Where is the beach?

As we are now in our last 2 weeks of our 9 month stint in Asia (ok, for the pedants, give or take our 12 days in Eritrea), we thought it would be nice to have some downtime on a Vietnamese beach. After what we thought was some careful research, we decided to stop in Mui Ne for 5 nights (yes that’s right, 5 nights without having to move or repack our rucsacs, unheard of on this route march of a trip). Mui Ne is included in Lonely Planet’s Vietnam Highlights and is described as having a “pristine beach” so our plan was to plonk ourselves down on this and to do as little as possible. A great plan.

As with some of our best laid plans, it seems that we have been somewhat foiled. First, the weather has not been that kind to us. True, we knew that we were travelling in the rainy season in South East Asia but, so far, each place seems to have had its own little microclimate and in Hué and Nhatrang we saw no rain and only experienced short downpours in Hoi An. Not quite the case in Mui Ne where it has tanked it down several times every day, sometimes only for 30 to 60 minutes at a time, but sometimes for much longer! While we certainly expected some rain, we have heard that this weather pattern is unseasonal and so it sounds like we’ve been a bit unlucky. As I write this, I’ve just heard another ominous clap of thunder and so it looks like I won’t be sitting outside again anytime soon. To be fair though it’s still warm enough and when it’s not actually raining, we have had some bright patches of blue sky from time to time so all has not been lost!

Secondly, it’s been pretty hard to find this pristine beach. There’s talk of 10 or 12km of white sand but then we saw articles also referring to coastal erosion. Maybe the tide is at its absolute highest at the moment (some sort of freak spring tide perhaps) but essentially what we initially found was that there was no beach. Hotels that are on the ocean side have built right up to the water’s edge and then shored up their coast line, I guess to prevent the sea eroding their land. But even in some of the posher resorts, there really isn’t any beach to talk of, at best a tiny raised strip of sand, enough for a few sun loungers, and at worst just a concrete terrace with the sea lapping 2 or 3 metres below. Of course that doesn’t prevent the rather grandiose titles of these hotels e.g. “Coco Beach Resort”, “Dragon Beach”, “Ocean Beach Resort” (see the pattern here?). But then again “what’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet” or at least it would do if there was any sand or beach to actually speak about!

This is not a beach!

Still persevering, we hired bikes and after a good 5 or 6 km cycle down the main highway along the coast, we did eventually hit some sand. And to be fair it was a pretty good beach with lots of white sand, probably 1.5km in length. There were some hotels backing onto the beach here but also quite a lot of space for us commoners to park our back sides down which is exactly what we did. Hurrah, we thought, we’ve found the beach, let’s get on with this relaxing malarkey.

Bingo, it’s a beach! Look one way, blue sky; but look the other, unfortunately, a little more menacing!

But unfortunately, we soon faced the next problem, namely the wind. Mui Ne is known as a centre for kite surfing but I’d understood the season didn’t get going until October when the winds got up. But unfortunately for us, the strong wind seemed to have arrived early – great for kitesurfers who were out and about having a whale of a time riding the waves but less good for us as the wind really whipped up the sand and essentially blasted us which was actually quite painful.

Unfortunately, swimming wasn’t really an option either – the sea was pretty rough with quite an undercurrent and there was also a warning up about the presence of jelly fish which made it even less inviting.

And then, when the heavens opened (again), we decided enough was enough and ran back to our bikes in search of a coffee shop to lick our metaphorical wounds! All in all, not the most successful trip to the beach.

Sunrise at the White Sand dunes; Hawker at the Red Sand dunes, both near Mui Ne

To be fair, our hotel in Mui Ne (La Marina Boutique Hotel & Spa) has probably been our favourite of our whole trip to date (bar the Taj Mahal Palace heritage hotel in Mumbai which was a lot more expensive!) and hanging out here has hardly been a chore: it’s clean, comfortable and has a lovely swimming pool even if it is nowhere near the beach (despite a rather optimistic sign as you come out of the hotel pointing to the left saying “To the beach, 30 m”). What this is referring to is the seashore where the fishermen have pulled up their boats and nets but that is not a beach and another example of “optimistic marketing”. The hotel is also very conveniently located about 100 metres from an excellent food court so our wining and dining options have been good.

L: Our hotel’s pool area during a downpour; R: Boats at Fishing Village, about 5km from our hotel

So, a relaxing time has certainly been had – even if it’s not quite what we initially had in mind!

Beautiful colours at “Fairy Stream”, Mui Ne

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