daily record on his Web site of
the coastal conditions. In 2006, Mui Ne boasted an impressive 232
days with sea winds of 12 knots or more.
“It’s a really tough sport to begin with. You have to learn a
new way of balancing and control, and the strength of this wind is
amazing,” a South African enthusiast, returning to Mui Ne for the
third time, told me. “But it’s totally addictive, and the
adrenaline rush when you get it right is unbeatable.”
Though I was tempted to try it out, I only had a few days in Mui
Ne and decided instead to investigate the nearby sand dunes. Hotels
here offer half-day Jeep tours ($10-$12 per person) to the white,
red and yellow dunes along the coast.
Fishing boats in Mui Ne’s bay
My first stop was Fairy Stream, a shallow, orange-colored, watery
corridor that passes between striking jagged sandstone formations
created by the wind. Though the color made it appear polluted, the
water’s tinge actually comes from the sand washed down the creek
from a waterfall.
The lower white rock formations were shaped like compressed
stalactites, overlaid by deep orange sand rocks. Even more curious
was the green vegetation dotted with cacti.
An hour’s drive later, the landscape wound upward through sand
dune hills until suddenly the barren vista was enlivened by a deep
blue lake backed by undulating white-sand dunes. Clambering across
the soft hills, comprised of fine white sand, was a mesmerizing
experience every sharp breath of wind covering over the footsteps
of the few other visitors up ahead.
With sunset looming, we arrived at a forest of orange stone
pinnacles that coiled upward from a shallow ravine set into the
side of a hill. As the angle of the sun dropped, an intense orange
glow suffused through these brittle sand towers. Mui Ne’s famous
breezes were fading and, all along the coast, fishermen were
preparing their boats to set sail once darkness descended.
A taxi from Ho Chi Minh City to Mui Ne costs $80-$90. Frequent
daily buses (book in advance; journey time is four hours) leave
from De Tham Street in Ho Chi Minh City’s backpacker district. I
recommend the operator Sinh Cafe (Tel: 08-836-7338). Its one-way
fare is $8-$10.
WHERE TO STAY
Coco Beach Resort
Landscaped beachfront resort with smart bungalows and villas, a
large pool, two restaurants and a beachside bar. Bungalows from
$85; four-person villas from $170.
Comfortable beachside villas in landscaped tropical gardens with
large pool and sundeck, four bars and two restaurants. Villas from
$54 per night.
Jibe’s Beach Club
Ocean Dunes Golf Club