Beaching it Vietnam: Mui Ne and Nha Trang
After a hectic few days in Ho Chi Minh City we were pretty excited to spend some time in two of Vietnam’s beach towns, Mui Ne and Nha Trang, along the East coast of the country. Before planning our trip we’d never heard of Mui Ne, but one of our friends who’d toured Vietnam this past winter told us it was a spot we shouldn’t miss. We were also lucky enough to run into a mom and daughter traveling together who recommended a great budget hotel to us called Mui Ne Hills. After arriving via our first sleeper bus experience (even though the drive was only a few hours), we were pleasantly surprised at the huge size of our resort-style room, and the two big and clean pools at the hotel.
After settling in we decided to explore the small town and beach just across the road. It’s become a routine of ours that usually no matter when we arrive we drop off our bags and do a short exploration of the area around our hotel to get our bearings. We discovered the Mui Ne is known for their kite-surfing and there were a ton of people on the water and beach catching the wind in their sails. Kite-surfing seems like a combination of surfing, wakeboarding and sailing all in one and I can imagine it’s not an easy sport to learn. Because of the price of a lesson we decided that our time in Mui Ne was probably better spent exploring some other nearby sites via a cheap jeep tour and hanging at the pool.
Mui Ne was also the first place we experienced rainy season in Southeast Asia and there were several big downpours during our visit. After spending two weeks in 112-degree heat in Cambodia, we totally welcomed the weather change. Our first night we wandered down the hill from our hotel and got some delicious American style burgers and fries before calling it an early night.
The next morning, we signed up to do a cheap jeep tour through our hotel that would take us to a place called the Fairy Stream, a small fishing village and then also the white and red sand dunes. I’d read and seen a lot of photos of the Fairy Stream on other traveler’s blogs and Trip Advisor so I was really excited to visit this first destination. Basically the Fairy Stream was a small stream through what could only be described as a planet Mars lunar landscape. The red sandstone of the surrounding hills on one side and the jungle on the other was really breathtaking. It was also a really nice 45 minute walk up and down the stream to a small waterfall nearby with lots of local Vietnamese families picnicking.
Our next stop would not be so pleasant…it all started with Jeremy and I riding in the back of the jeep and the plexiglass pane that was propped up on top of the roof came crashing down on both of our heads. It really smashed my ear and head good and there was quite a large lump the next day. Then when we got to the white sand dunes we discovered that that they were so large we were practically obligated to rent an ATV to see them (for a fee of course). Jeremy has ridden an ATV several times before on guys trips so I was comfortable with him driving, but we didn’t expect that it would be so hard to do in the sand. Also because the ATVs were not dune buggies, the wheels were nowhere near large enough to get us out of the many ridges in the sand. After getting stuck multiple times, pushing and pulling our ATV, and it ruining one of our camera lenses in the process, we just left it where it was and walked back to the rental facility.
So in a terrible mood we set out for our last stop to the red sand dunes for the sunset. These were actually rather pretty and the sunset was pretty too, but I probably would have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t of had a splitting headache and our camera lens being ruined.
The next day we decided to spend reading and hanging out at our hotels pool. The food there was also pretty delicious and cheap and we didn’t end up leaving the facility at all that day! It gave us an opportunity to catch up on Game of Thrones in our nice big room and great wifi.
So after three relaxing days in Mui Ne, we moved onto the next beach of Vietnam, Nha Trang which is more like a major metropolitan city than a beach town. Upon arrival I immediately thought it could be the Miami Beach of Asia. There were a lot of Vietnamese and Russian tourists, which meant that every other restaurant was either Vietnamese or eastern European, it was kind of an odd combination. We found a cool local brewery and ended up getting a few beers, before heading to a restaurant we’d found on Trip Advisor with good reviews and reasonably priced called Café De Amis. We had Vietnamese style eggplant and some steamed clams with lemongrass for dinner, both super tasty, the perfect seaside meal.
Before visiting Nha Trang we’d heard about several places in the area that are known for their mud baths, so when our hotel offered us a discount at one, we decided to spend the day at the iResort. The iResort seemed to be popular with both the Vietnamese and the Russians and the mud bath was amazing! I’ve never had a full mud bath before at a spa back in the US and I was surprised how silky smooth my skin felt afterwards. We spent the rest of the afternoon soaking in the facilities several hot pools and reading on nearby pool chairs.
Then in the evening we discovered how alive the beach becomes with all the local Vietnamese tourists. Because they are so afraid of being out in the sun during the day, the beach becomes absolutely packed around sunset with vendors setting up food and drinks stalls and families pouring out of nearby hotels to splash around in the water and fly kites.
Our last day in Nha Trang we decided to rent some beach chairs and lay out for the day before our 6:00pm overnight bus (10 hours) to Hoi An. It was so funny that the only people laying out at the beach were other westerners and the Russian tourists. You would be hard pressed to find a Vietnamese person in sight unless they were working. Luckily for our long overnight bus to Hoi An we made sure to secure bottom seats at the back of the bus. We’d learned on our first sleeper bus (the 3 hour one from Ho Chi Minh to Mui Ne) a few tips: you really should try and get seats on the bottom so you have a place to put your bags other than your lap and you don’t freeze from the blasting air con, plus the back isn’t bad because then people aren’t stepping over you the whole time. We grabbed some bahn mi’s to go and were picked up right on time and on our way for our soon-to-be favorite city in Vietnam, and maybe all of Southeast Asia!