An Arabesque Evening Sledding on Vietnamese Dunes

The landscape is out of the Arabian Nights, but with a distinctly Alpine twist: sand dunes with a cinnamon glow, gusts of wind causing sand granules to dance in the air, adventure-seeking travelers gleefully sledding on plastic toboggans and periodically wiping out… It’s hard to believe that this is Vietnam!

After four hours in a reclining position on a sleeper bus out of Ho Chi Minh City, we arrived in the seaside resort town of Mui Ne, Vietnam. With the sun preparing to slumber, we hopped into a taxi bound for the well-known Red Dunes, approximately a 15-minute drive from central Mui Ne.


A Vietnamese brother and sister duo with royal blue plastic toboggans in tow swiftly greeted us as we hopped out of the van. So began the negotiation process that is so common in Southeast Asia.

“How much… for two sleds… for a few runs each?” Shawn asked.

After a bit of haggling, we agreed upon a $5 rental fee for the two simple contraptions.

Being the chivalrous gentleman that he is, Shawn insisted upon sliding down the dune ahead of me. Our male Vietnamese guide expertly formed a mound of sand on the sled, prepared a track on the dune’s summit, and told Shawn to lie back, for the ultimate aerodynamic experience.

Within a few seconds, Shawn had glided to the bottom of the dune. He wore a child-like grin on his face and gave a thumbs-up for me to proceed.

My female guide, Na, prepped my sled in the same manner in which her brother had prepared Shawn’s. With a few butterflies swirling in my stomach, I was on my way.

The descent was fun, exhilarating and short! I only wished the dune had been just a bit higher, for the walk back to the summit for rounds two and three was quite a challenge. I now know what it feels like to be swallowed in quicksand.

After three rounds, we bid farewell to Na and her brother, and found a quieter spot to watch the sun set. The sand’s color had transitioned from a deep cinnamon tone, to a rosy grey, and finally a faint khaki.

For several days following our sledding sortie on Mui Ne’s dunes, souvenir sand granules greeted me – having stowed away in my hair, shoes and clothes! It’s miraculous that my camera is sand-free today. Thank goodness it wore its UV filter prior to voyaging to Mui Ne!

Where in the World?

20 Comments on “An Arabesque Evening Sledding on Vietnamese Dunes

  1. What a fantastic post Tricia! At first, one may think that you’re vacationing in Dubai!! Excellent shots; I cannot believe Vietnam has this type of terrain! You both look like you’ve had an excellent time :)

    • We had a splendid time indeed, Marina! Felt like kids again. :-) And, it gave us a feel for winter sledding back home, sans the white fluffy stuff.

      I find myself continually amazed by Vietnam’s varied landscapes: Alpine-like, flowery cities, sand dunes, beaches, jungles. It’s a beautiful country.

  2. My daughter had a similar experience on the dunes of Namibia. Looks like you had a wonderful time. I didn’t know there were dunes there as well.

    • Victor, I’m amazed to learn that there are dunes like this in so many corners of the world! My friend in France just mentioned that Europe’s tallest dunes (the Pilat Dune) are in France’s Arcachon Basin. What a beautiful world we live in!

  3. Quel magnifique paysage lunaire ! Profitez bien de ces dunes irréelles à l’heure où, à Grenoble, on prépare les luges pour dévaler les pistes enneigées!
    En France, la dune du Pilat (dans le bassin d’Arcachon) est la plus haute d’Europe ! Gros bisous aux deux globe trotters !

    • Bonjour, Claudine, et merci pour tes voeux pour un voyage merveilleux! Dévalez-vous deux sur ces pistes, ou peut-être leur plus petite version, bientôt? C’est la première fois que j’ai entendu parler de la Dune du Pilat – c’est vraiment magnifique! La belle France est bénie avec tant de paysages magnifiques et variés. Peut-être un jour, nous pouvons explorer ce paysage. Gros bisous à vous deux aussi et à la prochaine!

    • Friends who had visited there highly recommended the dunes – otherwise it would’ve come as a big surprise to us as well. Alas, months later, I think my camera still has grains of sand stowing away on it. :) Time for a professional cleaning! :) Glad you stopped by, Rachael. I look forward to seeing more of your work – you’re quite talented!

  4. Pingback: Travel Thirst Thursday: Mui Ne Sand Dunes | Native Foreigner

  5. That certainly seems like a lot of fun! And you guys are so photogenic :-)
    The closest I have come to anything like this is the Toboggan ride down the hill from the Great Wall. Thanks for sharing Tricia, Your little Vietnamese ‘guide’ is so adorable :-)

    • Ah, thank you Madhu! I’m intrigued by your mention of a toboggan ride by the Great Wall! Do you have a post about it on your website? When were in you in China and for how long? We really hope to make it there soon.

      • We went in 2009 for three weeks.. I don’t have pictures, but I have mentioned it in my post on the Great Wall. You will find it under destinations or from my index, under China.

