Considering we hadn’t discovered all of Thailand when we lived there (do you believe we missed Chang Mai!?), Matt and I decided early on to not miss anything in Vietnam. After working for weeks straight and saving up some cash, we went on a backpacking excursion northward by bus from Ho Chi Minh City and made various stops along the way. This post is dedicated to our first stop along the way.
First stop: Mui Ne
Distance from Ho Chi Minh City: 215.3 km/133 miles
Time spent on bus: 3.5 hours
Time spent in Mui Ne: 3 days, 2 nights
This was our first experience with a sleeper bus. Sleeper buses are buses with three rows of reclined seats with two levels on each row. The overall idea of them is relatively smart. You can recline and relax, look out the window, possibly use the bathroom if you need to, sleep with comfort, etc. However, they weren’t as practical as they seem…in Vietnam, at least.
Sleeper buses are, most of the time, hot. Bus drivers love having the AC as low as possible if not completely off, even if it’s 125 degrees Fahrenheit with humidity outside and everyone is dripping sweat, including themselves. The seats are far smaller than you would hope as well. They were slightly uncomfortably small for me and I’m average height in Asia. But, if you’re taller than me, sleeper buses will undoubtedly be uncomfortable. Matt is almost six feet tall, so he was scrunched during every sleeper bus ride we took. And the bus drivers like to drive like they’re in Grand Theft Auto, so that doesn’t help.
Aaanyway, we arrived in Mui Ne around midday and instantly noticed upon exiting our bus that it was unbearably hot. Ho Chi Minh City is hot, too, naturally, but not as hot as Mui Ne. After walking about fifteen minutes in blinding heat from the bus stop to our motel we found on AirBNB, we dropped off our stuff and got some sandwiches by the beach at a surprisingly deserted restaurant/bar.
That day, we decided to relax a bit, then go on an adventure the following day. We booked a tour to see the sand dunes, which Mui Ne is known for.
We took an afternoon tour the following day and saw a fishing village, which was not spectacular to be honest, then saw two different desert-like areas: the White Sand Dunes and the Red Sand Dunes.
We were completely astounded by the natural beauty that was the White Sand Dunes once we arrived. There were towering mountains of sand right before our eyes and what was particularly amazing was that there was a lagoon right next to the sand dunes! It was unlike anything we had ever seen before.
We could’ve rented four-wheelers, but they were $10 for 15 minutes! We thought that was ridiculous, so we decided to just run around on the sand dunes and climb them ourselves. We tried to climb the tallest one at one point, but near the top, we got whipped by these non-stop powerful gusts of wind and sand, so we decided to climb down real quick!
This was the sand dune we tried to climb! See the wind blowing the sand at the top?
After a surprisingly exhausting hour of running up sand dunes in the blazing sun, we were taken sand-covered to the Red Sand Dunes, which were sadly not nearly as thrilling as the White Sand Dunes. From the tops of these dunes, you could see the ocean, which was a wonderful sight, but there were unfortunately vendors crawling all over the place, constantly bombarding you and trying to sell you anything and everything. There were also tons of tourists as well, which always takes away from the magic of experiencing anything in the world.
After the Red Sand Dunes, we were finally taken back to the bus stop, where we walked back to our AirBNB motel. That night, our kind hosts and two other guests made us a spaghetti dinner, which was delicious! We got to chat with them and eat spaghetti, which was a wonderful ending to our stay in Mui Ne. Oh, and play with the extremely friendly cats that lived there!
A note on our meals in Mui Ne: we ate at this small tiki-like restaurant called Sindbad. The food was outrageously delicious and the staff was so friendly! The food was also cheap and had excellently sized portions! We may have been in Vietnam, but we ate gyros, Greek salads, and hummus with pita the entire time we were there with zero regrets. So, if you’re in Mui Ne, DEFINITELY eat here for at least all of your meals!
Our overall experience in Mui Ne was a great one that we will won’t soon forget. However, since we went in the summer, it was extremely hot and deserted for the most part. The nightlife was nonexistent at this point, since it was the low season, so if you are looking for some excitement outside of the sand dunes, I’d head to Mui Ne at a time when it’s NOT blisteringly hot and deserted!
Have you ever backpacked in Vietnam? Did you visit Mui Ne? What was your take on it?
Thanks for reading! Next stop: Da Lat, one of our favorite stops in Vietnam!