In my prior post about Mui Ne, I talked about some wonderful soups, of lazy nights watching the sun set into the water and of taking a motorbike along the beach. While the narrative is usually my focus, it’s always good to give some practical information with the narrative, so my part two for my time in Mui Ne is just that. (I have two other “crash courses” as well – Marrakesh and Montreal. Perhaps I’m just writing them for cities starting with an M?!)
Crash Course Mui Ne
How to get there
There are many buses that ply the dusty, choked roads between Mui Ne and HCMC, but I’d recommend taking Futa Buslines’ Phuong Trang (link to Vietnamese-only site) bright orange buses, one of the more reliable bus operators. Yes, it will take you a bit longer than the 5-6 hours for the open bus tours, but it’s safe and they stop for food half way in. For your 130,000 dong ticket ($6.25) you’ll receive a bottle of water, a fresh towel and no smiles. The bus trip takes 7 hours and will stop once for a bathroom and fruit break, and once for lunch. Tickets can be booked at the office on De Tham near Pham Ngu Lao (272 De Tham; link is to Google map. Phone is +84 838 309 309), and in Mui Ne there is a separate office at the end of the beach strip (the directions away from the big resorts. Phone for Mui Ne is +84 623 743 113).
Buses leave HCMC at 7am, 7:30am, 8am, 1:30pm, 2:30pm, 3pm, 6pm and 7pm.
Buses leave Mui Ne at 1am, 7:30am, 8:30am, 9:30am, 11:00am, 2:30pm, 3pm and 3:30pm.
In both cases, the bus will ask where you are staying and drop you off right at your door, a nice add-on that I was not expecting. Note – Feb 2014: a reader has written saying the bus driver didn’t drop people off at their hotels. This is the only person to experience this thus far but please let me know if you experience the same as I want to ensure the post is up to date and accurate.
What to do
- Rent a motorbike and explore Mui Ne proper and the fishing catches that come in and out of the sea. At dawn until about 10am there is also a morning market in Mui Ne village.
- Take the bike out to the sand dunes, a dozen kilometers out of town.
- Try your hand at kitesurfing. (A list of schools here.)
- Hike and visit the nearby Fairy Spring.
- Visit Phan Thiet harbour and its many larger fishing vessels, with fresh catch of the day for sale on the bridge linking Phan Thiet and Ham Tien, and fish pho at the nearby market. You can also find fresh fish on the bridge near Mui Ne’s smaller harbour.
- Hike up Takou Mountain and its nature reserve (about an hour away).
- Enjoy the view from your room and wander along the water’s edge at dusk.
Where to stay
I stayed at the beautiful Bien Dua Resort (136 Nguyễn Đình Chiểu St) filled with plants and hammocks, but I would caution those who plan to head there. Like many other guesthouses in Vietnam, you either pay upfront if you like the place, or you make sure you have a Plan B since I was kicked out a few days into my stay when she said new customers had reserved and were coming in. What really happened, I suspect, was that the newer customers did not negotiate down the rates as I did, and thus she could make more money off the room with me not occupying it. Despite the fact that she said the room was available, she changed her mind.
Either way, despite the beautiful environment and upkeep of the rooms I wasn’t terribly impressed, but given the Trip Advisor reviews (at the link above) I got off easy.
From there I moved to Thanh Duy (243 Nguyễn Đình Chiểu street, +84 123 452 685), which was run by a lovely family and the grandmother made what remains one of the best hot Vietnamese coffees I’ve had yet in the country. The rooms were clean and staff very sweet, though it was not overlooking the beach like Bien Dua. I, uh, may or may not have snuck into the resort across the way and used their pool instead.
For those looking for dorms or a hostel environment, the very clean Mui Ne Backpackers came highly recommended from a reader I met up with during my time in Mui Ne.
Where to eat
For lunches, Lâm Tòng (92 Nguyễn Đinh Chiêu street +84 62-3847598) is right on the beach, with a dizzying amount of tables set out facing the water. A small balcony area juts out into the beach itself, great for low tide but ill-advised when the water is higher; you will get wet. Some good noodle dishes and fresh fruit options, as well as grilled fish with lemon and the typical Vietnamese staples. Not the best daytime soups – for those, head into Mui Ne itself at 8am or around 4pm for fish pho and other great market eats, or eat the bun bo noodle soup I described in my prior post. However, a solid bet for midday snacking with a view, even if it’s not the best food you’ll eat in Vietnam.
If you’re sick of Vietnamese food or beach eats: Sindbad Kebab (233 Nguyễn Đình Chiểu Street) offers something vaguely resembling Mediterranean plates, with kebabs, hummous salads, tsatziki, sweet potato fries and other small dishes. Open late.
For dinner, Taxi Stand Soup (what else can I call it?), the soup I wrote a love affair about in my last post, is my first choice. It’s in the empty lot just before Tutti Frutti restaurant. If you can’t see her, it might be because she’s hidden by all the parked taxis, their drivers slurping up her braised pork soup. No menu – just soup. 25,000 dong – 30,000 dong depending on what you order, with a fresh coconut to accompany it if you’d like (an extra 10,000 dong).
Another option is the seafood place I photographed below, Chi Em (Nguyễn Đình Chiểu Street, no address but on the left side if you’re walking from Mui Ne toward the Russian end of the beach; +84 166 808 4171). Lovely and family owned, it was less touristy than some of the other seafood joints along the beach. Opt for the tamarind crab, the scallops (fried in pork fat and shallots and served with peanuts) or a smaller fish stuffed with chili, lemongrass, ginger and herbs.
Where to drink
We ended up buying small bottles of Vodka Hanoi (cheap, $1.25 Vietnamese vodka that is distilled from rice.) and mixing drinks on the water’s edge and chatting. These can be procured from any corner store on the beach and in HCMC. Strangely bereft of them in their namesake of Hanoi, and Hanoi friends hadn’t even heard of the stuff. For celiacs: the blue label is distilled from rice, the red label from corn and grains.
For actual bars, ended up at Fun Key Bar (124 Nguyễn Đình Chiểu Street) a few times after dinner. Very reasonably-priced drinks, right at the edge of the water and very nice owners and staff. Open for lunch too, and my wheat-eating friends say their crepes are a good bet. Open quite late.
That’s about it for now! I only spent 6 days in Mui Ne, but it was a fun place to explore, great to be near the beach (though it’s not a lounging beach – be warned! It’s very, very windy) and a fun last-minute decision for a Christmas vacation.
I’ll be based in Ho Chi Minh City for most of my time here; other than the trips to Hanoi and Mui Ne, I will likely explore the Mekong Delta (markets!) and perhaps Hoi An or Hue, but it’s been really wonderful to have a base for these few months. The city’s got no shortage of districts to explore, there are lots of fun people in town and I wake up daily thankful that I’m eating such amazing food.