From Pine Trees to Palm Trees – Dalat and Mui Ne, Vietnam

Note:  This post is a little out of order chronologically with our recent bus-related post. The content from this one took place before we arrived in Saigon.  It just took us a little while to get around to putting it together and posting it online.

Vietnam is HOT!  And as have worked our way south, the temperature has only gone up.  So we were really excited to head to Dalat, a town in the central highlands about 5 hours north of Saigon (Ho Chi Min City).  At an elevation of around 1500m, the weather promised a break from the intense heat of the coastal regions where we have spent most of our time so far.

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The hills surrounding Dalat.
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Thien Vien Truc Lam, a 4km cable car ride through the hills just outside Dalat.
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Does Kerry know what sort of flower this is? Bird of Paradise flower?

It turns out that it is currently rainy season in Dalat. This means the mornings are lovely weather, then right around lunch time the skies open up for the afternoon.  After dinner the rain subsides but the humidity remains high.  16 degrees C with 95% humidity is a strange feeling.

Despite the risk of rain, we rented a scooter to head about 25km out of town to visit a tea plantation.  As you may know, Doug is addicted to tea and Emily has been known to enjoy a cup or two as well.

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Cau Dat tea plantation, with dark skies behind. We had hoped for a tour of the factory, but they are in the process of upgrading their facility and are closed to the public. But they were happy for us to explore the plantation on our own.

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Drinking oolong milk tea.
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The plantation just opened this cafe where you can try and buy local teas and coffees. Its made out of converted shipping containers.
We got caught in the rain on the drive back to town.  It didn’t seem too bad at first, so we decided to stop and check out a waterfall along the way.  Unfortunately, the rain got heavier and heavier, and soon it was a torrential downpour and we were completely soaked.  We managed to keep the camera dry, but didn’t get any pictures of the waterfall.  Doug’s phone screen got some water damage as well, but thankfully its still working.

Unfortunately, none of our clothes were going to dry in Dalat.  Our $9/night hotel room had no heat, and it was just too humid outside.  So we decided to head back into the heat.  We hopped a quick Air Asia discount flight over to the Sahara desert, where our clothes were sure to dry out.

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Doug on top of one of a huge sand dune.
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A desert oasis in Africa…or in Vietnam?

It turns out you don’t need to go to the Sahara to find huge sand dunes.  These are the aptly named White Dunes, located about 25km north of the town of Mui Ne, on the southern coast of Vietnam.  We had no idea such a tropical country could have such a desert landscape.

This herd of cows came over the dune and walked towards us.  A bull was leading the herd of cows, and it eyed us warily as it approached us.  It was sizing us up, and kept its eye on us as the herd walked by.  There were no people herding them, and the cows seemed to know where they wanted to go.


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You can rent ATVs or pay for someone to drive you around the dunes in a Jeep.  Both services were pricey and only last 20 minutes, so we decided to head out on foot and climb to the top of one of the smaller dunes.

We rented a scooter to drive to the White Dunes, rather than go on an organized tour.  Apparently we got lucky, because the local police had a “tourist trap” set up somewhere along the road.  We met some English guys who got pulled over for driving without a Vietnamese license (the International Drivers License is not recognized here).  They were initially fined 1.2 million dong, or about $72 CAD. The police also threatened to impound their rental scooter. However, the guys were able to negotiate it down to a 500,000 dong fine ($30 CAD) and they could ride the scooter back to town.  Police who are willing to negotiate? We can safely bet that money didn’t go into the town’s coffers.

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Back towards Mui Ne toown are the Red Dunes.  They’re smaller in height and area than the White Dunes, but the colour makes them spectacular in their own way.
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As soon as you park at the Red Dunes you are mobbed by groups of children who want to rent you plastic sheets for dune-sledding. We negotiated one sled for 20,000 dong ($1.20 CAD) and headed up the to the top.  It turns out dune-sledding is a lot harder than it looks, but Emily got the hang of it.  Days later we still have sand in our hair.
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Fishing boats in Mui Ne harbour.  There are loads of fresh seafood restaurants in town, with tanks out front that let you pick whatever you want to eat for dinner. Fish, shellfish, mollusks, eels, and even frogs are sold by weight and cooked up to your liking.
This is one of the more unusual touristy things we have done on the trip so far.  Its called the Fairy Stream, and is basically a sandy bottomed shallow stream.  Its only a few inches deep, so you can walk up it and enjoy the strange canyon-like surroundings.
Part way along the Fairy Stream things get strange.  We have to admit, this was pretty tempting.  Where else can you get the chance to ride an ostrich?
They have a saddle and everything.  It was 150,000 dong (about $9 CAD).  We debated the ethics of it and did some reading online and ultimately decided it wasn’t for us.

Finally, the reason most people come to Mui Ne – the beach.  We wanted more time to enjoy the beach, but this weekend is Vietnam’s national holiday for their Liberation/Independence Day.  It celebrates their victory in the American War.  This means that everyone leaves the big cities and heads to the coast for the weekend.  It also means that there is no accommodation whatsoever, as it has been booked up well in advance.  So we, along with all the other backpackers in town, headed on a bus and made our way out of town.

The beach at Mui Ne.  The sand was nice, but the water unfortunately had a fair amount of garbage in it.
  • Doug and Emily / April 30, 2017 / Saigon, Vietnam @ Madam Cuc 184 Hotel at 6:02pm




2 thoughts on “From Pine Trees to Palm Trees – Dalat and Mui Ne, Vietnam

  1. You did checked in all tourist points, guy. Mui Ne was a real gem. The uncontrolled development of tourism has polluted the water and the shore, too. The community is taking best efforts to solve the issue. Hope that we could see its pure beauty soon.


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