A seven hour bus ride from the city to the coast had us arriving in the small town of Mui Ne. The overnight bus was more than we thought it to be, comfortable, convenient and reliable, not what we were told to expect from other travellers. The condition of the actual seats tends to vary, but overall they all seem pretty much the same, with a midnight stop for dinner and a bus driver that never speaks english you can rest assured that you will get to your destination. As we arrived in the coastal town it was clear to us that they were still trying to figure out how to accommodate the recent influx of tourists. With few options in eateries, shopping and modes of transportation, we decided to walk up the hill to our hotel.
Every day was an even thirty degrees celsius and it was obvious that we would no longer need our long sleeve shirts or pants. We arrived, changed and made our way to the pool, we couldn’t help but notice all the parachutes in the distance. As we learned, Mui Ne is home to many kite surfing fanatics and schools, so if you are interested in learning how to do it, this is the place to be and the best time of year to do it. We were constantly buffeted by the perfect breeze, keeping us cool as we wandered around on our first day. We knew we only had three days there and seeing as there isn’t too much to do, we were quick to sign up for the Fairy Trail and Desert Excursions. The fairy trail turned out to be a giant waste of money and time as you literally just walk up a shallow river that is surrounded on both sides by walls of sand that like to blow down into your eyes and mouth. On top of that, they make you pay to leave your shoes at the front while they “watch over them” for you. The desert excursions were completely opposite, so much more fun, with the option to rent a 4×4 and ride around with a guide, it is an experience to remember and one that I definitely recommend. Rach was so nervous to ride the 4×4 but quickly turned her anxiety into laughter and excitement after riding for less than thirty seconds. The seafood in the town was relatively good and the food market had some international cuisine that was decent, but overall Mui Ne was a short-lived experience that can be done in a day.
Another night bus to Phong Nha, inland and surrounded by limestone mountains, Phong Nha was absolutely stunning. As small of a town as it is, the sheer beauty of the surrounding area makes the stay worthwhile. Phong Nha is home to one of the largest caves on the planet and many other smaller caves, forests and national parks that you are encouraged to explore by local tour companies. Rach and I rented a scooter, as we do in most places and made our own paths into the unknown. We found beautiful photogenic spots, seemingly untouched pieces of the earth and landscapes that would take your breath away. We ventured into the mountains and botanical gardens but found that we liked the drive to the destination more enticing than the actual gardens. The cave adventures force you to pay up for a boat ride that takes you there and lets you wander around for a while before you bringing back. Personally we were underwhelmed with the whole experience. Lights, unnatural pathways and the over exposure to tourists kind of takes away fro the value of the experience. I can only suggest doing the cave adventure if you truly love caves.
We enjoyed the outdoors a lot more and had a breathtaking couple of days exploring the surrounding area. As for the town itself, Phong Nha is also one of those small places that are still trying to figure out how to accommodate tourists. With minimal options for places to eat and very few options for sleeping accommodations, Phong Nha is still one of the places that isn’t completely oversaturated with tourist attractions (which we love).