      • Just found it, along with some other wonderful posts from China. Fingers crossed that we’ll make it there sometime soon. Thanks for the travel inspiration, Madhu!

  6. Ahhhh I think I know where I’m going next!!! I want to see the best of Vietnam, like Halong Bay, Sapa, Mekong Delta, Hue, Hoi An (and get in one of those round boats that you did) and the Red Dunes here!!!!! It all looks so amazing! Maybe after that head to Southern Thailand paradise. *swoon*

    • Alli, I thought you were headed to NZ next. :)

      Sapa is the only spot that’s alluded me in Vietnam, but I hope we’ll make it there the next time. I’ve heard other travelers say that the homestays were quite special.

      Travel just makes one realize how much left of the world there is to see.

      • Haha, after NZ that is :) The homestays and the trekking are what make Sapa seem like an incredible visit!

  7. Mui Ne actually has 2 different sand dunes: One is red and the other is white. Here is a link to some photos of the white sand dune:
    https://www.google.com.au/search?q=white+sand+dunes+mui+ne&biw=1280&bih=898&tbm=isch&imgil=i3leU9_Bu4mwYM%253A%253BdlJFc3AXYEgifM%253Bhttp%25253A%25252F%25252Fwww.waytovietnam.com%25252Ftravel-guides%25252FVietnam_Destinations%25252FMUI_NE.htm&source=iu&pf=m&fir=i3leU9_Bu4mwYM%253A%252CdlJFc3AXYEgifM%252C_&usg=__5GcDjUaXOYJDMdHgjUyEWSuN2KE%3D&ved=0CDcQyjc&ei=ebozVN26I5fpoASXnYHwDQ#facrc=_&imgdii=_&imgrc=M9luVturHfOa1M%253A%3BJAb9gvf4zQzicM%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Ftravelbeckons.files.wordpress.com%252F2013%252F03%252F114.jpg%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Ftravelbeckons.com%252F2013%252F03%252F03%252Fexplore-mui-ne-believing-the-good-in-people%252F%3B3872%3B2592
    Tricia, if you plan to come back to Vietnam, perhaps the below links may give you some ideas of other places to visit:
    Ma Pi Leng Pass: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rL1OakQP88E
    Mai Chau Valley: https://www.google.com.au/search?q=mai+chau&biw=1280&bih=898&tbm=isch&imgil=2-HeHv4_Y3qZuM%253A%253B3vs6Pw0hYnSKkM%253Bhttp%25253A%25252F%25252Fwww.splendidstarsuitehotel.com%25252FMai-Chau-1-day-tour_pdt_1078_30.htm&source=iu&pf=m&fir=2-HeHv4_Y3qZuM%253A%252C3vs6Pw0hYnSKkM%252C_&usg=__FyR2MtF4MbZ_IZPMFpmnRLlZruE%3D&ved=0CCYQyjc&ei=YL0zVKvAFMSwogSdgYGQAw#facrc=_&imgdii=_&imgrc=2-HeHv4_Y3qZuM%253A%3B3vs6Pw0hYnSKkM%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.splendidstarsuitehotel.com%252FFCKeditor%252FImage%252FHanoi%252FMai%252520Chau%252Fdulich-maichau-hoabinh-2012%255B1%255D.jpg%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.splendidstarsuitehotel.com%252FMai-Chau-1-day-tour_pdt_1078_30.htm%3B1024%3B768
    Tam Coc in Ninh Binh Province: https://www.google.com.au/search?q=tam+coc&biw=1280&bih=898&tbm=isch&imgil=c0y2D2u36CJH1M%253A%253BmAKUQnPm-IqGLM%253Bhttp%25253A%25252F%25252Fwww.bitlanders.com%25252Fblogs%25252Fvietnam-beautiful-scenery-road-to-tam-coc-bich-dong-ninh-binh-province%25252F325315&source=iu&pf=m&fir=c0y2D2u36CJH1M%253A%252CmAKUQnPm-IqGLM%252C_&usg=__5hiAm_W3sSbfWmp7VI0ZEAeu1to%3D&ved=0CCYQyjc&ei=z70zVOjlEcasogSyjoHYDQ#facrc=_&imgdii=_&imgrc=c0y2D2u36CJH1M%253A%3BmAKUQnPm-IqGLM%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.hivietnam.net%252Fvi%252Fdocs%252F2013%252F06%252FTam-Coc-Bich-Dong_01.png%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.bitlanders.com%252Fblogs%252Fvietnam-beautiful-scenery-road-to-tam-coc-bich-dong-ninh-binh-province%252F325315%3B1028%3B856
    white-sand Doc Let beach: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_xr0PFsDSo
    I came across this blog by a guy named Tom called Vietnam Coracle which has some useful advice for those wanting to know more about food, drink, and independent travel in Vietnam: http://vietnamcoracle.com/
    I hope the above is of use to you and those who follow your blog.

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