We left Dalat in the Central Highlands of Vietnam and headed down the bumpy unmade mountain road for Mui Ne on the coast. On the way out of town, we went through the old French quarter, with its beautiful art deco style mansions – wealthy Vietnamese now own these properties. We had chosen the beach resort of Mui Ne because it has a reputation as for being protected from bad weather in the monsoon season.
We had taken a car with a driver for the four and a half hour trip to Mui Ne. The driver was charming, spoke reasonable English and was proud to talk about his country, highlighting many points of interest. As we headed east towards the coast, through the highlands, we saw rich farmland, with a host of crops – we could see relatively prosperous communities, with comfortable homes, markets, people going about their daily business, with the usual array of farm animals in the fields. The scenery in Vietnam’s countryside was beautiful. Once we left the highlands for the coastal plains, we noted that the crops were different and the people were far less prosperous. Our driver explained that these people were much poorer and more dependent upon the state, but it seems that the poor did not always receive the aid promised by policy-makers – what’s new?
We had chosen a new boutique hotel that was right in the centre of Mui Ne and a few feet from the fine sandy beach, and yards from the sea. We had a large, comfortable room overlooking the sea, with a balcony, for our four night stay.
Unlike Hoi An, we were able to go in the sea, which was amazingly warm and the hotel also had a huge beachside pool. We spent many hours walking on the beach and chilling out. It was delightful after our heavy travel schedule of recent months. It was sunny, fairly humid and hot but there was a welcoming breeze on the beach.
Mui Ne is extremely unusual in that ninety five percent of the visitors are Russian, with the rest being French, German, Australian, with a sprinkling of other nationalities like we Brits. So imagine a delightful seaside resort pitched at the Russian market, with many Russian owned and staffed shops. The Russians were filling suit cases with copy designer t-shirts, leather goods with copy labels and a variety of other goods. Crocodile skin hand bags with Gucci labels were a favourite! We were amazed how many Vietnamese shop-keepers and restaurant owners spoke Russian.
The Mui Ne restaurants catered for all tastes, with a large variety of fresh fish and seafood, with the prices being extremely good value by European standards. We often washed our meal down with Dalat wine which is quite inexpensive and it’s good. Outside each of the restaurants would be a staff member shouting,” Hello, here, come here” and pointed to all the things on the outside menu that you didn’t want! We visited one restaurant on two occasions – it was so good and we were entertained by a fourteen year old trying to pull her punters in off the street – we gave her a tip when we left.
At night, we saw Russian people buying large cases, often Samsonite copies, presumably to carry their purchases home. Russian people are very brand conscious and the Mui Ne shops had all the major brands copied! They also have genuine designer goods, but they are more expensive than in the west.
If you are travelling in Vietnam and looking for a few days rest, shopping and relaxation, we would thoroughly recommend Mui Ne. It is a strip, comprising one main road, full of shops, restaurants and massage parlours. It’s a bit inaccessible, being a four-hour car or bus ride from Ho Chi Min City (HMC)/Saigon. Our next stop, after Mui Ne, was HMC/Saigon and we needed a car to take us there, we enquired about price in various travel companies, to find the best deal in a Russian staffed agency – surprise, surprise!
Watch this space for Saigon, re named Ho Chi Min City, our next blog.