Mui Ne, Vietnam’s sand dune landscape is like something out of The Arabian Nights, but with an Alpine twist. Gusts of wind pick up sand from the cinnamon-colored dunes, causing the grains to dance in the air, all while adventure-seeking travelers gleefully sled — and wipe out — on plastic toboggans.
To get to the seaside resort town of Mui Ne, we rode a sleeper bus from Ho Chi Minh City. The journey only took four hours, but our seats were in a reclining position the entire time — making for unique glimpses of the streetscapes whizzing by.
With the sun preparing to slumber, we swiftly hopped into a taxi bound for Mui Ne’s well-known Red Dunes. They are approximately a 15-minute drive from central Mui Ne.
A Vietnamese brother and sister duo carrying turquoise blue, plastic toboggans swiftly greeted us as we hopped out of the van. And so began the negotiation process that is so common in Southeast Asia.
“How much… for two sleds… for a few runs?” 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, first.
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 — all 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 that the ride had lasted a bit longer, 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 of sledding, 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 was wearing its UV filter prior to voyaging to Mui Ne!
Where in the World?
- Our bus arrived in Mui Ne from Ho Chi Minh City just before sunset, so we didn’t have a lot of time at the Red Sand Dunes. It cost $5 to rent two plastic “toboggans” for sledding/sandboarding.
- We spent one wonderful night in Mui Ne at the Muine de Century Beach Resort & Spa (affiliate link). The room and grounds were lovely! We went for a swim in the massive pool, enjoyed afternoon tea, and ate breakfast on the terrace overlooking the South China Sea. Our only regret is that our stay was so short. (We stopped in Mui Ne on the way from Ho Chi Minh City to Da Lat and were on a bit of a tight traveling schedule.)
Photography & text © Tricia A. Mitchell. All rights reserved.