This starts off somewhat a horror story.
If you’ve been to Vietnam, surely you’ll agree that Vietnamese roads are a bunch of those. Imagine Manila jeepney drivers on steroids, and you know you’re in for some interesting driving.
Are we there yet?!?
The road that we were on was going to take us out of the city, somewhere east of Saigon. Throw in buses and trucks to the mix of road staples (vans, cars, and of course, motorbikes), there goes the cast of this highway to hell party! Not to mention the perils of nighttime driving, my heart skipped a beat several times in this 5-hour long journey.
For a place that is just a little over 200kms away, the ride is frustratingly long. It was so tempting to pester our driver with “Are we there yet?”, but he hardly spoke any English. Hence, I turned to my two favorite travel essentials: head buff to shield my eyes from seeing near misses with anything oncoming, and earphones for the much needed distraction.
As is usually the case, one has to endure some discomfort to get somewhere beautiful. I always think about this whenever my patience is wearing thin during my travels. At the very least, we were on a private van instead of a bus.
We arrived at our resort in the morning. After more than 8 hours of traveling from Manila, FINALLY… a bed! And since I was traveling with non-backpacker friends, it was a large one. Haha!
The coastal town of Mui Ne
Mui Ne is a small Vietnamese town facing the South China Sea. What was once a sleepy fishing village, it has become a resort-dotted tourist area over the last decade. A no-brainer since it’s one of the nearer (and more accessible) beach destinations from Saigon.
But we really didn’t go through all that trouble just to go to a touristy beach. No doubt Mui Ne’s coastline is pretty – a long stretch of white sand with stunning views of the sunrise and sunset. Quite frankly though, with 7,107 islands to choose from at home, us Filipinos are hard to impress when it comes to beaches. Possibly the grandest of which are right in our backyard.
No, we were drawn to Mui Ne because of something else.
Sand, just sand…
Tell me tales of how the wonders of the world came to be, I’m all ears.
That’s me wishing for a geologist friend. Someone who would explain to me the why’s and how’s of the natural world. Like for this instance, I’ve always associated sand dunes with deserts and arid landscapes. How come I find a Sahara-esque region in a country frequently visited by monsoon rains? Let alone one that sits side-by-side a lake… and a sea!
Fine. I know there’s the internet for that, but ain’t it cool to have someone tell this story in real time?
I’m asking too much from the universe again, aren’t I? Lol. Anyhoo…
The famed White Sand Dunes of Mui Ne are located at the northern part of the town, less than an hour drive from the resort area of Ham Tien. One can opt to join a tour or just go DIY.
For the tour, seats can be booked a day in advance with several operators in Ham Tien. Usually, it’s a choice between a sunrise or a sunset tour. These are said to be the best times to visit because of the view and cooler temperature. However, do take note that tours also pack crowds.
By the ticket counter, the Lotus Lake distracted me with its presence. What is it doing there among these dunes? I am amazed still by this juxtaposition.
It’s a bit of a walk from the entrance to where the dunes are. With our energy levels picked up by the ca phe sua da and pho breakfast we had in one of the stalls, my friends and I were back to our usual nonsense selves – disorderly, camwhoring, overgrown children. And as the landscape changed, our excitement grew.
None of the pictures we took can give justice to the absolute grandeur of this wind-sculpted wonder. A landscape that is never the same at any given time, ever changing whichever way the wind blows.
We found it empty of tourists and it was as if we laid claim to our very own playground. Infinite amounts of fairy dust for our happy thoughts. We were the Peter Pans and Wendys playing Finding Neverland under the scorching Vietnamese sun.
We were on our bikes and on our sleds, giddy and all smiles…
Much to the delight of my friend Nadia, there were some cow sightings too. What were they grazing on, I have no idea!
As noon approached, we had to leave. It was getting too hot, and we were bound for Saigon later that day. We didn’t get to see Mui Ne’s other attractions, the Red Sand Dunes and the Fairy Springs, but I’m already happy with what we’ve accomplished. I’ve got enough happy pills for me not to bothered by the long road that await us.
It was a short but sweet encounter with Mui Ne.
Sweet as a fairytale ending.