Mui Ne is a popular beach town swarming with mostly Vietnamese and Russian tourists. It’s only a five hour drive from Ho Chi Minh which makes it a great place to go for a weekend getaway. Since it was really hot and bug-full during the time we went, we did not enjoy much our stay… with the exception of the amazing the $5 tour.
After two days of failing to relax on the shade-less sweltering beach with more mosquitoes than grains of sand, we decided to kill some time by taking the tour. We had read a lot of negative reviews about these cheap tours where you are just dropped off at a place and picked up after some time, so we kept our expectations low.
The car that picked us up from our Long Son Campground Hostel was an old US military car. It was on time and it appeared to be just us on the tour. The first stop was the one we were most excited about, the Fairy Stream. Just as expected, our driver dropped us off by the entrance and told us to be back in an hour.
We left our shoes in a large pile near a lady selling souvenirs and food before stepping into the warm muddy water. It felt like we were at a foot spa! We spent an hour walking through the stream and the views were spectacular. It was such a unique magical place with cute cows grazing alongside the river.
There were some bad things too, like some trash in the water, signs for cruel ostrich riding and a tiny zoo that clearly didn’t care about the well being of it’s unhappy animals. Other than that and the lady that tried to cheat us by giving us the wrong change (very common in Vietnam unfortunately) it was a lot of fun and already worth the $5.
When we returned to our driver, he was relaxing and smoking with six new tourists who were joining us for the rest of the tour. Sure, we had to squeeze a bit to fit into the car, but at least we had company and the people were all chatty and fun! We started getting to know them on our way to our next stop, the fish market.
Maybe we should stop reading reviews of the places we plan on visiting, because people had some horrible things to say about the fish market. Someone referred to it as a seafood cemetery, which was a pretty accurate description… but aren’t all food markets seafood cemeteries? Anyway, we could smell it several minutes before we arrived.
The fishing market/village consisted of many stalls selling fish and a cool view of fishing boats in nearby waters. Yes, there were lots of dead crabs and fish all over the place too but there’s plenty of those in the super markets and in your sushi. It smelled quite horrible so we didn’t stay long, but I enjoyed spending those 10 minutes taking photos and videos, plus the place was pretty fascinating if you gave it a change.
Next we drove for a long time down winding roads with free roaming cows everywhere until we reached the white sand dunes. Here we could either walk or rent a ATV to explore the sand dunes. We started off walking but ended up running back and talking the ATV rental guy down to a price we liked. I’ll get into this in another post, but it was so much fun and definitely worth the money! We did almost die once… but it was all fine in the end.
After inhaling lots of sand we set off to the red sand dunes. We were tired so we just sat on the peak watching people take selfies and slide down in makeshift sleds rented by local children. We had already done some sand sledding in Inner Mongolia and didn’t need any more sand in our hair, eyes or ears. The sun was started to set so we had a beautiful view!
Once it was time to leave, we discovered that since everyone else was headed in the opposite direction, they would be taken by car and we had to wait for a friend of our driver to take us back on his motorcycle. Although we were assured that it was free, we still had our doubts and weren’t too happy with the arrangement.
The guy who picked us up was friendly and started talking to us about where we were from and how we like Vietnam. After asking us if we had children, he told us about his family and showed us two photos of his newborn son that were suspiciously in an otherwise empty album. We thought he was just making small talk until he arrived at our hostel and suddenly asked for money.
When we said that the guide told us it was free (and he paid the guy right in front of us) he said yes, it’s free, but give me money for my son. He pulled out his phone again to show us pictures and almost begged for the money. Unfortunately for him, we did not appreciate this and walked away with him yelling about his son.
The entire tour lasted about 4 hours and was a great way to see all the sights, meet fellow travelers and experience some truly unique places. If we had wanted to save money, we could have taken the buy everywhere (maybe not the white sand dunes, they were really far away). It was definitely worth the $5 to have a car take us everywhere. Make sure that you ask around to get the cheapest tour, we’ve read about people paying $5 for each individual stop, which wouldn’t have been worth it.