Mui Ne - Phan Thiet Vietnam
Mui Ne has few sights to indulge the tourist, so much so that the tours offered tend to be scratching around for attractions and offer up some 'fillers' -- don't be tempted by exotic names such as the 'dragon garden' and then be disappointed when you arrive in a field of dragon fruit plants, but maybe that is interesting for some. They will also take you to the local Cham Tower, also distinctly unimpressive for the SE Asian hardened backpacker -- maybe not so for the package tourist. Also on the list is 'Fishing Village', in other words, Mui Ne village and Mui Ne market -- again, if you've seen any street markets in Vietnam elsewhere, don't get too excited by this one or the one in Phan Thiet.
Actually worth doing are the areas famous sand dunes. Two locations are available to visit -- the white sand dunes and the yellow sand dunes. Both can be reached independently by motorbike -- or the other option is to jump on one of the jeep tours run by the various travel agencies. Hire a jeep for yourself for around $25 (1-4 people) or go individually at $5 pp. The dunes tour takes around 3 hours and leaves in the afternoon to make the most of the effect of the fading light on the sand formations. About 1km before Mui Ne town is the 'Fairy Stream', another 'tourist attraction'. In reality, it's a 15 minute walk upstream to a very small waterfall. Some tours include this, some don't.
The city tours of Phan Thiet have a standard itinerary, taking in the Cham Tower, Phan Thiet market, the Dragon Garden and Takou mountain. The mountain, although not very high, may be of interest as it holds Vietnam's largest Buddha statue at 49m. If you're thinking of going it alone, the mountain is around 30km south of Phan Thiet. City tours cost around $16 pp, or $25 to hire your own personal jeep.
Other tours to outlying attractions can be arranged such as the Rock Garden (mudbath and massage center), the Kega Lighthouse, Binh Chau hot springs and also deep sea fishing. Check with your chosen travel agency for prices. The inland facing side of Nguyen Dinh Chieu is littered with tour and travel agencies, so organizing some out-of-town activities shouldn't be too taxing.
Mui Ne provides ample opportunity for water sports, and being one of the windiest locations in Asia, it's perfect for surfing and windsurfing. However, although easy enough to find instructors and book lessons for the aforementioned sport, it seems to be being left behind by the new craze -- kite surfing. During the 'windy' season, November to March, these kites with their attached riders below can be seen dotting the shoreline the entire length of the beach. Outside of these months the sport is still available, but the wind is unpredictable.
Learning the sport is accessible even for complete beginners. Many kite surfing schools have predictably sprung up, and competition is fierce between them. All the centres boast different kinds of courses and claim to be the best on the beach -- it's advisable to chat with the shop owners before making your decision to decide who you feel comfortable with. IKO (International Kiting Organization) is the PADI of the sport -- but there seems to be some confusion over who is IKO certified and who isn't. Certainly, you would want to choose a centre that has IKO certified instructors.
One such place is Airwaves kite surfing school. Established in 2002 and run by an experienced Australian, Airwaves has the patch of beach from Seahorse Resort to the Mui Ne Sailing Club all to itself. This means avoiding the chaos further down the main beach where everyman and his dog is out on the water trying to fly. Two hour classes are $100 a go, and the school claims that for most, 4 hours is all it takes to be flying by yourself -- the maximum is two to a class.
Jibe's was the first kite surfing school here in Mui Ne, and bases it's reputation on safety. A 5 hour course costs $200, 10 hours $400. A two hour private class will set you back $100, whilst a one hour refresher costs $55. They have a wide ranging selection of both C shape kites and the newer hybrid or 'bow' kites on offer, meaning all skill levels are well catered for. Jibe's also rents windsurfers -- rates include: 10 hours - $290, 5 hours - $170, 1 hour $35, $55 for two people, 2 hour private lesson - $100
The third main kite surfing school on the beach is Windchimes, who have locations beachfront at Saigon Mui Ne Resort and Swiss Village. They are open everyday from 08:00-18:00. Windchimes offers equipment hire and kite surfing, surfing and windsurfing lessons. Rates include: Windsurfing Lessons - $40per hour, Surfing Lessons - $50 per hour. Kitesurfing - 5 hours individual - $190, 5 hours group - $160 (max 3), 2 hour discovery individual - $80, 2 hour discovery group - $70, 1 hour refresher individual - $50, 1 hour refresher group - $40