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!