A beach resort area east of Saigon, about 5 hours by bus. The town, if you can call it that, is really a strip of guesthouses and resorts on one street which runs along the coast. The beach here, which is on the east coast of Vietnam, is beautiful but brief. It runs for a few kilometers and then turns into rocky coast and choppy water with a strong undertow. Not great for swimming but the sea here is dotted with wind and kite surfers as far as you can see. And actually kite surfing does look really cool. I didn’t go swimming at all in Mui Ne – aside from the water being choppy, much colder, deeper, it’s filled with kite surfers and doesn’t seem very safe when you see those guys ripping through the water at 30mph led only by the wind. Wish I could say that the town compensates for the lack of swimming awesomeness but like I mentioned, it’s not even really a town. It’s a string of accommodations for tourists where you won’t find a single Vietnamese person who isn’t either selling a room, a tour, or a seat at a bar or restaurant. The food seems mediocre by Vietnam standards (which I hold high, but not as high as Thailand at this point, only two weeks into Vietnam) and is overpriced due to the never ending glut of tourists which these local entrepreneurs can bleed dry. The bar on the street just outside blasts Green Day and Nirvana onto the street as bored looking westerners sit at tables on the side of the road. Really, this is the kind of place that I really loathe and you’re lost here unless you came as a couple as you virtually never see non-couples walking the street here. If you’re content to check into a clean resort or guesthouse for about $25/night and read a book or sit in the sun all day and have a beautiful landscape in front of you, it meets those standards.

The highlights of Mui Ne are some nearby ecological anomalies – a creek running through a micro Grand Canyon and a massive collection of sand dunes. Once you find the creek (or are led by a tour guide), you walk along is for 30 minutes through the ankle deep water on the sandy surface and it leads to some mesmerizing rock formations. Sedona Arizona-looking rock formations in Vietnam, along this tiny creek. You can see layers in the rock formations and the natural gradients which change from clay red to chalky off white, which along with the lush creek and deep blue sky make the scenery pretty stunning. Enterprising children offer to watch your shoes while you walk up the creek for whatever fee you’re comfortable paying while less creative ones just beg for money.

If you think the Arizona landscape looks out of place in Vietnam, the sand dunes are straight out of Saudia Arabia. I don’t understand at all how sand dunes of that magnitude can just show up in the middle of a tropical setting like that. They’re enormous and span a large distance. I took a photo of myself that looks like I’m in the Gobi desert. You can walk around on the dunes a long way but it’s hard work – the sand is hot, your calves get tired, and once you spend enough time up there you realize that it’s just sand. Still it’s a place worth checking out especially if you haven’t found yourself surrounded by giant sand dunes before. You can pay a dollar to sled down the dunes. At first this was something I was committed to doing but I saw a Russian girl try this. Her family member climbed down the dune to the bottom of a steep bank and sat with his camera fixed on his eye waiting for her to make the plunge. She awkwardly sits on this sheet of plastic with two handles as a Vietnamese kid pushes her off the edge of this dune. She slides down about 6 feet and then stops. Tries to rebalance herself and slides down another 4 feet. She’s like 200 feet from the guy holding the camera. Turns out sand isn’t very slick or fun to sled on. So I decided not to do that.

One thing that was impossible to not notice in Mui Ne was that signs were in a language that I couldn’t read that was not Vietnamese. Vietnamese uses letters of the roman alphabet with additional strokes to indicate tone but there’s probably more written Russian in Mui Ne than there is English. This really baffled me. How could there be more Russian speakers here than English speakers? Like the Germans this remains a mystery to me but it’s a fact that Mui Ne is filled with Russians. it’s like a Russian parade on the main street all day. And they could not look more Russian – it takes about a second to determine who’s Russian. Basically the vast majority of caucasians in Mui Ne are Russian. They’re rude and hawkish and they treat Vietnamese people with utter disdain. Also they wear black socks with sandals. Tacky bastards. In the last year I’ve met some cool Russians who I’ve traveled with a lot (three in particular), but generally speaking I can’t say they’re much more charming than sharks. Due to the influx of wealthy Russians Mui Ne is being transformed into a tropical St Petersburg which is disappointing.