THE SOUTHERN COAST || MUI NE
Many Vietnamese beach areas have seen recent surges in popularity, but MUI NE takes the biscuit. Not so long ago this was a sleepy backwater ignored by domestic and international tourists alike, but the beach is now largely invisible from the coastal road, thanks to 10km of wall-to-wall resorts. The fact that Highway 1 juts inland before Mui Ne was the main factor behind it keeping off the radar for so long, but the secret was fully unveiled during an eclipse of the sun in the mid-1990s, which had its optimum viewing spot here. Now it’s popular as a weekend retreat for expats living in Ho Chi Minh City, as well as a favourite with upmarket visitors happy to pay $70 or more per day to lounge around in a luxurious resort. Many of these visitors are Russian – this is one of the only places in South East Asia in which Cyrillic text vies for supremacy with Roman.
There’s no doubt that its laidback atmosphere is one of its best features, but Mui Ne is also something of a tourist enclave, separated as it is from any Vietnamese community. This probably won’t bother you if you’re looking for unadulterated beachside relaxation, but if you crave interaction with locals or a higher-octane nightlife scene, you’d be better off heading on up to Nha Trang. Another potential problem at Mui Ne is that the strong winds and surf tend to erode parts of the beach between August and December, so you might just find the waves lapping onto the garden of your chosen resort. However, good stretches of soft sand can always be found with a little exploration.
Mui Ne is stretched along one main road – resorts make up most of the seaward side of the road, especially to the west of the curl; these peter out further east, where budget hotels start to pop up. All along, the non-seaward side of the road is made up of restaurants and cheap hotels. Heading further east, the beach finally disappears too, before the road reaches the actual village and harbour of Mui Ne, where fishing boats cluster together in their hundreds.
Though the number one activity at Mui Ne is relaxing on the beach, the place also attracts wind- and kitesurfers when the wind is up between August and April, and Mui Ne even hosts an event in the Asian Windsurf Tour each February. There are a number of establishments that offer equipment rental; the following also give lessons in windsurfing and kitesurfing, with an hour’s instruction costing around $40 for the former, and $60 for the latter.
Anyone for golf?
There are two decent golf courses in the Mui Ne area. First is the Ocean Dunes Golf Club, on the grounds of the Novotel in Phan Thiet. Larger and newer is the Sealinks Golf and Country Club, which sprawls across the hills at the entrance to Mui Ne. Both boast fabulous ocean views, and cost a shade under $100 per round, including caddy.
THE SOUTHERN COAST || CA NA
Given its proximity to the highway, CA NA is a more relaxing place than you would ever think. Hardly more than a wide spot in the road, this small town might even tempt you into staying overnight. Beyond the coracles parked along the beach the water is invitingly clear and snorkelling is a possibility, though you’d be wise to ask locals where to wade in as the coral here is razor sharp. If you crave a little more solitude, a spine of decent dunes back up another good stretch of sand 2km south; a fifteen-minute walk east of the resort area is Ca Na village itself, characterized by the blue fishing boats typical of coastal Vietnam.