Fishing boats in the village of Mui Ne. By Lee Starnes
Most of Mui Ne's appeal comes from the 12 kilometres of beach that run from nearby Phan Thiet all the way to Mui Ne proper, where the area's original fishing village still remains. Down at the harbour, an army of brightly coloured fishing boats bob up and down with the tide. Come early in the morning to watch the fishermen unload their catch from the night before.
Mui Ne's dependable winds, which average above 12 knots for more than 200 days of the year, are no longer a secret. Kitesurfing schools are your best bet for finding professional instructors, and the town's main beach is the safest area for newbies and anyone still learning the ropes. If you are an experienced or intermediate kitesurfer, you'll find other bays and beaches sprinkled nearby.
Mere kilometers from the coast, a pair of massive sand dunes, one red and one white, are positioned like deserts in the middle of a seaside oasis. The red sand dunes are most accessible, however the white sand dunes, roughly 30 kilometres away, are more impressive. Try sand-sledding down the dunes, then make time to walk the freshwater Fairy Springs to see it strange natural formations, carved out of the sand by wind and rain.
Mui Ne's Cham Towers are worth a visit. Perched between Phan Thiet and Mui Ne, these thousand-year-old Hindu temples belong to the former Cham empire, a medieval kingdom which ruled much of the southern coast for centuries. From the top of the hill you'll have a fantastic view overlooking Phan Thiet.
Vendors set up camp every night along the seaside at a series of stalls with the catch of the day on offer. Just choose your fish and shellfish and tell the cooks how you'd like each one prepared. Steamed fish, grilled clams, and sweet and sour prawns are all surefire bets.
Take an early morning stroll down to Mui Ne Harbour, where colourful fishing boats float atop the waves. Stop to see the local market on your way. When you return, hang a right off the main road to visit Fairy Springs before grabbing a bite to eat. After lunch, hop in a cab or onto the back of a motorbike for a ride to the white sand dunes, and round out your day with a sundowner on the beach.
For a two-day visit to Mui Ne, tack on a bit of extra R&R time at the beach in the morning, or try your hand at a water sport. In the afternoon, you can hire a bicycle and pay a visit to Mui Ne's red sand dunes or make the trip out to the Po Shanu Cham Towers in the late afternoon for a view of Phan Thiet.
You'll find the weather is best between November and April, when a slightly cooler – but no less windy – dry season prevails. Even Mui Ne's rainy season is fairly tame, making this a year-round destination. Tourist arrivals in the town reach their peak between November and January, and high season for kitesurfers is between November and March. It's wise to book ahead during these months, as prices can change.
Roughly 220 kilometres from Saigon, Mui Ne attracts occasional weekend visitors from Ho Chi Minh City, as well as travellers heading south from Nha Trang and Dalat. Tourist buses routinely stop along Mui Ne's main stretch, while the local bus station lies just east on the edge of town. For train travellers, the nearest station lies in Phan Thiet, a 30-minute drive from Mui Ne.