Mui Ne has an international reputation for being one of the places in the world to be when it comes to windsurfing and kitesurfing. It’s hardly surprising then that resorts, bars and restaurants stand side by side along the miles-long stretch of beach to cater to the increasing number of tourists who visit the region. The resorts range from the luxury and five-star kind to budget. Getting around isn’t any problem, too. You can hire one of the ever-present motorcycle taxis to take you where you want to go. Or, you can rent one for a few days or weeks.
Waking up to the sound of the waves lapping gently on the shore, going out on the beach, coffee in hand, to watch the local fisher folk plying their trade in the early morning hours a few minutes after sunrise is a good way to start the day. How about jogging barefoot along the beach, then taking a dip in the ocean afterwards? The experience certainly set me in the right mood for a good, hot breakfast. And there was no shortage of items from which to choose! Sure, the resort offered the usual Western breakfast dishes, but eating a big bowl of hot noodle soup – with beef, seafood, or just eggs – is a tasty and most filling way of breaking an overnight fast.
My friend and business partner, Victor Volder, who is from the Netherlands and who had been staying in Mui Ne for a couple of months before I visited, gave me a mini-tour on his rented scooter. Construction was going on almost everywhere I looked – sidewalks being built, resorts and houses being erected. We stopped at the lookout point over the fishing village and visited a beach located quite a ways from the one dotted with resorts. This beach was deserted, only one restaurant, no one swimming or doing any water sports. From what I understand, the conditions for such activities are not the best.
Sights, sounds, smells
The main beach was perfect for water sports, though. I spent several afternoons on the stretch where the Wind Chimes kitesurfing center is located. Victor, an avid windsurfer, took a few kiting lessons. Still, he preferred windsurfing when he felt the weather was right. We usually had lunch on the beach, chatting with the friendly local surfing or kiting instructors, who never hesitated to offer us a cucumber, soup, whatever. (Make sure to turn your back to the wind when eating on the beach, otherwise, your food will be liberally sprinkled with fine golden sand.)
Sometimes, the combination of a good lunch and the balmy wind made us feel a tad lethargic. We’d then settle on the deck chairs for a quick snooze. Afterwards, I would watch Victor and others doing their thing out on the water – so many kites and sails bobbing and swaying in the wind made a pretty sight. I remember walking several miles along the shoreline in the afternoon hours, sometimes exchanging a quick word or two with other tourists, but mostly just sightseeing and people watching. (Never forget to use sunscreen or wear a wide hat).
At sunset we usually sat at our resort’s open-air restaurant or by the chairs overlooking the water, cold beer in hand. Everything was so casual and laid-back – no pressure. We’d normally have dinner at any one of the many restaurants in the area, a motorbike ride away. A large variety of cuisine was available and affordable – a fish steak with mashed potatoes and a side dish of vegetables, plus a beer cost about four U.S. dollars. The fun was choosing a different restaurant each time. One of the fun things to do was to choose a restaurant we hadn’t eaten at before.
On weekends the resort’s owner came from Ho Chi Minh City. Once I attended a dinner he hosted, the specialty may have been pork skin, I don't remember, but it was very tasty. We'd get crash courses counting in Vietnamese, as well as some history – and drinking more beer.
On our day of departure, one resort waitress added to my arsenal of good memories; she took the day off and invited us to her house for lunch. Victor and I walked to her living quarters, sat on the floor of her room, and watched as she and her boyfriend prepared a meal on a portable stove: fresh fish in a savory, slightly sour soup, with lots and lots of fresh vegetables and noodles – a very good and tasty meal, made even more delicious by the fact that it was served with triple heapings of local hospitality and friendliness.
A few hours after lunch we waited for the bus that would take us back to Ho Chi Minh City. We felt sadness leaving such friendly people but the sights, sounds and smells of Mui Ne will always be in my memories.