Mui Ne is approximately 220 Km directly east from Saigon. It is popular as the Surfing, Kitesurfing and windsurfing capital of Vietnam, if not SE Asia.
We set off from Saigon (Ho Chi Minh) at 11am via one of the (almost infamous) Hanh Cafe buses (according to the many posts on bus travel in Vietnam). It takes approx 4.1/2 hours arriving between 4 and 5pm. We didn’t have any problems. The buses are a bit tired, but the drive was peaceful & certainly scenic.
As family travellers with 2 young children aged 1 and almost 3, we found it a bit boring at first. Apart from walking on the very narrow beach we can’t really take part in many outdoor pursuits the area is popular for.
Until… we found some sights off the beaten path, but also some way out of the town.
The Fairy spring is a small waterfall about 40 minute walk from the beach road along a nice stream you can walk through with some great sandstone formations in varying colours of red, yellow and white.
Unfortunately our visit was spoilt somewhat by a guide who forced himself on us & then demanded 500k VND ($23 USD) for the privilege, which he wasn’t getting. I suppose that’s the price we pay for being privileged Westerners and a lesson in negotiating or being clear when we get some random follower who appears to want to become our friend.
Don’t get a cab immediately after leaving, as the areas a bit scruffy. Walk for 700m in the Phan Thiet direction – There’s a nice food court cafe on the way back for a beer to chill out to, which is the cheapest & best quality food we’ve had so far – Dong Vui. The beer was 10k VND (approx 40 Euro Cents).
Ke Ga Lighthouse and fishing village
We booked a private day tour in a clapped out old Jeep, with a shady looking driver who made no attempt to speak with us. We knew why when we got to Ke Ga lighthouse as the 10min, 500m boat ride to the lighthouse island became 500k VND (which should have been approx 200k for all of us). Maybe it was karma for not paying the guide what he wanted the day before!
Ke Ga is a fishing village with a rock promontory with a low tide causeway similar to St.Michaals Mount (UK) or Mont St.Michel (France). At low tide you can cross by foot.
The lighthouse was built in 1899 by the French and is the oldest in Vietnam. It’s a beautiful view and although a little tired it reminded me of a scene from the film Kung Fu Panda with the Zen placement of the trees, steps and gardens on this rugged little island.
Ta Cu Mountain Buddhist temple and cable car
Amazing – if you go to Mui Ne or Phan Thiet, this has to be on your list of things to do.
There is both a hike over the mountain or by cable car over to get to this Temple where the largest reclining Buddha in Asia was built. With Amelie and Soraya we obviously took the easier of the two paths, where the views over Vietnam all around are amazing. The temples are a nice feature and is a worthwhile ‘pilgrimage’
The reclining buddha is 49m long, signifying 49 days the Buddha spent meditating under the Bodhi tree and 49 years preaching, built in 1966.
One point of caution, bring some sunscreen – I didn’t and have suffered for a few days afterwards. (Aloe Vera is available in tubs at all the local pharmacies, as I’m obviously not the only idiot abroad!)
The Champa period of Vietnam.
It’s sometimes easy to forget when travelling, the very ancient history of many of the peoples in Vietnam, such as the Champa period which dates back almost 3000 years.
There are many Cham towers dotted around the country such as in Phan Thiet, Nha Trang and the 70+ towers in My Son near Hoi An (on the central coast). Reminiscent of a larger community who inhabited Vietnam from 1000 BC to the mid 15th century when they inhabited the Champa region (approximately where Vietnam & Cambodia lies today) are the CHam people. Predominantly Hindu, the Cham are alleged to originate from the Dai An mountains in Khanh Hoa province (where Nha Trang is located), possibly originating in Borneo (East Malaysia, immediately south of Vietnam).
The Cham are now classed as a minority group, with approximately 160,000 remaining, they were almost wiped out by Emperor Minh Mang in the mid 19th Century.
The towers of Poshanu Cham, albeit small are a worthwhile sight to see such a contrast between the Buddhist temples of Vietnam and the many Hindu influenced Champa towers dotted around Vietnam. It also gives an insight into the very long history of such a proud people as the Vietnamese, rather than the Vietnam war, which today is what most people know of local history.
Whale Temple or Van Thuy Tu
Our final day in Mui Ne we explored Phan Thiet a little and visit the Whale Temple, a small old temple, built in 1762 dedicated to the sea and for all the fishermen the towns of Mui Ne and Phan Thiet were built upon. Ca Ong (Whale) is highly revered as it is seen as a protector.
The highlight however was talking to three older gents sat in the courtyard who offered us coffee and were obviously interested in who we were, why we were there, whilst finding out one of their daughters had married an English chap, named Daniel, who was an English teacher in Phan Thiet!
On our way back to the town, we passed a school and were mobbed from the gates by all the children trying out their English skills on us. Shouting “Hello”, “What’s your name?” and replying with “what’s your name?” for them to tell us. It was such a sight to see the smiles on these children as they tested their language skills on us!
Within the city along the river bank is a monument dedicated to the first Emperor Le Loi of Vietnam, who also known as the ‘pacifying king’ (Binh Dinh Vuong) from his reign in the 15th Century.
Scratching the surface…
In retrospect (as I’m writing this a week or so after we left), we could have stayed a lot longer in Mui Ne as we only started to scratch the surface by getting to know some of the locals. It was a wonderful place to visit and chill out and also extremely cheap to live if you know where.
This seems to be a common theme as everywhere we go we’re paying tourist prices for the first few days until we can find something both more convenient, slightly off the well worn tourist track and much cheaper/better value.